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.

 

43 comments

Avatar

What great timing for this post. Just last night I was thinking about making a tablet based off the Pi. TO INDIEGOGO

Avatar

What I’d like to see is a Raspberry Pi integrated into a Deskop/Laptop as a hyper-visor. Video Switching would be a bit of a trick, but it would give a whole new meaning to the term Dual Boot when you can boot two machines, and toggle between them when one is doing something or another.

Avatar

Get a KVM for the two, for us it’s Scroll Lock x2 then the port number to switch computers while they’re running. Would work for a Pi with VGA.

Avatar

Very nice stuff! The Pi is a great product indeed in so many ways. :)

Avatar

What about the license for the video codecs supplied being used in a commercial product. IIRC there was a statement on the piece of paper that came with the Pi about the license being for personal use only? Sorry I don’t have the piece of paper to hand to confirm.
Off to think of some money making ideas. This time next year Rodders ….
Rob

Avatar

IIRC you see that warning in the manual of pretty much every product that supports h,264 encode. My understanding is it depends on whether the end use of the codec is for commercial purposes or not, not whether you sare selling the device.

IANAL so I don’t know how enforcable this is legally but my understanding is the way this works in practice is that small companies ignore this and get away with it for a while but then when they get big enough to be noticed MEGA-LA approaches them and pressures them into signing a license agreement.

Avatar

If you’re setting up your own business, of course, you should definitely have a lawyer on hand too – for many reasons!

Avatar

My understanding is that “commercial use” is more to do with what you are doing with the video than the hardware. If you buy a component with the license, you are licensed when you resell. However, there are additional licenses to pay if you use the content generated for commercial purposes.

I may be completely wrong, IANAL

Avatar

I really like Rastrack! I just wish it could handle multiple RPi’s at the same location…

Avatar

It can now!, Add another pi at the same location (Different email) and clicking on it will expand if there are multiple there ;)

Avatar

Are the Model A’s not available any more? I couldn’t find them on both the distributor sites .

I think for India the model A would be better suited since its cheaper and for places outside the city, 3G dongles would be more suitable than ethernet for internet making the Model A ideal with a hub which does not cost much anymore thanks to the cheap USB hubs available here

Avatar

They’re not available *yet* (the demand for the Model B has been so enormous that both distributors have been swamped and haven’t been able to give the A line space yet); they’ll be available by the end of the year. They’ll also be a good buy for some business applications that don’t need internet access.

Avatar

I’m from Brazil and I have bougth 2 Raspberrys
This is why there is no big penetration of Raspberry pi on Brazil:
U$ 35,00 – Raspberry pi
U$ 40,00 – UPS shipping
U$ 100,00 – Importing Taxes + UPS administration taxes
——————-
U$ 175,00 – Total cost = (R$ 350,00 Local currency)

It is a shame and make me sad

Avatar

I am from Brazil, too. I bought one R-Pi from Farnell Brazil (http://www.farnell.com.br/) and I paid R$185,50 ( ~ U$90) with taxes and postage. Still far from the U$35 but I feel lucky and happy with the price.

eben

I’m glad. We’re hoping someone in Brazil will start buying them in blocks of ten, twenty or more and reselling them locally to save on shipping. If and when that happens, we’ll promote that person very heavily here and on Twitter.

Avatar

Why are there so few RPIs declared in France? :D

Avatar

The french FramboisePis are reported on framtrack.FR, of course.
C’est que cette absurdite avec .co.UK ?

:-)

Avatar

I just saw this RasPi Wifi printer on the ever excellent HackADay
http://briandelacruzph.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/shoop-raspberry-pi-powered-photo.html
via http://hackaday.com/2012/08/29/party-photo-printer-built-around-a-raspberry-pi/

Perhaps there should be an section of this site which has reciprocal links back to companies who use the term?

Avatar

What do you mean by “set your own price?”

