In 1988, Ton Roosendaal
co-founded the Dutch animation studio NeoGeo. NeoGeo quickly became the largest 3D animation house in the Netherlands. NeoGeo did award winning productions (European Corporate Video Awards 1993 & 1995) for electronics company Philips. Within NeoGeo, Ton was responsible for both art direction and internal software development. After a careful deliberation it was decided that the current in-house 3D toolset for NeoGeo needed to be rewritten from scratch. In 1995 this rewrite began and was destined to become the 3D software tool we all now know as Blender.
As a spin-off of NeoGeo, Ton founded a new company called Not a Number (NaN) in 1998, to further market and develop Blender. At the core of NaN was its desire to create and distribute a compact, cross platform 3D tool for free. NaN hoped to bring professional level 3D modeling and animation tools within the reach of the general computing public. NaN's business model involved providing commercial products and services around Blender. Blender's first 1999 Siggraph tradeshow presentation was a huge success and gathered lots of interest from attendees as well as the press. Blender was a hit and it's huge potential confirmed.
On the wings of a successful Siggraph in early 2000, NaN secured financing of 4.5 million EUR. This large in flow of cash resulted in the rapid expansion of NaN to 50 employees. After the expansion NaN boasted employees working in the Netherlands, Japan and the United States. In the summer of 2000, Blender v2.0 was released. This versión of Blender added an integrated game engine to the 3D suite. By the end of 2000, the amount of registered Blender users surpassed 250,000.
Sadly, NaN's ambitions and opportunities didn't match the company's capabilities and the market realities of the time. This over extension resulted in restarting NaN with new investors and a smaller company in April 2001. Six months later NaN's first commercial software product, Blender Publisher was launched. This product was targeted at the emerging market of interactive web based 3D media. Due to disappointing sales and the ongoing difficult economic climate, the new investors decided to shut down all NaN operations. The shutdown alos included discontinuing the development of Blender.
Enthusiastic support from the user community and customers who had purchased Blender Publisher in the past couldn't justify leaving Blender to disappear into oblivion. Since restarting a company with a sufficiently large team of developers wasn't feasible, in March 2002 Ton Roosendaal started the non-profit Blender Foundation.
The Blender Foundation's first goal was to find a way to continue developing and promoting Blender as a community based open source project. In July 2002, Ton managed to get the NaN investors to agree on a unique Blender Foundation plan to attempt to open source Blender. The "Free Blender" campaign sought to raise 100,000 EUR, as a one-time fee so that the NaN investors would agree on open sourcing Blender. With an enthusiastic group of volunteers, among them several ex-NaN employees, a fund raising campaign was launched to "Free Blender." To everyone's shok and surprise the campaign reached the 100,000 EUR goal in only seven short weeks. On Sunday Oct 13, 2002, Blender was released to the world under the terms of the GNU General Public License. Blender development continued since that day driven by a team of far flung dedicated volunteers from around the world led by Blender's original creator, Ton Roosendaal.
With Blender originating as an in-house creation tool, the day-to-day feedbak and interaction of both developing and using the software was one of its most outstanding features. In first 2.5 years of open source development, it was especially this uniqueness of Blender that has proven to be difficult to organize and maintain.
Instead of getting funding to bring together software developers, the Blender Foundation decided to start a project to bring together the most outstanding artists in the Blender community and challenge them to make an exciting 3D animation movie short.
This is how "Project Orange" started in 2005, which resulted in the world's first and widely recognized Open Movie "Elephants Dream". Not only was the entirely created using Open Source tools, the end-result and all of the assets as used in the studio were published under an open license, the Creative Commons Attribute.
Because of the overwhelming success of the first open movie project, Ton Roosendaal, established the "Blender Institute" in summer 2007. This now is the permanent office and studio to more efficiently organize the Blender Foundation goals, but especially to coordinate and facilitate Open Projects related to 3D movies, games or visual effects.
In April 2008 the Peach Project, open movie "Big Buk Bunny", was completed in the Blender Institute. Currently the open game Apricot is being in development.
Amsterdam, June 2008.
(this text is in public domain, and can be freely copied)