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How to Start and Run an Open Hardware Business – with SparkFun CEO Nathan Seidle

MakingSociety Podcast is back with a new interview to help you start and run your open hardware company. And… this new episode features a 40 minutes interview with SparkFun CEO Nathan Seidle!

Nathan started SparkFun 12 years ago while studying electrical engineering. Since then, company grew to become the most successful open source hardware company to date and employs today more than 130 team members out of Boulder, Colorado.

Nathan is also a key activist for the open source hardware movement. He is one of the key actors behind the creation of the Open Source Hardware Association. SparkFun is one of the biggest contributors in open hardware.

The team put together a successful product development process able to iterate quickly and get new products on shelves every Friday. They are also pushing the frontiers of documentation in hardware.


What We Talk about in this Episode


This episode is entirely dedicated to how Nathan started SparkFun and grew it to what it is today.

We talk about how to get started, how to bootstrap and get noticed. Nathan goes back on some of his biggest challenges, how he deals with competition and the SparkFun process to get new products on the shelves every Friday. He also shares advice on how to find people to work with you and how to differentiate yourself.

Nathan shares his experience with open source hardware, how it can be beneficial but also challenging. He shares thoughts on what means “open source hardware” and the current growth of the movement.

I also asked Nathan to explain how to get your open hardware products get made at SparkFun. If you have a hardware prototype that you think could interest SparkFun, this section is definitively for you!

To give you a recap, here are the topics we talk about:

  • how to start an open hardware company while being a student
  • early beginnings bootstrap financing
  • finding team mates
  • how to differentiate your hardware company
  • how to learn how to be a CEO
  • SparkFun’s process to get new products on the shelves at a fast pace

And also:

  • benefits and challenges of being open hardware
  • how the open hardware world deal with competition
  • where open hardware is going

For SparkFun fans:

  • how to submit a project and work with SparkFun

This episode is a gold nugget of advice coming from an open hardware business master!

As we talk about in the interview, check Nathan’s TEDx conference on what open source hardware is and how it can help your company and society:

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Enjoy, and share your thoughts in the comments!




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