OpenBSD Journal

The OpenBSD foundation, (almost) two years later

Contributed by weerd on from the founding-funding-foundations dept.

On July 25th, 2007 the OpenBSD Foundation was announced. Kenneth Westerback (krw@), one of the foundation directors, gave a talk at OpenCON about the history of, reasons for and work done by the foundation. Undeadly spoke with him about the foundation. In its almost two year history, the OpenBSD foundation has received a few large donations from well known companies as Google, HP and Mozilla. These donations are used to fund development in the broadest sense: they pay for hackathons, provide infrastructure (build machines etc.) and get developers' hands on laptops or exotic machines and peripherals.

Undeadly: Why was the foundation started ?

krw@: There were two main reasons. The first was regular complaints from companies, and employees of companies, that they would like to donate but needed official paperwork from a legal entity at arms length from Theo to satisfy their accountants. The second was to avoid potential accounting problems for Theo in handling large cash gifts.

There was no intent to set up an organization to own or control OpenBSD or related projects, or acquire intellectual property for or from the projects.

Undeadly: How is the foundation organised ?

krw@: The foundation is a Canadian federally incorporated non-profit company. There are currently three members of the board. Myself, Ken Westerback (, Bob Beck ( and Kjell Wooding ( The current treasurer is Bob, who does the banking in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Undeadly: Why did you pick this specific form of non-profit company and not a Charitable Organization?

krw@: A non-profit corporation was both easier to set up and involved less expensive paperwork on an ongoing basis. In particular we found that a Charitable Organization would require a special annual audit that could cost CDN$50,000. A non-profit corporation needed only a normal business audit every year, at about one-tenth the cost. Since we couldn't be sure the Foundation would be handling sufficient cash flow to justify the special auditing, we decided against starting with a Charitable Organization.

Undeadly: Who are the foundation members ?

krw@: There are currently no members other than the board members mentioned above.

Undeadly: Why is Theo not in the foundation ?

krw@: Theo was firm in declaring that he could not be a member of the foundation. His membership would reduce the ability of the foundation to convince donators that we operated independently of Theo. Further, as a member or director of the Foundation it might be a conflict of interest for him to receive direct benefits from the Foundation.

Undeadly: What does the foundation do for OpenBSD ?

krw@: The Foundation helps pay for the network and computing infrastructure of the project. We also help developers travel to conferences and hackathons.

In the first year of operation we have assumed responsibility for the costs of the internet connection to Theo's machine room, the centre of the OpenBSD universe. We sponsored c2k8, and are sponsoring c2k9, both in Edmonton. We have supported developers, including Theo, in their travels to various OpenBSD hackathons around the world. We have had some significant hardware donations that we distributed to the relevant developers. In short we spend donations received on OpenBSD and related projects in anyway we can.

Undeadly: Other foundations try to get copyright over the code in the tree, why is the OpenBSD foundation different in this respect ?

krw@: We do not believe that there is any point in acquiring the copyrights because the tree has been cleansed of all non-BSD licensed code that could be considered essential to OpenBSD. Thus the code is 'free' and no-one need or could assert more control over it. Any attempt to exert such control would be counter to basic OpenBSD philosophical positions.

Undeadly: Do you only take financial donations ?

krw@: We take financial or hardware donations. We are open to donations of any kind, as long as they have no strings attached. We do not take 'directed' donations for specific purposes.

Undeadly: Should we stop donating to Theo and send our cheques to the foundation now ?

krw@: Not unless you are an organization that needs paperwork, or are planning to send so much money to Theo that he would find it hard to treat as a gift. If you suspect you might so discomfort him, please check with him first.

Undeadly: I'm trying to get my company to donate to the foundation, what's the process ?

krw@: Send an email to describing your planned donation and we will provide directions from there. We accept cheques or wire transfers for cash donations, and we can direct the shipment of donated hardware to the best location.

Undeadly: What's the best way for me to help contribute to the project as a whole and the foundation specifically ?

krw@: We can only speak for the foundation. We prefer ongoing cash donations rather than large one-time donations, as they make it easier to predict cash flow. Also, as a not-for-profit corporation, we prefer to spend money on the project on an on-going basis rather than letting it sit around in a bank account. Hypothetically, anyway, since we have been successful at putting our existing donations to good use.

Undeadly: Any closing remarks ?

krw@: Thank you for supporting OpenBSD in anyway you can.

Many thanks to Ken for his time in answering our questions and to all directors for donating their time to run the foundation. Please, do as Ken suggests and help in anyway you can: pre-order your CD set, donate some cash yourself and get your company to donate to the OpenBSD foundation.

(Comments are closed)

  1. By Mike Swanson (2001:470:e8aa:abcd:222:b0ff:fe56:8a5) on

    Excellent interview, it answered some lingering questions I had about the foundation but never got around to asking them; Also, it's very nice to hear that the Foundation is working for corporate donations just as planned :-)

  2. By Anonymous Coward ( on

    1. By Anonymous Coward ( on


      Maybe undeadly will make a post when the commentary is written as well.

  3. By Anonymous Coward ( on

    I pride of OpenBSD, I think need close source and sell.

    OpenBSD the best OS in the world !

  4. By Anony ( on

    Great info, but one question remains: How much has been received, spent, and what is the $CAD goal for the future? I don't see any information on the foundation web pages, unlike the FreeBSD and NetBSD foundations do.

    Not that it make a difference to me, I have been using OpenBSD for 9 years and buying CDs (multiples via work each release), and an occasional shirt, and making my own personal donations.

    I'm happy to keep donating because it helps me in my job, and I want OpenBSD to continue.


Copyright © - Daniel Hartmeier. All rights reserved. Articles and comments are copyright their respective authors, submission implies license to publish on this web site. Contents of the archive prior to as well as images and HTML templates were copied from the fabulous original with Jose's and Jim's kind permission. This journal runs as CGI with httpd(8) on OpenBSD, the source code is BSD licensed. undeadly \Un*dead"ly\, a. Not subject to death; immortal. [Obs.]