sees fit. The Novena Open Laptop is a
prime example. Although aimed at a
niche market of engineers, the product raised more than $750,000 through
crowdfunding, and was used as the basis for several other projects, including
the Cryp Tech hardware security module. The community appreciates the
fact that open products are inherently
more secure and not tethered to their
manufacturers. These early adopters
are worth much more than the money they pay for the product. They will
be the product’s most ardent evangelists, especially if the philosophy behind the product is one they already
support. For example, the LimeSDR
project was able to raise more than
$1 million due to good word of mouth
among its backers.
due influence of third-party investors,
whose incentives may often be very different. Simply stated, crowdfunding is
necessary for the widespread adoption
of open hardware.
WORKING THE CROWD
Why is there a market for open hardware? Who wants to buy it, and why?
We’ve thought a lot about these ques-
tions over the years at Crowd Supply—
the company I co-founded as a place
dedicated to bringing original, useful,
and respectful hardware to life. Custom-
ers of open hardware are a diverse group:
multinational corporations, nation-
states, schoolchildren, hopeful parents,
hardened engineers, and self-proclaimed
crypto-anarchists. Their reasons for
wanting open hardware also run the
gamut, but can be boiled down to one or
more of the rights listed in Crowd Sup-
ply’s Proclamation of User Rights [ 2].
The Proclamation defines a set of users’
rights and their implication for creators
of open hardware, and is quite similar in
nature to open-source software licenses.
At its core, it is a statement of support
for the curiosity, independence, priva-
cy, and security of the user. In working
with product designers and engineers
to bring their ideas to market, we have
seen firsthand how creators benefit eco-
nomically from opening their products.
Early adopters understand the value of being able to explore and modify
a product, and to make it do things beyond the creator’s original intent. In
fact, open products can outlast their
creators and grow as the community