Raspberry Pi, the computer that got children interested in computing, is now aiming for the top prize
As it prepares to list in London, the hobbyist computer company Raspberry Pi may sell shares to its legion of fans.
Eben Upton is the Raspberry Pi chief executive. He said that the company was considering a retail offering, although they were still working on the specifics of its listing.
He said: “The retail offer raises an interesting question. I expect we will examine it in the future.”
There are several ways to do this. He said that because the users of the company were from around the world, a retail offering was more difficult. However, he added that an offer for the UK and EU might be possible.
Raspberry Pi is preparing for a floatation that will likely value the company at hundreds of million pounds. The company chose London over New York which is a rare decision for a technology business. It has appointed Jefferies and Peel Hunt as its bankers to oversee the listing.
Upton recently flew to New York and Boston in order to meet American investors. He says that he’s concluded there is little downside for a UK listing.
He says, “I got on the plane and I think it was probably 70/30 for the US.” “I got off the flight when I returned about 70/30 to the UK.
What we learned is that there’s plenty of smart money in the world and it will always find you no matter where you are.
Most executives bring a laminated investor presentation when they meet with potential investors. Mr Upton, however, brings a shoebox-sized box of green circuit board featuring the company’s small PCs.
This is a very hands-on method. Raspberry Pi was founded in 2008 to revive interest in DIY computing. Raspberry Pi hackers love its microcomputers with their ports and microchips.
The company has sold over 58 million units to date to parents who want to encourage their children to learn coding, factories looking for low-cost methods to monitor production, and computer enthusiasts.
Upton never imagined he would be able to list on the stock exchange when he lectured in Cambridge University’s computer science department, which was suffering from a steady drop in applicants.
Upton, a child from the 1980s when simple programmable computer such as the BBC Micro were available, observed that these computers had been replaced by PlayStations in the living room, which did not require any coding knowledge.
The lab developed a plan for a low-cost PC (the name was based on a long history of computers named after fruits). The first computer was sold in 2012.
Upton says that the original goal was to put a 1,000 Raspberry Pis in the hands of 1000 kids. Then, maybe one tenth would choose to study computer sciences. That would be a great yield.
“We were surprised by the scale of our sales: we sold 100,000 in one day, and they just kept on coming.”
The lowest-cost Raspberry Pi computer is priced at £3.90 and the highest-cost Raspberry Pi computer is just below £60.
They can be used to make low-cost PCs but are typically deployed for a variety of other uses, such as retro gaming consoles, intelligent light switches, or automatic plant watering systems.
Modified Raspberry Pis are found on the International Space Station and a cucumber farm in Japan that uses them to sort the different grades of fruit.
Computers are sold with no screens, or even without cases. This exposes the silicon. They are a counter to modern gadgets like the iPhone that have a lazy “it just works”.
Upton: “I think it is useful to understand that this stuff doesn’t work like magic.” The engineering skills you learned by writing computer software are useful in many other fields.
Raspberry Pi has received private investment from Sony and Arm which valued the company last year at $560m.
The non-profit foundation which shares the same name remains its majority owner, but there is no guarantee that this will continue once it becomes a publicly traded company.
Customers are hesitant about the prospect of new investors who have a financial motive. One sample comment said: “All hail stakeholders!” Customers are to blame for all the s—.
Upton denies that this will be true, noting that the foundation is already financially motivated to generate money, which it funnels into after-school programming clubs and teacher education.
It’s totally understandable that we are worried about becoming short-term profit-maximizing robots who will increase the price and reduce the quality.
“After two or three years, when it becomes apparent that we haven’t achieved these things, I think people may relax a bit.”
Upton doesn’t believe that. The rise of artificial intelligent has led to fears that computer coding is a dying art. His daughter, who is a Raspberry Pi enthusiast at home, codes on the prototypes.
For now, the interest in computer science is growing. Upton says that computer science is now the most difficult subject to study at Cambridge. “That’s a huge turnaround.”
The rise of the Raspberry pi has played at least a role.