Cyanogenmod raises money – how will they make money?

OK to USE?Cyanogen, makers of Cyanogenmod for Android devices, just raised $7 million from Benchmark Capital and Redpoint Ventures. The founder Steve Kondik has a really nice story: a new chapter.

When you raise money, you certainly have to provide some form of “exit”. Many comments are asking how they’re going to commercialise, since they have a great commitment to opensource. Just look at their repositories.

The Verge thinks Cyanogenmod might be the third OS in mobile (after iOS and Android). It might even be ahead of Windows Mobile. Impressive. Just look at the opt-in installation statistics (~7.7 million installs).

I’ve never loaded Cyanogenmod on my Android device. I’ve owned a Nexus One, HTC Desire HD (10 days?) and a Samsung Galaxy S III. Samsung is clearly not pushing out updates yet (they delay them from what I gather now that the S IV is out) so I might look into Cyanogenmod soon.

I’m interested in how they’re going to monetize. Some options:

  1. Make an easy-to-use end user installer. Charge for it.
  2. Work with device manufacturers who are making cheap devices. 
  3. Work with device manufacturers like HTC, who are making devices but aren’t really “successful”, and replace their UI to be more streamlined.
  4. Secure messaging already exists; offer even better at a price tag?
  5. Secure voice calling for a fee? The resurgence of VOIP in an easy-to-use format.
  6. Offer hosted secure email, that is a gmail replacement? Nokia tried this to some extent with Ovi services. You got an Ovi account when you got a device.
  7. Preload a Whatsapp-equivalent, like Samsung does (ChatON); make it available on many platforms?
  8. Encrypted/secure backup & restore. Restoring on Android loses account details for example.
  9. Acquire TrueCaller and have the services built-in. Imagine this running as a default? Imagine paying $1/month to never have to answer spam again?

Many options exist. The firmware will be free. This is great, because older devices that manufacturers choose to neglect will just run Cyanogenmod.

The potential for developing nations is great too. The second hand market for an Android device just got a lot better. The total lifespan of a device might become tremendously longer. Interesting moves and something to watch, especially in a world where more open options are starting to come by: FirefoxOS, Ubuntu phones, etc.


  1. Abdullah Zainul Abidin says:

    I’ve tried Cynogenmod before and I quite liked the experience (apart from the cringe worthy installation steps). Apart from how are they going to monetize, I’m also worried if they might be a big enough success till google see fit to make sure integration into their services is not easy (hopefully that won’t happen but who’s to say). But still I think their biggest market IS the neglected older devices. Another possible source might be app dev want their software preloaded on Cynogenmod. Anyhow, here’s hoping for the best.

    • colincharles says:

      yes, pre-loading might work. I see older devices getting a new lease of life as important – but this market doesn’t spend much. Hence why service offerings make the most sense

  2. colincharles says:

    Imagine if there was an iDroid project (no, its dead: Reviving the old iPad 1 – great piece of hardware with planned obsolescence. Which is a real shame…