An Open Approach to Funding

by Chris McGivern and SF Team, 6 November 2017

Featured Image
Created by Frank Tellez (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

“What industries, sectors and domains do you fund?”

We hear this a lot. It’s a common question asked of the Shuttleworth Foundation, both by potential investors and potential fellows. Here are three possible responses:

  1. Any
  2. It doesn’t matter
  3. It’s the wrong question

Allow us to explain…

We are open to ideas

The Shuttleworth Foundation places immense importance on open practices and requests that all our potential fellows embrace and display the same values. But because we expect openness, we must also provide it in everything we do.

We tried creating lists of preferred fields in the past, but found it restrictive, as it often resulted in the most innovative, transformative ideas being unnecessarily cast aside.

Having the flexibility to choose, find inspiration and engage with open ideas from the unlikeliest and most surprising fields is now essential to our funding philosophy.

Ideas matter, not industries

Our big vision is to support bright people with brilliant ideas that make the world a better place through open practice.

Concepts are welcome from any sector - we fund ideas in a broad range of fields, from technology and music through to manufacturing and law. We seek people with new perspectives and vision to create the foundational assets others will build on in the future.

Our goal is to find solutions. We don’t have all the answers - and we don’t even know all the questions. We rely on our applicants to inspire us, inform us and persuade us with exceptional, courageous thinking that makes a difference.

In short, if you have an idea based on openness, connectedness, and innovation, we welcome it, regardless of industry or domain.

The right question

Backing a narrow range of industries limits our potential to uncover real innovation in several ways:

  • It reduces our ability to help unlock systems and create genuine change.
  • Interesting ideas from less prominent fields will always stand out more than ‘the new Facebook.’
  • We need people to be explicit about what they want to do, not try to guess what we want to hear.

So, in our minds, the real question is not who, or which industries, we fund. It’s why we fund that is most important:

  • We invest in people who work in a variety of sectors, all of whom share our vision for a better future based on open principles.
  • We fund so that people can use their resources to challenge and create change in systems, practices and the status quo.
  • We support risk takers, rule breakers, and disrupters - but most importantly, social changers.

In our experience, social change is more likely to happen when individuals can cross reference sectors, collaborate, and lay open foundations for future iterations.

It’s magic, of sorts, that is bigger than any one sector, industry, or domain – which is why we are open in funding, as well as philosophy.

Posted in open