The year is coming to an end, and what a year it's been! Amidst all the turmoil that 2023 brought, the Bitcoin network tirelessly marched on, bringing hope and optimism to millions. Block by block it continues to lay the foundation for a better and brighter future, not only economically, but spiritually and philosophically too. If something like Bitcoin can be created and manages to survive, what other bastions of freedom will we be able to create? What kind of freedom tech could we come up with in the years to come if we dedicate our time and resources to it? What foundational technologies can we create today that will enrich the lives of future generations?
The emergence of nostr shows that financial freedom is far from the only thing people care about. Freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and freedom of association are rights that many of us take for granted. Unfortunately, they aren't the default in cyberspace. But they can be. If we set our mind to it, and if we build the threads that make up the fabric of society with care and foresight.
We can rebuild it. We have the technology.—Richard Anderson on closed and permissioned systems
We at OpenSats believe that open systems are essential to the future of the internet and the world. They allow people to collaborate and share knowledge, without being locked into proprietary software or hardware. They allow people to vote with their digital feet, providing meaningful alternatives to permissioned systems.
We care about free and open-source software because we believe that an open society in the electronic age is not only possible but paramount. For a truly free society, openness is not a luxury, but a necessity.
Being open source means anyone can independently review the code. If it was closed source, nobody could verify the security. I think it's essential for a program of this nature to be open source.—Satoshi Nakamoto on Bitcoin
In the spirit of openness, let's take some time to pause and reflect upon the announcements we made this year, what we did to pursue our mission, and what kinds of projects we were able to support thanks to the generous donations made by all of you.
In May this year, in addition to the many donations of our amazing supporters all over the world, we received a large amount of funding from #startsmall, which kicked our efforts into high gear. Thanks to this donation we were able to bootstrap our long-term support program as well as The Nostr Fund, giving meaningful support to bitcoin infrastructure engineers and the nostr ecosystem.
In July we announced our first wave of grants for bitcoin and nostr, kickstarting our general grant program. We’ve truly started small with about a dozen grants each, doing our best to select outstanding projects with the help of our domain-expert committees and volunteers.
In August we announced our second wave of grants alongside an expansion of our long-term support program. In addition to building out our grant programs we made significant efforts to expand our team and streamline our processes, iterating towards becoming the most efficient sat-dispensing machine we can be.
In September we introduced Nostr Design, an initiative aimed at helping developers provide the best user experience possible. We also shared our thoughts on bitcoin infrastructure this decade, outlining how we, as a non-profit organization, aim to fund and practice what we preach: low time preference and long-term thinking.
In October we announced our third wave of nostr grants, along with four new LTS grantees: Vasil, Gleb, Matt, and Furszy, who joined the pack after Marco, Josi, and Sjors. Shortly after that we announced long-term support for Will in November, and most recently Tobin in December.
None of these things would’ve been possible without the generous support of our donors. If you’d like to support our work, please consider making a donation.
With a general overview of our activities in 2023 in place, let’s “run the numbers” by providing a breakdown of donations, our current allocation of grants, as well as a visual overview of grantee growth and what kinds of projects we supported.
We received over 900 donations this year, 87% of which were made in sats directly. That's an increase of 280% compared to the number of donations received in the previous year.
Of the 87% of donations received via bitcoin payment rails, 74% of the donations in 2023 were made via Lightning.
As mentioned above, out of the hundreds of donations received this year, one stood out in particular: the $10M donation from #startsmall which kickstarted The Nostr Fund with $5M, filled up our General Fund with $4.7M, and provided funding for our Operations Budget with $330k. The remaining donations in 2023 amounted to over 660 million sats or $230,000 at the time of donation. The vast majority of donations were made towards our General Fund.
We have two funds that are dedicated 100% to funding free and open-source projects: the General Fund (orange) and The Nostr Fund (purple). The General Fund is geared towards high-quality projects that are bitcoin-centric or bitcoin-related, while The Nostr Fund is geared towards—surprise, surprise—nostr projects. As nostr is still developing, we tried to support a broad array of projects and initiatives, including experimental and exploratory work.
Our General Fund is almost fully allocated as of this writing, with ~$4.8M donations received in 2023 and ~$4.3M allocated. The Nostr Fund is on track to be fully allocated by the end of Q1 2024, with ~$3.4M out of $5M going towards a variety of free and open-source projects in the nostr ecosystem as of this writing.
We still have dozens of applications in the pipeline that were submitted in 2023, and we are doing our best to discuss and evaluate each submission properly and fairly. We are selecting new projects for funding every week and will announce new grants once funding decisions are made.
We suspect that the distinction between “bitcoin” and “nostr” will get more blurry over time, as nostr matures and gets integrated into a variety of bitcoin software across the stack. If the current trend is any indication, nostr might become the de facto address book of bitcoin wallets, a useful communication layer to coordinate collaborative custody, federations, and collaborative transactions, as well as a way to authenticate yourself and find peers you can trust.
In 2023, the distinction between bitcoin and nostr was still quite clear, so let’s break it down and have a look at the projects and initiatives we funded in these two overarching categories.
Bitcoin: General Fund
Our main focus at the beginning of 2023 was to create a grant program that allows for meaningful support for Bitcoin Core developers and similar Load-Bearing Internet People. We received a lot of help and insights from our friends at Brink, Chaincode, and the HRF, and took many notes studying other successful grant programs for open-source developers in the bitcoin space.
