Adafruit - Eli
About: How and why:
“An electronic tutorial and learning company” with a “gift shop” is how Limor "Ladyada" Fried describes her company. She says:“The point of the company is to teach people and to learn. It’s not just to buy and consume.” This is central to who Adafruit is as a company.
According to a Bloomberg News interview, Fried launched the company with $10,000 her parents designated for her MIT tuition. It seems the company started equally out of: A. frustration at the way most companies withhold plans and materials information. B. endless requests from her online following to make and sell them her inventions. C. foresight into the growing DIY market.
Despite fortune 5000 labeling her as number eleven in top manufacturing companies due to the corporation growing 839% over three years, her products are entirely open source. While the intellectual property is free what she is selling is unassembled creative projects invented by her and her ~50 employee team. Projects sell for $20 -$100 Things like: -MintyBoost, a portable charger for cell phones and other devices that fits inside an Altoids tin, -TV-B-Gone, a remote that can shut off televisions in a 150- foot radius. -Or a new arduino compatible wearable platform called FLORA
Also offered on her website is an enormity of educational resources for schools and personal use which are free. Deals for schools and bookstores to affordable sell her products are also listed on the website and seem to be "what" Adafruit is about.
Adafruit’s business plan appears to realize that going Open source and advertising as first and foremost an education facility free’s knowledge in a just way, one that people respect. Allot of the business’ hype comes from her provocative paid cyber hacking challenges, and personal accomplishments-- being a woman in the business world, tech world, and engineering world.
Her PR includes weekly information/live question session with her and a colleague.
The very nature of open source and what fiend calls open hardware includes the promise that its owners can fix it themselves, they can learn from it, and they can own it. This is strategic as well as moral. The personal value for the client is addictive, more fun, more fulfilling, and less likely to be simply thrown away but instead, with the knowledge of having built the object, redesigned, reused, and re appropriated. This is indicative of one of the company's strength, its strategy, and more importantly, its values.
I see its limited niche as a central challenge. Not everyone knows what the phrase "open source" means let alone being seduced by its power like many in the tech and industry world. The market for DIY and ultra engaged learning is also small. It requires leisure time and priorities that I do not see widespread in our country. Priorities like learning, confidence in nerdiness, and creative tendencies. Despite this, Adafruit is growing with vigor.
In the future I see many opportunity's. One may be less involved projects to reach a wider audience but this could be at the expense of a thorough educational experience Or, maybe it will include a platform one day for serious collaboration on hack projects. I think the future will be client driven and cautious which is a smart way to grow.
Only superficially similar competitors appear to exist. This could be a business like Makerbot except Adafruit has fairer prices, more education themed, and less about sharing.
Or Adafruit could be compared to the 2012 start up DIY.org --except more hands on and less about a physically striking website and for all ages--
Lastly, sparkfun and seedstudio attempt to challenge Adafruit and are offering similar products but they are widely regarded as "sucking" in comparison.