If you sell software, your marginal cost to produce one more unit is zero. I give away free licenses to all the products I sell to pretty much anybody who takes the time to write with a hardship story.
Usually, you just gain one devoted fan for life who will tell everybody he knows how cool you are for hooking him up with a free license. Every once in a while you score big like these guys did.
And incidentally, the title of this post is wrong. At no point did Divvy spend $14 or even pass up the opportunity to earn $14. The total cost of this for them was the time taken to write that email.
Explicitly asking for something in return would probably be a good idea for me. Most of my customers tell me that they'll tell their friends, which makes me happy but empirically does not do much for the business since they're going to tell a single digit number of people who have no money, and the conversion on that is terrible. I should really tell folks that I'd love if they mentioned it on their class homepage or something.
I make a point of giving out free Twiddla subscriptions for educational uses (on the assumption that students eventually become young executives who have to sit in a conference room while people in suits waste an entire hour trying to get WebEx to work at all, and might theoretically chime in about this cool online thing they used in school that just plain works.)
Anyway, that promise is in writing on the website, and I get to field a dozen requests a day (and the subsequent stream of thank you mails that come back), but every once in a while somebody will write in asking for a free license to run their online tutoring business. I don't feel bad at all pointing those folks to our API page and explaining how they can get their site up and running as soon as they buy a subscription.
So no, if you give it to one person you don't have to give it to everybody else.
However, if you give it to someone, you have to give (same) it to the US govt.
It's illegal to charge the US govt more than you charge anyone else.
Usually when things are comp'd they are done on the lowdown.
It would be awesome if more smaller dev companies remembered what it was like to be college students.
Divvy has an edge with the customizable zones; the 66/33 split from the video is a good example. SizeUp has the edge by being 100% usable mouse-free OOTB.
Also - does anyone know of a program that does this for Windows?
The guy could easily have taken the licence and done nothing. Instead, he got it to #1 on reddit. Seems like a good PR move to me.
For all we know they've done this a hundred times and received only "kthxbye" in return (but that's a valid response!).