Almost three years ago we started Collective68, a collective of people who wanted to turn their passion for open source into a full-time job. While we would commit most of our time to consultancy projects, and would guide various entities towards the use of free software, privacy oriented and standards compliant tools, quite often we would get “yes, but can you set it up for me?” as an answer. Sometimes we could, sometimes we could not, but most of the time we needed more research. This experience helped us realize that there was a gap between the number of services offered by Software as a Service (SaaS) providers of open source, and the potential number of services requested by people, companies, SMEs, organizations and not-for-profits. We did our homework and we also realized that for those entities who did understand the importance of using ethical software, but in the meantime didn’t want to deal with ‘complicated’ technical thingies, it was hard for them to find a ‘all in one’ solution. While with the services provided by big-tech the on-boarding process is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel, and the off-boarding comes with a headache, in the case of open source, for non-technical people or communities, it’s challenging to get started. Considering all of the above, we identified a need that we could fill, and this is how Cloud68.co was born.
At the beginning we were enthusiastic and terrified.
Enthusiastic because we’ve always been confident about the future of the project and because we were doing something we were entirely passionate about, but also terrified because we were at the beginning of a long journey and many challenges were on the way.
After long hours of market research, group discussions, business plans and after putting our ideas on paper, we started to build things. One of the first things we worked on was our website, Cloud68.co, which among our mission and services would also reflect our core beliefs and principles. We gradually started building our internal infrastructure which would consist on: Mattermost for instant chat conversation between our team member, Nextcloud for file-sharing and collaboration, GitLab for website hosting and project management, Zammad for customer support, InvoiceNinja for invoicing. This software tools would also make the list of the first instances that we would launch since we prefer to advise our partners with those tools that we’ve found to do the work for our own needs. While this list started expanding gradually, we also worked on reflecting our vision of Cloud68.co - a company which makes the use of free and open source software as easy as possible and provides you with reliable open source digital infrastructure, and here every word matters:
- reliable - because despite being a work in progress, your needs will always be addressed in time and we will stay committed to giving you the best solution.
- open source- because we only provide software whose code is publicly available published with permissive licenses.
- digital infrastructure - because we won’t simply provide you with the hosting space; research, training, on-boarding and consultancy will also be available when needed.
We want to make it easy for every single person to use our services, this is why when you contact our support you’re always talking to real people and not to automated bots. We’ve made it pretty easy for everyone to reach out to our team, not only to ‘talk business’ but also to say hi or discuss an idea with us: you can join the conversation anytime at our Mattermost channel, or schedule a call with our team or by sending an email to us, and if you visit Tirana and you’d like to meet up the team, we’d be happy to welcome you in our small, cozy office.
During this first year we’ve had our moments of glory, alongside the moments we’ve been feeling overwhelmed. We’re proud to announce that in the moment of writing this blog post we are working with companies, organizations and collectives such as Book Sprints, Coko Foundation, Decentralized Science, OpenStreetMap Foundation, Open Knowledge Belgium, punctum books and Transformatorio to mention a few. We are proud to have partnered with companies such as ProtonMail and Write.as. We are also very proud to have joined the LibreHosters network and become part of a bigger movement.
On the other hand, we've also struggled from time to time with financial challenges and moments when we had to overwork due to too many things happening at the same time, and we had to do things like posting a delayed blog post such as the one you are reading right now. Since the beginning, we have omitted the idea of getting external investments to fasten our company growth, as we strongly believe that our core principles should remain unchanged and uninfluenced from capital inflows. This has opened a path for some challenges on the way while things are improving smoothly, and we are investing in having even more sustainable, organic growth.
Establishing Cloud68.co ÖU
Starting for September 2020, we managed to establish Cloud68.co as an Estonian based company thanks to their e-residency program, and this will allow us to exploit the benefits of the EU market at a legal and financial level, while also being able to provide our customers with more facilities such as more payment gateways and lower and safer transaction fees. We consider this a big step towards the sustainability of our company, with significant importance for each and everyone working with us.
More exciting projects are yet to come, such as a revamp of our ‘Community Support Program’ which will be announced soon in collaboration with people we respect and the exciting event of the ‘LibreHosters festival’. Keep following the news on our blog or subscribe to our newsletter if you want to learn more on what’s next!
Thank you for your time and your trust onwards!