Open Capitalist Economic Model


The openly editable Google Doc of the economic model employed by Open Capitalist.  It speaks to the heart of Open Capitalist’s concept of non-monetary capital creation.

Open Capitalist – Portland. New community workshop!

The time has come for a physical location.  A lot of design work can be done on a computer from remote locations, but eventually you have to get down to building things.  That time has come.

I am located in Portland, Oregon, so it seems like a good place to start, however it is not just because I live here. Portland has a great DIY community, several maker spaces already exist here, and people are generally civic minded.

“Why not become a member of one that exists?”  I have heard this several times and it boils down to different audiences.  ADX was started by designers and artists, what we need is one designed for engineers and technologists.  What this looks like is more advanced machines, of a wider variety, and capable of creating parts needed for micro-industry.  This is certainly not a trivial expense, but we have a plan.

What I have been thinking about is the legacy tools that manufactures have upgraded, but  still hold onto in case of an unforeseen need.  I am presenting these businesses with a new option.  Open Capitalist – Portland will set these unused machines up in our space, allow the business to have a given percentage of usage time, and retain complete ownership of the tool.  In return we will fully insure the tool, cover a maintenance contract on the machine, and allow members use of the machine when the owner isn’t using it.  It is a win-win option that businesses haven’t really had before, and we are going to use this method to get a lot of kick-ass tools.

We are just now forming the working group, if you would like more updated info please consider joining our meetup group:


Worker Owned Businesses Point to New Forms of Ownership

Found a great article about co-op business models and how democratizing business ownership will help the transition to the next sustainable economic models.  One of the principles of Open Capitalist is to limit the reselling of human labor by others; sole proprietorship should be a goal.  This doesn’t work for many enterprises so the co-op model may be the best answer.

Many Americans see co-ops as small, niche market players.  One of the co-ops outlined in this video is Mondragon Cooperatives of Spain which has 54,000 employees and 25 billion in annual revenue, which by no means is a small player in a niche market.

It is high time these alternative business models get more air time and an honest discussion about their role moving forward.

Watch the video here:Worker Owned Businesses Point to New Forms of Ownership

Open Capitalist Gets Artsy!

So I had a fortunate run in with an artist friend’s gallery curator Reese Kruse at gallery HOMELAND.  We started talking about having him help me with a charity art event and ended up talking about 3D printers and their place in the art world.

Reese wants to put on an art show with a bunch of 3D printers printing various sculptures’ work.  As I am always looking for more uses for the StepperNug controller I decided that this would be a good project to get involved with.  There are a ton of 3D printers on the market so I wanted to do something a little different.  I present the artArm:

This is designed to print relatively large sculptures on the gallery wall as people peruse the other 3D printers printing other sculptures   I also don’t think technology needs to be ugly, so I designed this with organic shapes in mind.  It isn’t designed to be ultra precise; the worst case theoretical resolution is 0.00104in, but I anticipate an order of magnitude lower resolution.  This will be more than accurate though given a print area of about 4ft by 3 ft by 1.5ft.

Another idea we have been bouncing around is printing with hemp cord with a wax binding agent.  This is similar to how traditional 3D printers work, however the wax is melted just to bind new hemp layers to under lying hemp layers. is donating everything between software and the motors as well as the mechanical design.  However, we still need mechanically inclined individuals to help put everything together.

Come get artsy with us and help out with the project; I bet we could get you a sculpture out of the deal!


We can now say multiple products have shipped!

We have been trickling out shipments over the summer, and in the process we have found some awesome collaborators.  We still have a ways to go on the electronics design side for the StepperNug and StepperNug Interface, but it is getting there and we hope the next revision will be ready for retail.  Dropping the “Developer Edition” label will be awesome.  Oddly, in software that would usually mean that there are more features added then the retail version.  In hardware all it really means is: “ain’t done yet.”

The last couple of weeks we have seen the Beta2 version of the Pick and Place machine taking shape.  We are moving from digital simulation to the first build.  Here is the test fit of the XY mechanism…

First Open Capitalist Product Ships!!!

I haven’t written an update in a while, but it was for a good reason.  Ray Flores and I were diligently getting our first product out the door, and I just shipped it a couple of hours ago.  The product sold was the StepperNug 3-axis Controller as part of Open Source Ecology’s CNC Torch Table.  This is still only shipping to early adopters/developers but the point of finishing this design is getting close.

Developer model of the 3-Axis StepperNug Controller

The marketing plan for the StepperNug is half of the profit from the sale goes to the open source group that brought in the customer, the other half goes to the Open Capitalist fund which is dedicated to funding development of other open source technologies.  Baby steps, I will take them.



200 Acres of Possibilities

I had a wonderful meeting with Jon Spurgeon on the sailboat last week to discuss the possibilities of using his 200 acres of land here in Oregon to start some form of Engineering Based Intentional Community, (EBIC for short, we’ll just have to wait and see if that sticks.)  This is a very preliminary idea which needs your input to become an actual plan, here are some common thoughts that have been shared by those that we have spoken to already.

