Buy A Piece Of The Pi?

The various companies and organisations that supply our community have achieved differing levels of success, with some staying as kitchen-table operations and others reaching the giddy heights of multinational commerce. Perhaps none has risen so far as Raspberry Pi though, as there are reports that the developer of single board computers might be seeking a £400m listing on the London Stock Exchange some time next year. The news is that they have sought the advice of investment bankers over the possibility of a float, seeking to secure further investment to further develop their product portfolio.

We’re not investment advisers here at Hackaday so we’re not going to suggest whether or not to bet your shirt on Pi shares, instead our interest lies in what this might mean for their family of products. It’s an inevitable process for any start-up that achieves major success that it will over time progress from being directed by vision to being directed by commerce, and perhaps a listing could be the culmination of this process. It’s fair to say that we tinkerers probably represent less of a market than education or industry to the Pi folks, so how might we win or lose when the suits take the helm?

Perhaps the most interesting movements from the company over recent years have been the development of their own silicon in the RP2040 and the new Pi Zero 2, the success of the Compute Module 4, and the Pi 400 all-in-one. We’d expect the last product line to expand into a line of all-in-one computers or appliances for the education and home markets, the Compute Module series to be developed further with industrial customers in mind, and fresh new semiconductor devices to be at their heart. From this we could still expect new boards with extra capabilities to keep us happy, but we should watch out for any commercially-driven moves towards closed-source or locked-down hardware.

Whatever happens in Cambridge over the next few years we’ll as always be very interested to see what fresh products the Pi folks have in store for us. It’s an impressive achievement to stably go from ten thousand boards unpacked in a garage to a potential stock market listing in under a decade, they’ve come a long way since that leap day morning in 2012.

62 thoughts on “Buy A Piece Of The Pi?

    1. Other than right at launch and for some while after stock never seems to be a problem, they underestimate demand often perhaps, but they sell heaps upon heaps of them, and must make money out of it – seems like a sound business model to me.

      Not sold on the idea of shareholders owning the company though… The current setup seems to be working really well brining in more folks who’s interest is solely making money (probably) seems like a recipe for worse products with higher margins trading off the quality of the Pi community and brand till its dead…

      It might work out though, lots of extra money to make better products, and for all the griping on features and layout etc they do already make really good products.

      1. “Not sold on the idea of shareholders owning the company though… ”

        Keeping shareholders “happy” in the short term often results in long term instability.

        1. You seem to imagine ‘average’ shareholders will flock to RPi Foundation shares and demand impossible returns.

          I understand the motivation is to secure the financial future of the foundation, which as I understand by design sells lots of products with very small margins. I don’t “think” they are truly non-profit, selling their goods at cost, but I think it’s pretty close.

          Only after how many years and selling (like) a billion RPi boards did they have the resources to design dies for the RPi Pico and Pi Zero 2 W. I think they want to do more of that, and to accomplish that they need/want a more solid financial footing.

          Reminder – “exploring” public financing doesn’t commit RPi to going down that road.

          1. Who knows what type of shareholder will jump at the Pi – they have been doing more than well enough I would think to attract most pundits – they effectively own the entire ‘maker’ and ‘education’ computer market, and a large chunk of the embedded industrial type computer markets – more than enough to be interesting to anybody who knows this I would think…

            Selling shares does not immediately mean things will go bad, or even that they ever will – but with how close to monopoly the Pi is in its little pond I can well see some short term profit arseholes trying to throw their weight around, going for ruining the company long term to make some big money right now…

            It makes me nervous for the Pi’s future if they do go this route, but that doesn’t mean I’m calling the sky is falling if they do – as always its wait and see, if they have judged it right the initial investment could really pay off for them and by extension all their customers…

    2. They sell every item they make as fast as they can get them into a box. They sell them at the price they want. Others have created a whole family of products around theirs that depend on that ecosystem. Hobbyists default to using them and donate free advertising to them with every project.

      How is that NOT a business model.

  1. To be fair here.

    Any company that is community centric shouldn’t go public.

    Because any company that is publicly traded on the stock market is generally only having 1 single thing to live up to, and that is the desires of their shareholders, this is usually profits and generally nothing else.

    If the company is however just owned by stakeholders with a legitimate interest in the business and the goals of the business, then it can stay more true to what it originally were.

    I personally don’t think the Raspberry Pi foundation should go public, it isn’t in their own interest nor the interest of their customers.

    If they have cash flow issues, then make a collectors item instead. There is people in the community that gladly would by a “standard” RP4 with some extra flare like gold plated traces beneath a clear solder resist. Even if it costs 5x more than the technically identical one without the extra flare. (Especially if it is a limited series of 1000 units. (for each product type)) As long as one is upfront with that it is a drive towards getting better supply in the future, and providing an ETA of when that better supply likely is going to arrive. (Since building up more supply doesn’t happen overnight.)

      1. Keeping products in stock isn’t always something a company has that much control over. Supply isn’t this magical thing one can just make more of out of the blue, even if one has a pocket overflowing with money.