This culminated in the launch of our long-term support (LTS) program. Of the funds committed towards bitcoin projects from the General Fund, 40% have been allocated to our LTS program for long-term grants.
We are pleased to see that many high-quality developers applied and continue to apply. In 2023, we went from zero LTS grantees in June to eleven LTS grantees in December. Marco Falke, Josi Baker, Sjors Provoost, Vasil Dimov, Gleb Naumenko, Matt Morehouse, Furszy, Will Clark, and Tobin Harding have received long-term support from OpenSats in 2023. Two additional grants were approved in December and will be announced soon.
The remaining 60% of our General Fund has been allocated to bitcoin-related projects in support of our mission. As mentioned above, we announced three waves of bitcoin grants so far: one in July, one in August, and one in December, respectively.
The following bitcoin projects received support from OpenSats in 2023: Payjoin Dev Kit, Bolt12 for LND, Splicing, Raspiblitz, Labelbase, BTCPay Server, ZeroSync, Mutiny Wallet, next-auth Lightning Provider, Cashu, lnproxy, Blixt Wallet, Bitcoin Education in Nigeria, 21 Ideas, CoreDev.tech, BDK, LNbits, smaug, Stratum V2 Testing & Benchmarking Tool, Fedimint Modules and Resources, Clams, Fully Noded, Validating Lightning Signer, Fedimint Lightning Gateway, Pickhardt Payments plugin for Core-Lightning, BitBanana, Crack the Orange, Bitcoin Core App, Krux, and Vexl.
We are constantly processing and evaluating applications, and we will announce more grants that are sourced from the General Fund soon.
Nostr: The Nostr Fund
In 2023, our main focus for The Nostr Fund was to support projects that make nostr more accessible, secure, decentralized, and easy to use. We also provided support to projects that educate people about nostr and its potential, as well as use-case exploration and more experimental endeavors.
The following nostr projects received support from OpenSats in 2023: NDK, Habla, Coracle, Iris, Damus, rust-nostr, Nostr Relay NestJS, Soapbox, ngit, Satellite, Amethyst, Pinstr, nostr.build, Gossip, Nostr SDK iOS, Amber, Listr, Ostrich.work, nostr.how, Nozzle, Blowater, Nostur, Nostrocket, Snort, zap.stream, algia, nostr.watch, relay.tools, Nostree, ONOSENDAI, 0xchat, Lume, Flockstr, Camelus, noStrudel, ZapThreads, NIP-44 Cryptography Audit, and NostrAI, a NIP-90 Data Vending Machine Framework.
In addition to the above grants we helped launch the Nostr Design initiative spearheaded by Karnage, Daniele, and Niel. If you’re looking for design feedback or help, reach out to us or use the #nostrdesign hashtag.
As you can see in the chart below, most of our nostr-related grants went towards client development, which is an area that needed a lot of support in the early stages of this novel protocol.
We are excited to see nostr grow and, slowly but surely, mature. It is undoubtedly still early days, so we expect a shift from clients to “other stuff” in the coming years. However, it is fantastic to see a censorship-resistant and sat-infused social media protocol taking off, and we are incredibly optimistic about its future. If you are working on a nostr-related open-source project, don’t hesitate to apply for funding so you might join our growing list of grantees. If you want to support the nostr ecosystem, consider making a donation to The Nostr Fund:
After the initial wave of grants announced in July, we’ve added around 10 grantees each month on average, totaling 90 approved grants as of this writing (not all of them announced yet).
We have received some great feedback from grantees in 2023 already, and we can’t wait to see the fruits of everyone’s labor in the months and years to come. We hope to share select updates and progress reports from grantees at some point in the future. For now, our main focus remains on project selection and fund distribution.
Most of our grants are being paid out monthly. In sum we've sent more than seven billion sats to our grantees, in addition to a $1M grant given to GrapheneOS at the beginning of the year. We will continue to support bitcoin-adjacent projects like Graphene and The Tor Project, as many people have to rely on these tools to use bitcoin in a secure and self-sovereign way.
We expect to have over 100 grantees by Q2 of 2024, given past growth and pending grant applications. We hope to support many of our grantees for the long-term, as long as funding permits and progress remains aligned with our mission.
One of our overall goals is to help provide an ecosystem of sustainable funding for open-source developers in the bitcoin ecosystem. Thanks to our generous donors, we have made great strides towards achieving this goal, and we are optimistic that we will be able to continue to provide support for a variety of projects and developers.
We hope that it will become increasingly obvious that development and maintenance of free and open-source software is continuous and arduous work; work that requires adequate compensation and support for developers. We all rely on the tireless efforts of countless FOSS contributors—some seen, some unseen.
We rely on donations to fund our operations and the projects we support. Unlike most charities, we don't take a cut from donations to fund ourselves. Consequently, we have to fund our operations separately. If you like what we’re doing please consider donating to our Operations Budget.
We deeply appreciate all support and hope this “year in review” is helpful in understanding what we are building. We are incredibly grateful for our grantees and everyone working on bitcoin and freedom tech. Thank you for focusing your time and attention on a bright and hopeful future. We will do our best to do the same.
Here’s to a great 2024. Onward!