Cassidy’s Blog

Farewell, elementary

I’m moving on; here’s to the future!

5 min read

Over the last decade, I’ve worked to help build elementary into what it is today: a world-class operating system lead by a team who is involved in and oftentimes driving the direction of the greater open source desktop space. In 2011 I founded elementary, LLC. so we could have a legal entity under which to do business, sign agreements, etc. I owned and ran the company for seven years, bearing the entirety of the legal responsibility and handling much of the administration and logistics. At the time of its founding, Dani and I both had jobs elsewhere and worked on building elementary as much as we could.

In 2014, I joined System76 full-time while continuing to work on elementary. In 2015 we made the decision to hire Dani on full time. In 2018, we restructured the company side of elementary into elementary, Inc. with Dani and I as equal co-owners, and then in August of 2018 I left System76 to join elementary full time as well.

Each release since I joined elementary full time performed even better sales-wise than the last, until OS 6 and 6.1 which performed far worse than expected, likely in part due to the ongoing global pandemic—people were seemingly less likely to pay an optional amount to download an operating system when they could just get it for free. It became clear we needed to re-prioritize our company finances while staying firm in our open source, privacy-centric, and ethical funding beliefs. Something that came up repeatedly between me and our CFO was also the possibility of one or both of me and Dani again taking a full-time position at another company to enable us to hire or contract for those projects; we would stay involved with day-to-day operations and guidance of the company much like we had done in the past, but with a day job elsewhere to free up some resources.

We had a big business development meeting in December, 2021 to go over projects, prioritize finances, and discuss the budget. During that week, Dani, our CFO, and I again discussed the possibility of taking jobs elsewhere while continuing to work on elementary. In January, we enacted some adjustments including cutting salaries and completely eliminating healthcare for employees and family members. I was reluctant to agree to these cuts, but agreed since it seemed like the only immediate solution, as increasing revenue would take longer. We also agreed to revisit the situation quarterly—likely with additional salary cuts—with the next time set for April.

Since discussing the possibility of taking a salary elsewhere, I had been keeping a casual ear to the ground for potential positions at open source companies I believed in, but nothing really stood out. However, soon after our meeting and these cuts, a perfect opportunity in open source and with existing friends and colleagues was shared with me—so I looked into it. After confirming it would be an incredible fit while importantly allowing me to continue my work on elementary, I made the hard decision to cut back my hours at elementary, eliminate my salary (freeing it up for other initiatives), and to take this position for my wage.

As a result, Dani has asked me to resign and completely step away from elementary. This was not my intention when seeking out another position, but Dani has been adamant. In the end, I have decided that the best course of action is indeed for me to move on; I’m giving up on my decade-plus passion for elementary, and have accepted an offer for Dani to be the sole, 100% owner of elementary, Inc. I’ve signed my resignation and as of today, she now owns the entirety of the company shares and responsibility. I wish her the best in continuing its legacy.

In line with Dani’s wishes, I will no longer be involved in any way at elementary. Instead, I will focus my free-time efforts on contributing to GNOME, Flatpak, Flathub, and those growing ecosystems. In many ways, this will be a continuation of my work from elementary where I was involved in GNOME hackfests and conferences, attended and spoke at the Linux App Summit, helped design and championed the cross-desktop dark style and accent colors, and worked on an open ecosystem of apps. Soon, I will share more about joining an open source organization where I will continue to work with many familiar faces in the free desktop world while improving the lives of folks around the world—and I can’t wait to get into it. But more on that later.


Additional Thoughts

I want to make a few things clear:

  1. Though I’m no longer involved with elementary, I still largely agree with its current direction, and wish everyone involved the best. Everyone who has contributed to elementary in any way over the years should be proud of what has been accomplished so far, and should be excited about the future. Additionally, I hope and expect that the relationships between elementary and GNOME, Flatpak, the FreeDesktop community, and other open source projects can remain strong and productive.

  2. Because some people on the Internet suck, transphobia has inevitably reared its ugly face in the public discourse of this topic. I want to make it exceedingly clear that will not be tolerated by me—and should not be tolerated by anyone in the elementary community, open source community, or society at large. This includes misgendering and deadnaming.

  3. I’m extremely saddened by how this whole fiasco transpired, and honestly I still don’t understand the motivations behind certain actions. I hope over time relationships can heal and I can better understand the motivations—even if I won’t ever agree with how it was handled.

I may add to these thoughts over time, but I think that’s all for now. Thanks for reading, and here’s to the future!