Starting a business with a Raspberry Pi

We’re now reaching a point where people’s Raspberry Pi business ideas are starting to appear in the wild. The Pi’s strength for these entrepreneurial types is its price; before Pi, if you were, say, setting up a digital display business, you’d be spending a whole heap more than $35 on the device that drives each of your displays.

Here’s a really cute example of the sort of thing the Raspberry Pi makes possible for people to produce at an affordable price. It’s the Shoop!, a Pi-powered souvenir photo printer. Brian de la Cruz, the maker, calls it a photo studio in a box.

If, like Brian, you’re making a product which requires a Raspberry Pi to run, we don’t ask you to buy special permission or licences from us to use it. All we ask is that you include the words “Powered by Raspberry Pi” somewhere on your packaging. If your business is successful, we’d be very grateful if you could consider donating a small portion of your profits to the Raspberry Pi Foundation – but that’s all, and if you choose not to do that, that’s fine too.

I get several emails every day about people’s projects, many of which I’m asked not to talk about here until they’re a bit more mature so that people can protect their ideas. It’s exciting stuff, and it’s fantastic for us to be able to watch you guys grow your businesses. We love this stuff: we’ve said a million times that we believe that the world keeps on spinning because of entrepreneurship, and it’s great to see people pick up the Pi and run with it.

Making things is not the only way you can set up a business with the Raspberry Pi. Have a quick look at this snapshot of Ryan Walmsley’s Rastrack map, taken today (about one in every 40 owners has registered the location of their Pi – add yours if you want to help add more granularity). Click through to go to the map yourself if you want to zoom in and find out how many have been registered in your town. And then read on.

Rastrack, 30 Aug 2012

Click to visit Rastrack

There’s something interesting about the dispersal pattern here. The Anglosphere (as Eben insists on calling it) seems to have caught on to the Pi idea now. But there are big countries out there – Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, India and many others – where there’s demand for the Raspberry Pi (we know because we get many, many, many emails from these countries every day), but not much Pi penetration.

There are several reasons for this: alarming taxes on courier service more than double the cost of the Pi in some countries; import taxes in some places are prohibitive (I’m not sure what we can do about that); in others, there’s not really a way for people to buy online easily. Some countries have very little internet coverage; others have a population that doesn’t have access to credit cards or even bank accounts. We’re going to be taking someone on next year to work exclusively with getting the Raspberry Pi into these areas – work that we’ll be doing with other charities and NGOs. But if you’re someone who lives in one of those countries, there are things that you can do right now to help (with the side effect of making some money for yourself) too.

Now that it’s possible to order Raspberry Pis in bulk, we’re encouraging enterprising types in those countries to buy Pis (see the links at the top right of the main page) to resell in bricks and mortar shops. If you buy in bulk you’ll make very big savings on shipping; while it’s not possible to get bulk discounts on the Raspberry Pi (our business model has Farnell and RS selling the device at the lowest price possible for single and multiple units), you can set your own price – and selling the Raspberry Pi is a great way to get people to buy peripherals, books and cases from you too.

If you’re making a Raspberry Pi product, please mail us. We’d love to see what you’re doing.