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Raising oshw product awareness

by scasagrande on Tue Apr 24, 2012 9:50 pm

Hello everyone, hope you're all having a great day hacking away at your projects.

I come to you today asking how one should go about raising awareness for their new oshw product. I just started my OSHW business (Galvant Industries) and I launched my first oshw product about 3 weeks ago: a usb-to-gpib adapter. I started off slow (to get a feel for the shipping process) by posting to just the eevblog forums, my small time youtube channel, then to the /r/electronics and /r/ece subreddits. All together I've sold 6 adapters. I'd like to step that up in order to grow my business, fund the production of more projects, and get my own website.

Some background on myself: My name is Steven Casagrande and I'm a MSc Physics student at the Institute for Quantum Computing, University of Waterloo. As a scientist (in training?) I know the importance of the freedom of information. I love the concept of OSHW and I want to be a part of this movement. My desire is for my business to grow such at a rate such that when I'm done with my masters program I can transition to working on it full time. As a UW student, I get to keep 100% of the IP rights on anything that I build or design (one of the few universities in North America to do so). Since I focus mostly on EE related projects (it is my passion afterall!) I also have the ability to release those as OSHW and commercialize them.

Back to the problem at hand. I submitted my project to hackaday.com on Saturday in the hopes of being featured to drive some more interest. I'm still waiting; I'm sure they get many submissions. Are there other places that I should be informing that are also alright with the fact that its for sale? For example, I'd love to show it off on the adafruit "show-and-tell" segment, but I fear it would be poorly received when I mention "hey by the way its for sale".

Thanks for any and all help!

By the way, if you check out my github repositories, and find that I missed something for OSHW compliance, please let me know as it is an accidental oversight.

Relevant links:
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Re: Raising oshw product awareness

by wayneft on Thu Apr 26, 2012 10:22 am

One thing you should definitely do is make it a little easier for people to purchase from you. Since you accept Paypal, it's not that difficult to add a BUY IT NOW button to your website.

Since your product is open source, you may want to check out Kickstarter.com . It's a great way to raise funds for projects of this sort, plus you'll get a feel for what the demand is for your device.
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Re: Raising oshw product awareness

by scasagrande on Thu Apr 26, 2012 4:27 pm

wayneft wrote:One thing you should definitely do is make it a little easier for people to purchase from you. Since you accept Paypal, it's not that difficult to add a BUY IT NOW button to your website.

Since your product is open source, you may want to check out Kickstarter.com . It's a great way to raise funds for projects of this sort, plus you'll get a feel for what the demand is for your device.


I'll have to see if there is a way to add a button to the blog. I plan on commissioning a real website in the near future, but I wanted to keep my initial financial investment to a reasonable amount.

Since I'm Canadian, Kickstarter isn't an option. Nor is it needed because I have more than enough money saved from over the years to back anything I want to do. I've just decided to put an initial cap on things until things take off, so I don't mistakenly loose all my money.

Those topics don't worry me though. I'm just concerned at this point about letting people know. Getting it out there so to speak. I'm still waiting on hack a day; I'm hoping that I haven't been filtered to spam.
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Re: Raising oshw product awareness

by lyndon on Thu Apr 26, 2012 8:26 pm

I have a couple of designs for small-scale production machinery in mind. The kind of stuff you can build for about $100 but would cost many $1,000's to buy. If I do go ahead, I'd open source the projects but it doesn't seem like there's a "standard" place where people are posting OSHW designs. Github (is Sourceforge still being used?) is popular for software, but where's the "go-to" OSHW repository?

Oh, I wanted to add that your product is specialized enough that it may not raise a lot of awareness on hackaday. Back in the day I designed a GPIB adapter for the company I worked for at the time and I'd be surprised if we sold more than 5-10 of them in total!
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Re: Raising oshw product awareness

by adafruit on Thu Apr 26, 2012 8:38 pm

lyndon wrote:I'd open source the projects but it doesn't seem like there's a "standard" place where people are posting OSHW designs. Github (is Sourceforge still being used?) is popular for software, but where's the "go-to" OSHW repository?


in our experience, the trend seems to be github, we use it quite a bit and many other oshw providers do too.

cheers,
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Re: Raising oshw product awareness

by wayneft on Thu Apr 26, 2012 8:45 pm

Since I'm Canadian, Kickstarter isn't an option. Nor is it needed because I have more than enough money saved from over the years to back anything I want to do. I've just decided to put an initial cap on things until things take off, so I don't mistakenly loose all my money.

