15 Aug 2012

Week 4: Trains and Raspberry Pis

By Lily

We’ve had a great start to the week over on Bonhill Street  with brilliant speakers in Monday and Tuesday evenings. On Monday’s BGV dinner, siblings Kate and Jamie Andrews came to tell us about Loco2 their startup which seeks to make booking a train anywhere in Europe as easy as booking a flight. Their startup journey has been a tumultuous one, with Kate heading off to circumnavigate the globe without flying for two and a half years in the middle of it. We heard some great stories about russian cargo ships, early morning board meetings and API battles…

Then last night Eben Upton founder of Raspberry Pi came to give a talk. He packed out the room at Google Campus, with over a hundred people turning up to hear how this tiny, $25 dollar computer has turned into the must have accessory for every techie worth his or her salt. Eben told us about  how as a Cambridge University admissions tutor he watched the technical capabilities of incoming computer science applicants get less and less impressive over the years, and concluded that what was missing was the open durable hardware that he had been able to endless tinker with as a child and that was no longer available now everything is shut up tight in shiny expensive mac books.

So he made the Raspberry Pi:

On the first day the story got out 600,000 people watched it on YouTube and the orders came flooding in before anything was even actually built. So a company with no paid employees had to manufacture hundreds of thousands of these machines at incredibly short notice and the first run was financed directly from the pockets of the founders themselves. Eben highlighted the difficulty of getting startup capital: you need to have a recognised  consumer base before you can get any funding but you can’t get that base without having the funding in the first place…

Luckily, after the first batch the foundation has grown exponentially selling Raspberry Pis all over the world and giving thousands of kids (and adults) the chance to learn programming and engineering skills first hand.

As an extra surprise Eben revealed that he had a backpack full of Raspberry Pis for sale and was immediately swamped as people queued up to get their hands on one.

A great evening, thank you so much to all those who came!