Eben Upton has had an interesting trajectory both as an entrepreneur and academic, founding a couple of startups over the last decade and a half, as well as acting as the Director of Studies in Computer Science at the University of Cambridge.
Now employed at Broadcom as an SoC architect, his latest “on-the-side” venture combines a little bit of each facet and is perhaps its most ambitious yet: reignite programming in schools with a cheap ($25-$35), compact computing platform that kids could buy themselves. But despite targeting students, his foundation's tiny computer has already captured the imaginations of tinkers worldwide.
TS: Do you think going as a non-profit has opened more doors than if you had started a private enterprise?
I don't believe that there was any way that we could have done this as a commercial venture. I mean, you see the number of sales and it's easy to think, “Wow, I wish I could make some profit out of that!”. You're generating all this value and none of it is going to your wallet. But in practice actually it's fantastic.
It's very helpful when you're approaching component suppliers for them to realize that you're not trying to just make a quick buck or load your own pocket, but rather that you are doing this for charity.
That's part of the reason why people have been very understanding and prepared to sell us relatively low quantities of a certain component. We produced 10,000 units of the Raspberry Pi on our first run, which is a tiny number by consumer electronic standards, yet our suppliers were very prepared to deal with us because they knew that we weren't trying to make a quick buck.
To be honest a lot of us who are involved in the foundation have done entrepreneurial stuff before and have had some success, so it's very nice just this once have it not be about making money but rather for doing something good for other people.
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