Avatar

You choose how much you sell it for. Customers and markets are usually pretty good at making sure that only those setting reasonable prices succeed, especially in an environment like this one where the Pi *is* available at $35; for example, there’s someone out there at the moment trying to sell a $300 Raspberry Pi media player in a shiny box. They’re much less likely to do well than the guy who sells something similar for $50. We understand that people have to make some margin on what they’re selling, so it may not make sense for the guy in the bricks and mortar store who has paid $35 per unit to *sell* those Pis at $35 each; he can either raise the price a little or charge for peripherals alongside the Pi, which he makes more margin on.

Avatar

Hi Liz,

That’s great to know that the Raspberry Pi foundation doesn’t frown upon businesses built on Raspberry Pi but actually encourages it. It’s also great to get some assurance that they will be in plenty of supply if the business takes off.

I’m one of the people trying a startup to build super-low-cost computers to the mainly elderly demographic using Raspberry Pi as the brain combined with a large beautiful touch-screen.

An interesting blog would be how businesses can contact and figure out terms of use of Raspberry Pi and if we go big, what we can do to give back to the foundation more than simply buying a lot of these and putting them in brick-and-mortar stores.

I think the Raspberry Pi can do what the OLPC and OLCP-like projects couldn’t do. I’m hoping some of my Indian friends will order in bulk and eventually get everyone a computer for cheap. One thing I love about it is that it’s not subsidized. In somewhat socialist-leaning countries, such initiatives are plenty, but nothing reaches the common man. For $35, many people can afford this on their own on the free market. It’s powerful enough that it can support a lot of computing assignments in rural schools and colleges by adding a simple television (which they know how to handle and maintain – one of the major blockers for OLPC in India was ongoing maintenance.)

Is it possible for an NGO to approach the foundation, and maybe licence the design under an NDA to do local manufacturing? India is one of those countries that charges exhorbitant customs duties for all electronics imports.

This is awesome news, and I hope you keep on changing the world!

Avatar

We’re building a device (“Pure Device”) based on the raspberry pi and are currently fundraising for it on kickstarter. Check us out at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/puredevices/the-pure-device-a-simple-way-to-stay-connected

Avatar

Wow, that looks amazing!

Avatar

I am from China Mainland,I REALLY hope you guys come to China in some time,maybe in Shanghai, Here has 1 million electronic majored unversity students ,Great interest in Linux Learning!

Avatar

Fun fact:
One of the Raspberry Pi symbols on the RasTrack-map ist placed exactly on the construction site of the new headquarter of the German secret service… :)
Now we know what kind of IT they use… :)
US-White House seems to use same IT :) :)

Avatar

Liz says “about one in every 40 owners has registered the location of their Pi ”
The rastrack site says “Displaying 11954 Pis”

So … are there now about 480.000 Raspi’s delivered to customers?

Avatar

Almost 1,000 more have been added since :D

Avatar

Shoop! shouldn’t use the 1.1.1.0/24 subnet unless he wants to have a talk with the nice people from APNIC.

Any if the following ones (or subnets of) are OK:
10.0.0.0/8
172.16.0.0/12
169.254.0.0/16
192.168.0.0/16

Avatar

This seems like a good place to ask a question I’ve been pondering since the saga of the Raspberry Pi CE testing. The Pi itself passed with flying colours. Imagine I’m a small maker with an idea for something that might sell 10s, maybe a couple of hundred units. Do I need a CE label on the case? If I’m just sticking a Pi in a case, is it OK to co-opt the Foundation’s CE-mark? Now let’s say its a project that needs an I/O card – e.g. a Gertboard. Presumably no longer compliant since it’s an untested combination, so is there an exemption for very small businesses, or does it absolutely require lab testing before it can be legally sold? Wouldn’t that be prohibitive for a small production run?

tl;dr How do the CE marking laws affect small garage-based makers?

Avatar

I’ve been thinking about the exact same thing; I’ve got a need for a little embedded PC to work as an interface unit to a piece of hardware; a market where we might sell perhaps 100 devices. The raspberry pi would be perfect, and works perfectly on the bench; but if I package it and need to get CE certificates then the cost will just be prohibitive. Does anyone know if CE certification is really required for a packaged raspberry pi?

