- About Us
Once upon a time, back in 1998, a little Amsterdam company called Not a Number was born, created specifically for the purpose of fostering development and growth of a little rendering program called Blender. Blender was originally the in-house animation tool for the NeoGeo animation studio, headed up by Ton Roosendaal and founded in 1989. After NeoGeo grew to be the largest business of its kind in all the Netherlands, it was bought by another company, and then Roosendaal was free to perfect Blender and share it with the community at large, with the eventual goal of releasing it as Free Software.
Blender picked up a user base of more than 250,000 people. Not a Number, or NaN, worked on commercial addons to the product, introducing the C-Key in early 1999. The Blender site puts it like this: "C-Key holders get first access to new Blender features. In fact, they are the investors that help NaN developing Blender." Users who paid for the C-Key would get "the most advanced features" of Blender for 95 Euros.
Blender gets rich
By the middle of 2000, NaN was looking to hire more developers.
"Thanks to the successful introduction of the C-key in the first half of 1999 we were able to finance the presentation of Blender at SIGGRAPH in Los Angeles in July. The interest and attention this generated contributed to the continued rapid growth of the community, and has created a sound financial footing for NaN. This stability confirms our belief in offering Blender to the world as freeware."
NaN also wanted to expand.
"In February we will relocate the main offices to the cosmopolitan centre of Amsterdam, keeping offices in Eindhoven as well. We are also investigating the possibilities of establishing offices in London (England) sometime in 2000."
A look at the archived site that was online a couple of months later shows a marked difference -- slicker, more graphics, and a big increase in the job openings -- now NaN was looking not just for developers, but for sales managers, service managers, artists, and help desk support.
"NaN is currently situated in Amsterdam, Eindhoven (Netherlands) and Tokyo (Japan). We are also investigating the possibilities of establishing offices in Berlin (Germany), London (England), Sillicon Valley, San Francisco (USA) sometime in 2000. We will offer employees an exciting and well equipped workplace, an excellent and flexible compensation and benefits program (including stock options!) and the most exhilarating working environment you will ever experience!"
Blender's Mac climax
The rising star of Blender seemed to reach its zenith with the release of the beta for Mac OS X, for after the announcement in late 2001, there were no more Web site updates, no more news from the company. Nothing, until March 2002, when this brief notice went up:
"The digital media market has shown that it is not quite ready for the Blender technology offering, both for the Internet and for wireless applications. Continuation of these products, including the Creator, Publisher and our wireless initiative, will require additional investment of human and financial resources."
Depending on the kindness of the community
Shortly after that demise of Not a Number and the commercial Blender, the Blender Foundation sprung up. Now, Roosendaal is spearheading an effort to get the source code for Blender released from the NaN holding company. He has apparently negotiated a deal with the holding company that will accomplish the release of the sources, for the price of 100,000 Euros.
Roosendaal et al are conducting an Internet fundraising campaign to ransom Blender. "Fortunately we've got a very large user base (last registered count was 250k). So I felt quite optimistic about it. Most surprising of course is the approval all shareholders in the company, to backup the plans and agree with the -- for an investor relatively low -- fee of 100k."
Not all of the money collected is going to pay the investor's 100k fee. "I guess about 95% is directly for paying off the license," says Roosendaal. "But running the foundation services also costs money. We plan to organize a great Web portal, both for artists as well as coders, around the open-sourced Blender. A donation campaign will just continue, including interesting offers for sponsorship. It's non-profit, a great charity goal, and all focused at keeping access to Blender free." He calls that continuing campaign "mindshare technology."
If Roosendaal needed proof that his Blender is a popular product, he got it while shopping for "Free Blender" T-shirts to hand out at SIGGRAPH, the computer graphics conference going on this week in San Antonio, Texas.
Roosendaal relates: "In Amsterdam, where I live, I just went to the closest textile printing company. When I showed him the logos the company owner looked at me and asked, 'you're not Ton Roosendaal, are you?' Then he proudly showed me proud almost every product we've had in our e-shop the past years, and his 3D work on the company site. You can imagine the T-shirts were ready in 24 hours, for a more than reasonable price."
So far, the Blender Foundation has raised almost ð40,000. If you'd like to
contribute, go to the Free
Blender Fund Campaign page.