        And the last two years have been particularly hard to all companies to be fair.

        Increasing the cost of their products isn’t really something that the Raspberry Pi Foundation would do, it isn’t their style to be fair. They seem to be more for putting out a product at a price they consider fair, while targeting the educational and hobby market. (the industrial market is slowly crawling in, but in most industries a RPi is still frowned on…)

        Making a collectors item however wouldn’t greatly impact their normal products, while allowing for a decent cash inflow for future investments into their supply chain. It wouldn’t interfere with their normal business and they do have the community to be able to make such a collectors item and actually make it work.

        1. I agree that jacking up prices is not something that has been Raspberry Pi Foundation’s style. But styles change when you give away control of your organization. It was nice while it lasted.

          1. I don’t think they have sold any stocks yet. Nor even been listed yet. Takes a fair bit of paperwork to get onto a stock exchange.

            After all, they were only looking into getting listed on the stock exchange, perhaps it might be a rumor or not. Hack a day links to Tom’s hardware that links to The Telegraph (like so many other websites), and they in turn wants a paid subscription. So haven’t read their source…

            I’ll take a helpful pinch of salt when one paper reports on another paper’s news. It shouldn’t be hard for another source to talk directly to the Raspberry Pi foundation and get the information from there.

            So we can still hold our hopes up.

        2. They don’t jack up the prices directly, but their distribution partners sure jack them up, and the scalpers all jack them up. Prices can only remain low as long as demand is low or availability is high.

      2. I think part of the reason they’re looking at going public is so they have the funds available to keep products in stock. They don’t like the low/no-stock issue just as much as we don’t like it. Unfortunately working with public companies in Healthcare has only taught me that the shareholders dictate direction and it’s usually funds that start holding a lot of the shares and really pushing hard on company direction. I don’t have a better answer, but going public just feels like a it’ll tank the original direction and mission of the Pi.

    1. Agreed, that seems like the better option – or seeking investment more selectively from folks who share interests/ideals – some of the companies that use the Pi in their machines might be a good choice – they want slightly different things than the wider user base perhaps, but both have significant interest in better Pi’s, and much of what they want overlaps…

      I know I’d go in for a ‘fancy’ fundraising pi product – I own one of every revision of Pi but the Pi1 model B after the memory bump and the new Zero2 (I think – I’ve lost track, but being cheap and powerful they get used all over the place, and are worth having a few in stock so you don’t have to tear down something to test something else quite so often)… Though personally I’d go for the idea of a Pi400M – a nicer mechanical keyboard with the pi400/CM4 socket built in, perhaps throw in a RP2040 chip as well – sure I could do it myself (its actually on the list of things I want to do with a CM)

      1. Selective investments from larger customers is indeed also a way to go forth.

        I personally wouldn’t mind seeing a CM5 that is pin compatible with the CM4, but with one extra board to board header to give it room for some more PCIe, USB and maybe a SATA port too. Perhaps have that extra header placed in a fashion that it makes the connectors form a U shape, as to provide as much room for routing traces as possible.

        Such a CM5 I wouldn’t be against paying for today, even if it takes them 18-24 months to get it to market.

        The Raspberry Pi Foundation has proven themselves to make fairly solid products at a very reasonable price. I can understand that they have supply chain issues. Though, so far I have never had issues buying one of their products, maybe I have been lucky…

      1. I don’t think increasing the price would do much to be fair.

        The supply chain issues is generally larger than what is within their control regardless if they have money or not. At least currently.

        I usually follow the rule, “one do not take a loan for day to day business.” And selling stocks to new shareholders is not anything more than a loan, with more or less favorable conditions.

        For a community centric company as they are, they have much better options at hand where they don’t have to compromise their own values for the sake of easy investment.

        I think a collectors edition Pi would work out favorably for everyone. Especially if it is just a fancy PCB instead of an actual product in its own right. A lot of people would pay for the novelty especially since it supports the company in its goal to make decent hardware at a fair price.

        1. “I usually follow the rule, “one do not take a loan for day to day business.” And selling stocks to new shareholders is not anything more than a loan, with more or less favorable conditions.”

          It doesn’t *have* to be. If they’re selling stocks to raise cash to increase production, that’s not taking a loan for day to day business. That’s just capital investment.

          What I don’t entirely understand is what they’re trying to raise money for – the link and the press stuff says “for further product development” which is just weird. What, exactly, would they be trying to develop? They’re not going to move the needle on the high-end silicon (the Pi 4), that’s not possible. So what, additional microcontroller stuff? That… just doesn’t strike me as a winning play, what with strong competition.

          Really their best niche is just amping production of the Pi 4/CM4. The Pico’s not that interesting and anything really new at the high-end side isn’t coming from them.

