The Open Compute Project (OCP) has set up an invitation-only membership tier for startups that can share people and technology with OCP's open source mission.

OCP will invite startups with strong technology contributions to take part in programs that develop and share open source hardware and software designs for hyperscale data center operators. Membership will also help those startups with visibility in the industry, the group says.

open compute project
– Open Compute Project

Describing OCP as a leading innovator in the IT industry Cliff Grossner, chief innovation officer at the OCP Foundation, said the group "continually needs to develop new adjacent communities to maintain the OCP Community as a dominant force for change."

OCP takes innovations developed for large data centers, and makes them available to all, said Grossner, and startups are another source of innovation for the group to tap.

OCP has been experimenting with membership schemes to encourage real contribution, rather than members paying to use the badge. The group currently offers a tiered system where higher-level membership actually costs less, but comes with higher requirements to contribute to OCP's work.

Organizations can take out Gold, Silver, and Platinum memberships costing $60,000, $50,000, or $40,000 per year - but these require increasing contributions in the form of design specifications, reference architectures, or white papers.

There is also a $5,000 level "Community" membership for individuals, who can lead OCP projects.

OCP is not publishing a fee for the new Startup tier, saying the cost will be aimed to match the stage of the startups and the depth of its pockets. OCP will select and invite specific startups "based upon an initial assessment" and membership will be re-evaluated annually.

In response to a question from DCD, Cliff Grossner explained: "At the OCP we must be certain to provide fair treatment to all. The startup pricing is based upon evaluation of the startup using a set of criteria designed to class the startup as to where they are on the 'ypical' journey from innovation to commercialization and match fees with their ability to pay."

Grossner added: "While we might have some personal bias as to which startups look more promising or are interesting for the market, we do our best not to put our finger on the scale, wanting to ensure fair treatment."

“We have designed the Startup Membership tiers and program to provide access to the OCP Community for industry feedback and networking to connect with potential partners, investors, customers, and mentors,” said Lesya Dymyd Ph.D., future technologies symposium lead at OCP.

"The OCP will also be able to assist startups with visibility in the market, access to talent and through community-driven standardizations remove technology barriers that might be holding back their growth."

Alongside startups, OCP is also looking to include investors, including "angel" investors and the investment arms of existing OCP member companies, apparently hoping to broker investments in its startup members.

IDC Vice president Rohit Metra welcomed this, saying: “The cycle of innovation embodied in startup companies has never been more important in helping meet the technology challenges we face in the Information Technology marketplace.

"As many companies are reducing their budgets for research during the current economic uncertainty, the timing is good for the OCP Community to move to help startups on their journey to success, bringing innovations to new and emerging markets.”