  • Must be self sustaining.  My ideal in the future is changing the monetary base of economy to something less unfortunate, but right now there are needs to be met which can only be met with hard currency.  Using the available resources to generate that necessary income is job number one
  • Any intellectual property generated must be open source.
  • Some form of competition should be present.  This doesn’t mean what it traditionally means.  If you want to design the fastest cars, start racing them and the fastest car will emerge.  If you want to generate the most profitable corporations, start a market place for them to compete.  We are not trying to generate speed nor greed however; we are competing to find the best way to collaborate and get us out of this socioeconomic mess that we find ourselves in.

These are the initial constraints which will surely expand as collaborators come on board, but I believe they should be the core ideals.  Some ideas shared by Chris DeAngelis involve setting up different communities that compete to complete different funded engineering challenges.  An example of one of these engineering competitions is here.

Another idea is to have multiple smaller communities that each have a different focus.  I for example, grew up on a farm, I learned that I am not a farmer and would rather design/build tools that the farmer can use.  In exchange the farmer community could exchange food with me.

I have been looking into intentional communities and why the failure rate is so high.  I believe the idea of having separate communities that individuals are free to move between would have the best chance of creating the best community structure.  The communities that attract people are probably doing the right thing, the one that looses people isn’t.  There could be a threshold that if the number in your community drops below it is disbanded and a new one takes it’s place.

Lastly, the individuals involved with any of these ideas make or break it.  I was thinking of what questions would be on a questionnaire and the best one I can think of: “What behavior modifications do you require others to make in order for you to be comfortable?”  No smoking inside, no meat in a shared fridge; these could be example answers that could help shape various communities.

This is your community, what do you want it to look like?


501c3 (Forced identity crisis)

Its time Open Capitalist embark on the dimly lit path to attaining 501c3, nonprofit status.

Not having any sort of background in non-profit law, I’ve started pillaging the internet, looking for information, advice, and free legal services.

So what I have found is that there are categories…Are you a religious organization? Focused on education? Charitable? Stopping the abuse of children and animals?

….Well I guess we could be all of these things, really….No, in fact, we will, at one point, be all of these things depending on the type of projects people propose, which ones peak peoples interests, and which ones get to the funding stage.

But we are different. Our sole plight is not to save baby seals. Nor is it all about motor controllers, or boats, or worshiping a manifestation of an open source god.

We are multiple purposes. We are facilitating and supporting collaboration between creative members in our community. But not only that, our goal is to MAKE MONEY. Well not really, but making money will be a by-product of our success and allow us to support more open source projects that make the world a more equitable, innovative place.

So how do you tell the IRS that you want to start a non-profit. One that works like a for-profit business in that you make products, sell them and generate profit. Except, your not going to line your pockets with that profit. That profit goes back into the Open Capitalist community where it is managed and distributed by that community for future projects that generate enough interest.

Immediately, I thought of the salvation army. Goodwill. All those models that use donated goods to generate profit that goes back into a variety of charitable causes…The difference with Open Capitalist being that we aren’t redistributing something that already exists (middleman/women), but supporting completely new, innovative technologies, manufacturing them, and selling them at cost…

This is very different in the non-profit world. I think what it takes is having a sound accounting structure with controls on where the money goes.

It seems this might be a barrier because our goal is not to have a system where myself and a couple other founders of Open Capitalist decide what the profit margin should be for individual projects. And there is no way we’d want to have a general economic model for how projects can operate monetarily. No. The whole point is that the community would make this distinction. The Open Capitalist community would decide what is fair, just, and equitable to the consumer and the creator (which hopefully will not be mutually exclusive)…

So again, how do you explain this to the IRS?

Maybe, we are about research. Maybe this is a social experiment first. Maybe if this is a research project, we get the chance to make it a lifestyle.

My question is how Open Capitalist would be categorized in a non-profit bureaucracy and if it is even a possibility to get the 501c3 stamp? Thoughts?



What Motivates Open Source Contribution

I run into a common argument when I describe a system where people contribute time and resources to a project that freely shares the end result.  The argument is usually quieted when they are confronted with the reality of many open source software successes.  What motivates Wikipedia contributors?  Apache, linux, GIT, Firefox, and many others exist because of some other motivation.  Monetary profit is not the only human motivator as this RSA animation of a Daniel Pink TED talk points out.  Not only is the information pertinent, but the animation is great as well.


How to start a movement

Derek Sivers gives a short, concise example of the mechanics of starting a movement.  This short (~3min) video is really worth watching if you are trying to get a group of people to move in the same direction.  Also the northwest viewers might recognize the venue…

Summer of Collaboration

I had to borrow my sister’s carry-on bag for a couple weeks because mine was too small.  It had castor wheels at all four corners, which made it incredibly easy to move down the aisle of the plane.  It was one little improvement that got me thinking about whether I could be comfortable living out of a suitcase.  Upon my return to Portland I was still rather impressed how easy it was to get around with this bag and it was the last needed impetus needed to make two big decisions.

I am going to travel around this summer to all the projects which are focused on creating new economic models for their community.  Open Source Ecology was a great start and there are many more which I want to experience.  The goal is to share what methods I have observed working, see what methods other groups have come up with, and to firm up the network of like minded individuals doing great things for their community.  If you have a project you would like to share please let me know.  I want to collaborate with you!

The second decision was to create an experiment in community ownership of property with my sailboat.  Since I plan on being away from home during prime sailing season in the NW I figured it would be a good thing to share with my community instead of it just sitting there.  I am exited to see what organization stems from that.