          1. The Pico is fantastic for what it is, not much even remotely similarly capable outside of full on FPGA, its capabilities are really cool…

            As for what they are wanting to make, who knows, perhaps they want to make the Pi5 more impressive while still keeping the unit cost down, or an opensource from the ground up Pi, or more official compute module IO options, maybe even moving one step further than the Pico and cohabiting a powerful SOC with the FPGA like PIO (or even their own brand FPGA) – the list of what they could be working on, even if you stick entirely with what some members of the community have requested and not more out of the blue idea is pretty much endless…

          2. They’re not going to be making the Pi 5. That’s still Broadcom. Even the Pi Zero 2 was just a SIP, I think.

            And sadly, history is littered with “cool” microcontroller variants.

      1. So sure, it doesn’t have to be the case that management follows the shareholder value myth, it’s not inherently required. However, it seems to be (as an outsider) the overwhelming business climate, and presumably a large enough shareholder could effectively enforce it.

    2. What’s all the hubub, bub? They don’t have to sell a majority share of the company in order to get investment capital. They won’t be subject to the whims of the new share holders. A bigger question might be how does their whole corporate and funding history get handled? For example their history as a tax exempt educational non-profit? Or how they avoided dumping charges internationally by being non-profit tax exempt, etc. ?

      Curious people want to know.

      1. Here is the thing with having a share in a company. The shareholder can require it back.

        Ie, if the foundation doesn’t have the liquidity to just casually pay it back, then they need to sell something else to do so. And considering how investments tends to be put onto new investments in manufacturing or product development, then there might not be anything to pay it back with that won’t negatively effect the company.

        So even a relatively small shareholder can cause some real issues if they throw their weight around.

        For a lot of publicly listed companies, this isn’t as problematic, since the company can simply push that buyout to the market instead, where another investor can buy the shares. Though, even a non listed company can do this in privet as is. (the shareholder can’t “just sell” their shares, it is a bit of back and forth with paperwork, so a non listed company do have time to find a buyer.)

        So no, even someone having a measly 5% of the company can exercise a lot more power than 5% might sound like.

        1. Maybe it depends on what country they are in? This is undoubtedly an offering through a market-maker. There are not terms about demanding your money back. You can only sell if you can find a buyer. Maybe you are thinking of special conditions on options? Or unvested shares that are part of payments for employment or services?

          1. The exact terms and conditions can indeed vary.

            But I don’t know of any stocks that can’t be forced back if given enough time where the company in question can’t find any buyer. Nor that the seller finds on either. (Who has to find a buyer and how can though vary depending on contracts, and the time to find one can also vary.)

            Though, the company can still be pressured into making decisions appeasing the shareholder. (unless another shareholder has the money to just buy them out.)

            The public stock market solves a lot of these situations, and actually why it exists. (though, then it got life of its own and quickly became this hypothetical money printer… There is also more reasons for why the stock market exists, one of them being that it makes it easier for a company to keep track of share holders since the exchange typically does that for them.)

            But I do not think the Raspberry Pi Foundation will get a lot of such shareholders without other players balancing things out, after all, an IPO on a stock exchange brings with it some security. But it doesn’t change the fact that a shareholder still has a degree of influence over the company’s direction.

            And in general, shareholders wants a return on their investment, especially the many large equity funds that treats the stock exchange as little more than a money printer.

    3. That ship sailed when Raspberry Pi took VC money this September. These kind of investors demand returns, i.e. the company must now deliver exponential growth, go public, get acquired, or die trying. Just running a profitable but steady business ain’t cutting it anymore.

  2. It might open possibilities for new products. Although they aim at developing stuff with education in mind, the vast majority of the units they sell go to tinkers and not to students. I’d be happy to see a raspberry router, or a raspberry nas. The profits from those products could be used to develop stuff with education in mind.

    1. The Pi isn’t really closed any more than any computer – the only thing that isn’t open on it is effectively the BIOS, and that is pretty much true for all computers (at least as they ship). And that has no bearing on being a publicly traded company vs a privately owned company.

    2. The RPi hardware isn’t open source. Last time I check, they only have their USB interface with some power circuit in their “schematic”. There are other similar form factor SBC. They can’t be more closed source anyways.

      If PRi Inc. decided to up their prices or whatever, other SBC are more than happy to sell their product without those silly 1 per purchase restriction.

  3. Hah! Let them go public. They will get hoovered-up in no time by a Vulture like Analog Devices Inc. who is cash-fat and enjoying reckless Government money-printing that artificially depresses interest rates.

  4. After floating. perhaps they’ll start running it like a business and attempt to meet demand by making more of everything when circumstances allow this to be possible. Or Broadcom could buy 51% and control their future. Interesting times ahead.

  5. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t taking the RPi organisation public risk a hostile takeover? I seems many semicon manufacturers have piles of cash but are not very happy to be competing against the likes of the RPi 2040 chippery. If they can just drop a pile of cash and buy out all shareholders suddenly they can basically buy the company. And either shut it down or suck in all that sweet sweet IP. Seems like a very large risk to take for something like the Raspberry Pi foundation/organisation/company (whatever legal form they end up taking). At the very least if they go public I would hope the IP stays within a separate organisation to protect it from such a scenario

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