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.
Open-Source SoftwareBlender’s core software is open-source, meaning that the software code is freely available to the public. Users can download, use, modify, and distribute Blender without any licensing fees. This open-source approach fosters a large and active community of users, developers, and contributors who collaborate on improving the software. Blender’s open-source nature is a foundational aspect of its business model.
DonationsBlender Foundation relies on donations from individuals, organizations, and institutions to fund its development efforts. Users and supporters of Blender can voluntarily contribute financially to the project. These donations are typically collected through the Blender website and go toward funding ongoing development, bug fixes, and community initiatives. Donations are a significant source of revenue for Blender.
Merchandise SalesBlender offers a variety of merchandise for sale, such as t-shirts, mugs, and 3D printed models, featuring Blender-related designs and logos. The revenue generated from merchandise sales contributes to the Blender Foundation’s finances and helps support the project’s activities.
Training and EducationBlender provides training and educational materials to users who want to learn how to use the software effectively. This can include online courses, tutorials, books, and workshops. While many educational resources are available for free, Blender also offers paid courses and content through its Blender Cloud platform, generating revenue from users seeking more advanced training.
Support and Enterprise ServicesBlender offers support and enterprise services for organizations and professionals who require customized solutions, technical support, and consulting related to Blender. This can include tailored software development, integration services, and specialized training. Revenue is generated by providing these services to clients with specific needs.
Challenges and Community EngagementBlender faces challenges related to maintaining a balance between its open-source principles and generating revenue. Engaging with the Blender community, addressing user needs, and managing development priorities while adhering to its open-source ethos are ongoing challenges.
Future Growth StrategiesBlender’s future growth strategies may involve: – Continued Development: Enhancing Blender’s capabilities and features to attract more users and contributors. – Community Expansion: Growing and diversifying the Blender community. – Partnerships: Collaborating with organizations and institutions for joint projects and initiatives. – Education Initiatives: Expanding its educational offerings to reach a wider audience. – Enterprise Solutions: Providing tailored solutions to organizations with specific requirements.



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 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.

Key Highlights

  • Founder and Purpose: Blender is a renowned free and open-source 3D computer graphics toolset used for visual art, animations, virtual reality, and more. The creator behind Blender is Ton Roosendaal, a Dutch animation enthusiast who aimed to provide a powerful solution for creatives.
  • Revenue Generation Methods: Blender employs various strategies to generate revenue:
    • Donations: The core source of income for Blender comes from individual and corporate donations. Users can contribute through one-time payments or monthly commitments at different membership levels.
    • Merchandise Sales: Blender sells merchandise such as shirts, caps, socks, and books through its online Blender Store.
    • Annual Conferences: Blender hosts the annual conference BCON, where it sells tickets for attendees to participate and share experiences with the community.
  • Foundation and Open-Source Journey: Blender originated from Ton Roosendaal’s need to address challenging client demands. He founded the software in 1994 and launched version 1.0 in 1995. Roosendaal established Not a Number (NaN), which initially employed a freemium model. However, NaN faced financial difficulties and went bankrupt in 2002.
  • Open-Source Transition: Faced with challenges, Roosendaal started the Blender Foundation as a non-profit to regain control of Blender’s rights. A crowdfunding campaign enabled the repurchase of rights, leading to the release of Blender under the GNU General Public License. This move solidified Blender’s open-source commitment.
  • Community and Donors: Blender thrives on a passionate global community. The platform gained traction through YouTube channels and corporate usage. Epic Games, along with companies like Microsoft, Unity Technologies, Facebook, Amazon Web Services, and Adobe, became donors. Epic Games donated $1.2 million through Epic MegaGrants.
  • Global Reach and Downloads: Blender’s popularity is evident with over 14 million downloads in 2020. The platform is accessible via its official website, Microsoft Store, Steam, and Snapcraft.
  • Donation Levels: Donations form the core revenue stream. Contributors can choose from different membership levels:
    • Bronze ($6/month).
    • Silver ($12/month).
    • Gold ($30/month).
    • Platinum ($60/month).
    • Titanium ($120/month).
    • Diamond ($300/month).
    • Corporate levels including Corporate Bronze, Silver, and Gold, with the option for Corporate Patrons exceeding €120,000/year.
  • Merchandise and Conferences:
    • Blender generates revenue through the sale of merchandise, including clothing items and books in the Blender Store.
    • The company’s annual conference BCON offers a platform for Blender users worldwide to connect and share experiences. Tickets are typically sold for €299 per person, facilitating community engagement.

