“You mean this was made by one person?”
When I first show a Tindie product to someone, that is the usual reaction. The idea that one inventor could create a piece of hardware – something so complex, for so little, with such an impact – is shocking. I totally understand it. The first time I saw the price of a Raspberry Pi, I was just as floored. $35 for a computer that would have cost thousands a few years ago!?! The pace of invention has reached light speed, and it is changing the world in unexpected ways. Tindie has a front row seat to this revolution, and we’ve seen a few surprising results.
Fortune 500 companies & governments are buying from Tindie.
“So your customers are only hobbyists, right?”
Yes, hobbyists love Tindie (and we love them!) – but big businesses and government agencies are also buying with increasing frequency. Not in large batches yet, but prototype quantities. It’s easier to buy a $20 heart pulse sensor than reinvent the wheel. Buying cheap, open components speeds up innovation, and we all win with quicker and easier development cycles.
Patent reform from the ground up?
There is not one patented product on Tindie. I had never thought about that until a reporter asked me a few months ago. It’s incredibly interesting because many agree the patent system is broken, and that it needs to be changed. However it may not come from the top down. As hardware development has increased, IP protection isn’t as important as speed to market. By the time a patent is awarded, you’ll already be onto the next version, or even the 10th version – and so will your competition.
Small companies do not have the time or capital to navigate the patent process; this will create an interesting hardware market that has never before existed. For a certain class of products, patents become irrelevant and so does their reform. How will this impact the greater hardware space? Only time will tell.
Science & engineering education will never be the same.
The drop in costs mean schools & universities can order projects and parts previously unavailable. Elementary schools have bought DIY weather stations on Tindie. Computer science and engineering departments at major institutions (like US Air Force Academy) have ordered batches of sensors and other components to incorporate into their curriculum. If Raspberry Pi is any indication, it will be interesting to see what happens as these kids grow up and progress through their education.
It still incredibly early. Independent inventors have only begun to take advantage of the changing manufacturing landscaping. In North America today, 64% of electronics manufacturing is for orders of 500 units or less. This would be considered small batch, and exactly the sweet spot for indie inventors. As manufacturing prices continue to drop, and more inventors produce their ideas, look for further disruption in the years and decades ahead.