Raspberry Pi chief Eben Upton says he sees little downside to listing in London compared to New York. Photo: David Rose
Computer hobbyist Raspberry Pi is considering selling shares to its legions of fans in preparation for a London flotation.
Eben Upton, chief executive of Raspberry Pi, said the company would consider a retail proposal, although it is in the early stages. working out the details of how the listing will be structured.
“The retail offering is an interesting issue, I suspect we will look at it closer to the time,” he said.
“There are a number of mechanisms by which you can do this.” He added that the international nature of the company's users had complicated the retail offer, saying a UK and EU offering could be achievable.
Raspberry Pi is preparing for a float that is likely to value it in the hundreds of millions of pounds. The company chose London over New York (a rare choice for a technology business) and appointed bankers Jefferies and Peel Hunt to oversee the listing.
Upton recently flew to New York and Boston to meet US investors, but says he has concluded there are few downsides to listing in the UK.
“I think I got on that plane, probably 70/30 in favor of the United States,” he says. “And I got off the plane when I got back, it was about 70/30 in favor of the UK.
“We've learned that there is a lot of smart money out there and it will find you wherever you are. you.”
While most executives meet potential investors with a laminated presentation to shareholders, Mr. Upton brings with him a shoebox-sized box of green circuit boards with credit card-sized images of the company's computers.
< img src="/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/97b6543c185d0f05619e0989f64420ee.jpg" /> The company has sold 58 million of its machines so far, with prices ranging from £3.90 to just under £60. Photo: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
This is a practical approach. Founded in 2008, Raspberry Pi was created to revive the waning interest in do-it-yourself computing. Its microcomputers, adorned with ports and microchips, are beloved by legions of DIY Raspberry Pi hackers.
To date, the company has sold 58 million of them to parents trying to get their kids into coding, factories looking for low-cost ways to monitor production lines, and also for enthusiastic programmers.
Upton couldn't even imagine. In 2006, while lecturing at Cambridge University's Department of Computer Science, he floated on the stock exchange because the number of applicants was steadily falling.
Upton was a child of the 1980s era of simple programmable computers such as BBC Micro, and noticed that they were being replaced in living rooms by PlayStations, which did not require any technical programming skills.
Colleagues at the laboratory developed a plan to develop an inexpensive computer (the name followed the history of computer companies named after fruits). It first went on sale in 2012.
“The original dream was to give a thousand raspberry squeaks to a thousand children, and then maybe a tenth of them would decide to study computer science, and that would be a good harvest,” says Upton
“It was a massive surprise: we sold 100,000 on the first day and counting.”
The cheapest Raspberry Pi computer costs £3.90, and the most expensive is just under £60.
< img src="/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/8d9327cf08d6fd241253d3ea112039aa.jpg" /> The inexpensive devices can be used to make everything from retro gaming consoles to smart light switches. Author: Raspberry Pi/PA
Although they can be used as inexpensive regular PCs, enthusiasts are more likely to use them for a variety of purposes: to create retro gaming consoles, smart light switches or automatic plant watering systems.
A cucumber farm in Japan has used it to automatically sort different varieties of fruit, and a modified Raspberry Pis can be found on the International Space Station.
Computers are sold without screens or even cases, exposing bare silicon. In this regard, they are an antidote to the leisurely nature of modern gadgets such as the iPhone, which do not allow owners to reach under the hood.
“I do think it’s helpful for people to have some understanding that it’s not magic,” Upton says. “The engineering skills you learn writing computer programs are generally applicable.”
Raspberry Pi has attracted private investment from companies like Sony and Arm, which last year valued the company at $560 million ( pounds). 444 m).
Private investment from NYSE-listed Arm helped the Raspberry Pi's valuation reach $560 million last year. Photo: BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS
It is still owned by the non-profit foundation that bears its name, although there is no guarantee it will continue to do so. it becomes a public company.
The prospect of a new group of financially motivated investors has caused outrage among customers. (One example comment read: “Kudos to stakeholders! All the bullshit is on the customers.”)
Upton denies that this is the case, noting that the company already has a financial interest in making money for the fund, which funnels it toward after-school coding clubs and teacher training.
“This is a completely understandable problem. that somehow we will become short-term, profit-maximizing robots, raising prices and lowering quality.
“In two or three years it will be obvious that we haven't done it, then I think people will relax a little.”
The advent of artificial intelligence has led to fears that computer programming will become a lost art, although Upton doesn't believe that. His young daughter is an avid user, programming prototypes of Raspberry Pi products at home.
And now interest in him is growing rapidly. “Computer science has gone from being the easiest subject at Cambridge to being the hardest,” says Upton. “It's a huge turnaround.”
Perhaps it has more to do with the wealth now offered to skilled tech workers, but the advent of the Raspberry Pi has at least played a role.