Connected Business Model Types

Crowdsourcing Business Model

The term “crowdsourcing” was first coined by Wired Magazine editor Jeff Howe in a 2006 article titled Rise of Crowdsourcing. Though the practice has existed in some form or another for centuries, it rose to prominence when eCommerce, social media, and smartphone culture began to emerge. Crowdsourcing is the act of obtaining knowledge, goods, services, or opinions from a group of people. These people submit information via social media, smartphone apps, or dedicated crowdsourcing platforms.

Asymmetric Business Models

In an asymmetric business model, the organization doesn’t monetize the user directly, but it leverages the data users provide coupled with technology, thus have a key customer pay to sustain the core asset. For example, Google makes money by leveraging users’ data, combined with its algorithms sold to advertisers for visibility.

Attention Merchant Business Model

In an asymmetric business model, the organization doesn’t monetize the user directly, but it leverages the data users provide coupled with technology, thus having a key customer pay to sustain the core asset. For example, Google makes money by leveraging users’ data, combined with its algorithms sold to advertisers for visibility. This is how attention merchants make monetize their business models.

Marketplace Business Models

A marketplace is a platform where buyers and sellers interact and transact. The platform acts as a marketplace that will generate revenues in fees from one or all the parties involved in the transaction. Usually, marketplaces can be classified in several ways, like those selling services vs. products or those connecting buyers and sellers at B2B, B2C, or C2C level. And those marketplaces connecting two core players, or more.

Wholesale Business Model

The wholesale model is a selling model where wholesalers sell their products in bulk to a retailer at a discounted price. The retailer then on-sells the products to consumers at a higher price. In the wholesale model, a wholesaler sells products in bulk to retail outlets for onward sale. Occasionally, the wholesaler sells direct to the consumer, with supermarket giant Costco the most obvious example.

Retail Business Model

A retail business model follows a direct-to-consumer approach, also called B2C, where the company sells directly to final customers a processed/finished product. This implies a business model that is mostly local-based, it carries higher margins, but also higher costs and distribution risks.


A B2B2C is a particular kind of business model where a company, rather than accessing the consumer market directly, it does that via another business. Yet the final consumers will recognize the brand or the service provided by the B2B2C. The company offering the service might gain direct access to consumers over time.

Open-Core Business Model

While the term has been coined by Andrew Lampitt, open-core is an evolution of open-source. Where a core part of the software/platform is offered for free, while on top of it are built premium features or add-ons, which get monetized by the corporation who developed the software/platform. An example of the GitLab open core model, where the hosted service is free and open, while the software is closed.

Open Source vs. Freemium

Open source is licensed and usually developed and maintained by a community of independent developers. While the freemium is developed in-house. Thus the freemium give the company that developed it, full control over its distribution. In an open-source model, the for-profit company has to distribute its premium version per its open-source licensing model.

Freemium Business Model

The freemium – unless the whole organization is aligned around it – is a growth strategy rather than a business model. A free service is provided to a majority of users, while a small percentage of those users convert into paying customers through the sales funnel. Free users will help spread the brand through word of mouth.

Freeterprise Business Model

A freeterprise is a combination of free and enterprise where free professional accounts are driven into the funnel through the free product. As the opportunity is identified the company assigns the free account to a salesperson within the organization (inside sales or fields sales) to convert that into a B2B/enterprise account.

Franchising Business Model

In a franchained business model (a short-term chain, long-term franchise) model, the company deliberately launched its operations by keeping tight ownership on the main assets, while those are established, thus choosing a chain model. Once operations are running and established, the company divests its ownership and opts instead for a franchising model.

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