Are you an electronics nut? By my unofficial estimate, approximately 81% of the people reading this would qualify, and the rest are simply trending that way. Given this “statistic”, it’s only fitting that my latest Tindie seller interview is with the Mahesh Venkitachalam, who runs Electronut Labs. If his name sounds familiar, you may also recognize him from his book Python Playground that he published in 2015.
Mahesh’s background is one that many of us can certainly relate to, as he worked in the software industry for over 15 years before branching out on his own. After quite a bit of blogging and the aforementioned book, he formed Electronut Labs as a business that designs and sells open source hardware. His company, which has grown to a team of 6 engineers, also takes on consulting projects with a specialization in Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices.
If you do visit the “ENL” Tindie store, you’ll notice that there is a wide variety of complexity in the products that are offered. The snapVCC for instance, gives you access to 3.3V and 5V as a connector that snaps into a 9V battery, while the hackaBLE is more involved as a tiny nRF52832 BLE development board with an ARM Cortex-M4 processor. Mahesh explains the variety of products by noting:
Our products are steadily increasing in complexity, which is a reflection of my own progress in understanding various aspects of manufacturing electronics hardware. [He adds that his] goal is to create useful hardware which is well designed — both in terms of functionality and aesthetics. Our snapVCC regulator is on the desks of many a maker, and our BLE boards are being used by several companies for prototyping their products.
It’s neat to see one’s knowledge and product complexity increase. It’s also important to note that without the right source of power, your project isn’t going anywhere. In fact the snapVCC is currently their most popular product. It’s both simple and something every electronics tinkerer needs. While you could whip up your own 9V power supply, I’d personally rather buy something than re-invent the wheel (or solder things together) again and again!
Mahesh has been following Tindie since its inception, but it wasn’t until July 2017 that he had “something to sell” and opened his storefront. He ranks the best thing about selling on Tindie is its international reach and the fact that you can sell a product worldwide without much overhead. He also notes that there’s a certain community aspect to Tindie that allows us to share ideas, whether it means purchasing a certain product or inspiring another.
International shipping, however, can certainly be a challenge. Mahesh is based out of India, and he notes that shipping electronics there can be difficult due to various bureaucratic policies. This has been improved by partnering with a US distributor, which he ships to in bulk and they in turn ship out orders as needed. He notes that most of his orders come from the US, but that they also seem to have a following in the Nordic countries.
As far as other thoughts on this platform, Mahesh says:
I think Tindie gives creators a good alternative to crowdfunding, without the risks, delays, pressures, and financial overheads. It allows you to take your hobby to a business at your own pace in an honorable way. These days, if you are looking for a development board for a new chip or sensor, you are more likely to find it on Tindie rather than the usual suspects like Sparkfun or Adafruit. It’s hard to for any individual company to keep up with a global market supplied by enthusiastic individual creators.
That really illustrates what we’re all about. We certainly love the service and innovation that larger companies bring to the market, but Tindie acts as something different: a conduit for individuals and small companies to put their specialized goods in front of the world. There’s little risk whether you are able to sell a few of your product or thousands.
It was a pleasure to find out more about Mahesh and Electronut Labs, and we wish them lots of success in the future!