Avatar

I I do not know if you need your own CE-marking, but my guess is that you do as the mark tells the consumer who is responsible for the product – and you are responsible for your product, not the RPi foundation. CE markings is a pretty complicated business. For a brief introduction you could read

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CE_marking

You might want to investigate the possibility to re-use the documentation that the RPi foundation compiled in their “technical file”. I.e specifications for the Pi, test results, etc. If you do not add any significant components that documentation should be enough and you would not have to pay for the expensive tests. But you would need to fill in your own Declaration of Conformity etc.

There is another issue to consider though, and that is HDMI licensing. You would (as far as I can understand) need to become an HDMI adopter and pay yearly licenses. Read more at

http://olimex.wordpress.com/2012/05/17/hdmi-doubts/#comment-502

There is also other issues to consider(SD-card technology,
REACH, etc, etc).

There is of course the alternative of just ignoring all of the above and try to “fly under the radar”, but that is probably not a sensible option if you are trying to make a living of the business.

In short: There is a LOT of stuff you need to do before being able to put a product on the market. But with determination (and a bit of money) it should be quite doable.

To the foundation: If you have the time (plenty of it, right?) you might consider doing a blog post with your project plan and show the hoops that you had to jump through to get the RPi on the market. I am sure this would be helpful for future entrepreneurs that cut their teeth on the RPi and later want to launch their own products that change world!

The RPi is truly a remarkable project in many ways. The foundation has really done a great job!

Avatar

I’ve been waiting to buy a couple, for a long time, but looks like they wont be available in the USA until early next year. No distributers have them or plan to have them until next year. At least twelve weeks wait time. I hate to spend the money, and find out that a whole new upgraded unit will come out, by the time I get mine. Curse of the times eh? :-)
Oh well, back to arduinos, I guess.

Avatar

MCM have them in stock (11:59pm 31st August) http://www.mcmelectronics.com/product/83-14277 and Element14’s lead time is about 3weeks

Avatar

I simply can’t digest the fact that shipping to India cost an extra $88. My dad (I’m 15) had given me a budget of Rs. 5000 (approx. $100) to buy the Raspberry pi and other accessories to go along with it. I had originally ordered a Gertboard along with the ras-pi, giving a total of $81.50, thinking that $20 would be a big enough buffer zone for the shipping, after picking the cheapest possible option for international shipping. Imagine my surprise when my dad yelled “My credit card’s been billed 6200 bucks !” (total cost: $35 for rasp-pi + $88 shipping = $123 or approx. Rs. 6200) Now I had to cancel my order for the Gertboard. No thanks to you Farnell !

The Raspberry Pi was created to give kids *around the world* a cheap computer to tinker around with. $35 is cheap, but $123, especially when converted to other currencies, isn’t. Poo, so much for my plan for world domination. Definitely a peeve for kids like me, who are on a budget :P

Avatar

Have you considered doing a heat map of R-Pi locations?

Avatar

Indeed in Greece buying and shipping the thing is a bit more than double the original price. Maybe you should use cheaper distributors (and distributors with cheaper shipping options actually).

Avatar

Hi,

This is Ram, from Tenet Technetronics, Bangalore, India. We were interested to see how we could buy Pis in bulk and make it available locally to people in India at a affordable cost, can anyone point to the right contact to take this forward ?

Thanks.
Ram,
Technical Evangelist,
Tenet Technetronics,
Bangalore, India
http://tenettech.com

Avatar

thanks

Avatar

I took a look at Ryan Walmsley’s Rastrack map and saw nobody else in my Town or Region that has a Raspberry Pi and only 1 person in a large City which takes 2 hours travel time by Highway! Gonna be a blast organizing a Raspberry Jam!

Avatar

Well in India, a country with lot of Linux and embedded systems enthusiasts, the Pi is being sold at 3500 Indian Rupees = USD 57 in India based online stores and in retail outlets. I am ready to take up the business of marketing & selling RPI and accessories. I am stranded. Whom should I contact in this regard??

Avatar

If you mail me (see the contacts page for my address) I can put you in touch with the distributors.

Avatar

I go around engineering colleges in India to deliver training on a variety of micro controllers. May be I can propagate RPI among students through mass training, provided it is available at $40 so that it is affordable by the students.

Leave a Comment

Comments are closed