How does Blender make money?

  • Blender is a free and open-source 3D computer graphics toolset used in the creation of visual art, animated films, motion graphics, virtual reality, and 3D printed models. The platform is the brainchild of Dutch animation enthusiast Ton Roosendaal.
  • Blender earns money through individual and corporate donations, which can take the form of a one-time contribution or a regular, monthly commitment. 
  • Blender also makes a less significant amount of money from merchandise sales and ticket sales for its annual conference BCON.

Origin story

Blender is a free and open-source 3D computer graphics toolset used in the creation of visual art, animated films, motion graphics, virtual reality, and 3D printed models. The software was created by Ton Roosendaal, founder of Dutch animation studio NeoGeo in January 1994.

Roosendaal created Blender to help creatives deal with difficult clients who request multiple changes to a project. He invested his life savings in a Silicon Graphics workstation, which at the time cost the equivalent of $30,000. Blender 1.0 was then launched in early 1995 and was described by Roosendaal as having the “magical ability to create a whole world in a computer.

Blender was released online in January 1998, with Roosendaal dissolving NeoGeo and founding Not a Number (NaN) to further develop and market the platform. NaN opened its doors in June 1998 and distributed Blender under a freemium pricing strategy where users could pay for keys to unlock more advanced features. Despite securing millions in investment funding, NaN ultimately went bankrupt in 2002 due to a harsh economic climate and excess spending.

Unable to purchase the rights to Blender from the defunct company’s backers, Roosendaal started the non-profit Blender Foundation with the intention of making the software open-source. A crowdfunding campaign raised €110,000 in July 2002, which enabled Roosendaal to purchase the rights back. Blender was then re-released a few months later under the terms of the strict GNU General Public Licence. This meant Blender and its source code would remain free forever.

Blender is now a platform with a global community of dedicated volunteers who work hard to enable it to iterate rapidly and respond to the evolving needs of creatives. Some of these creatives launched their own YouTube channels, which grew the Blender platform and saw it become utilized by large tech companies that in the process became corporate donors.

One such donor was EpicGames, donating $1.2 million to the Blender Foundation through its Epic MegaGrants scheme. Other recent donors include Microsoft, Unity Technologies, Facebook, Amazon Web Services, and Adobe. The platform itself was downloaded over 14 million times in 2020 and is available on the Blender website, Microsoft Store, Steam, and Snapcraft.

Blender revenue generation

Blender makes money through donations, merchandise sales, and annual conferences. 

These revenue streams are explained in more detail below.

Donations

Donations made to the Blender Foundation comprise the bulk of company revenue. Note that the primary role of the foundation is to support and promote the development of the free and open-source Blender platform. 

Individual and corporate donors can elect to make a one-time donation if they wish. Alternatively, they can sign up for a monthly membership where the most generous donors can pay more to have their company logo, name, and URL made public.

The membership levels are as follows:

  1. Bronze ($6/month).
  2. Silver ($12/month).
  3. Gold ($30/month).
  4. Platinum ($60/month).
  5. Titanium ($120/month).
  6. Diamond ($300/month). 
  7. Corporate – consisting of Corporate Bronze, Corporate Silver, and Corporate Gold. Donors can elect to become Corporate Patrons if the donation exceeds €120,000 per year.

Merchandise sales

The company also makes money by selling merchandise in the online Blender Store.

Merchandise for sale includes shirts, caps, socks, and books.

Annual conferences

Blender hosts an annual conference called BCON, where users from all over the world share their experience and relationship with Blender.

The conference was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but ordinarily, the company sells tickets for €299 per person.

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