I think you're missing the point about using Kickstarter (actually you can use them outside the US, check out bridgstarter.com ).
Kickstarter, or similar, is not only a way to raise money for building your projects but it's also a way to advertise. Crowd funding is a very hot topic right now in the US because of recent legislation, which means sites like Kickstarter are getting more and more press. Having a project out there increases your exposure which is what you're trying to do.

I currently have a project on Kickstarter which has generated a lot of buzz, which in turn landed it on Hack A Day, the Adafruit blog and a couple of other blogs. I even had my first interview with a local business journal the other day because of it. I guess my point is you need to look at all avenues when first starting out.
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Re: Raising oshw product awareness

by scasagrande on Thu Apr 26, 2012 10:07 pm

wayneft wrote:
Since I'm Canadian, Kickstarter isn't an option. Nor is it needed because I have more than enough money saved from over the years to back anything I want to do. I've just decided to put an initial cap on things until things take off, so I don't mistakenly loose all my money.

I think you're missing the point about using Kickstarter (actually you can use them outside the US, check out bridgstarter.com ).
Kickstarter, or similar, is not only a way to raise money for building your projects but it's also a way to advertise. Crowd funding is a very hot topic right now in the US because of recent legislation, which means sites like Kickstarter are getting more and more press. Having a project out there increases your exposure which is what you're trying to do.

I currently have a project on Kickstarter which has generated a lot of buzz, which in turn landed it on Hack A Day, the Adafruit blog and a couple of other blogs. I even had my first interview with a local business journal the other day because of it. I guess my point is you need to look at all avenues when first starting out.


I'm not interested in going that route, but thank you for the suggestions. I know I might be sounding dismissive of the idea, but I'm not interested in using a service like bridgestarter. I can barely find any information about them. Not to mention the potential tax complications. Honestly I'd get more sales and awareness by visiting the other research labs at my University than something as niche as this through kickstarter. But hey, maybe you're right, so I'll keep the idea in mind and take a closer look. Of course though, there is no crowd funding when everything is already done.

lyndon wrote:Oh, I wanted to add that your product is specialized enough that it may not raise a lot of awareness on hackaday. Back in the day I designed a GPIB adapter for the company I worked for at the time and I'd be surprised if we sold more than 5-10 of them in total!


My theory is that there are enough hobbyists using older HPIB/GPIB equiped instruments that some (I'm not looking for a lot!) might be interested. Or at least check out the project and learn something! If I could sell 6 on one of the lesser trafficed sections of the eevblog forum, a few other websites would generate enough interest to get some more things built.
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Re: Raising oshw product awareness

by lyndon on Fri Apr 27, 2012 6:15 pm

Oh, I forgot. Do any of your instruments have an HP-IL interface? There are many hp instruments with that interface floating around, but the interface is so old that there are very few options (AFAIK) for connecting them to PC's. An old friend of mine had about a dozen or so hp dataloggers with HPIL and the only way he could access the data was from an hp calculator with a printer.
At the time the only PC interface we could find other than the very expensive one from hp/Agilent was from a company that had gone out of business.

If you're looking for ideas, a USB to HPIL converter might be very useful.
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Re: Raising oshw product awareness

by westfw on Sat Apr 28, 2012 2:42 am

I launched my first oshw product about 3 weeks ago: a usb-to-gpib adapter.

That's a tough one. I'd think that the intersection of people that might want an HPIB interface, and the people who are following open source hardware would tend to be pretty small (HPIB is the predecessor of HPIL!) Although perhaps it shouldn't be. As the existence of your project points out, there is a significant userbase of "lab equipment" that has "odd" requirements that are well-matched by open-source hw. (there's always been a lot of sharing of some University projects. For example, the SUN-1 CPU board was the core hardware of quite a few start-ups, back in the 1980s. I don't think it was quite "open source", but it had a pretty easy license.)

You could try "press releases" to appropriate "trade magazines" (and blogs, I suppose.) That used to be a source of cheap (free) "advertising" for companies without much in the way of marketing budgets. In your case, appropriate magazines might include science journals as well as things like "Test and Measurement World." For example: http://www.tmworld.com/article/519857-B ... out_30.php
"Galvant Industries releases USB to IEEE-488 converter for connected measurement as Open Source Hardware."
Are there not forums and mailing lists frequented by the people who have to coordinate all that lab equipment?
(Frankly, it'll be an interesting experiment to see how such journals react to "open source" stuff.)
(And also frankly, such magazines are in dire straits, lacking for articles and readers, as people get more of their info from the web. It's still worth a try.)
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Re: Raising oshw product awareness

by scasagrande on Sat Apr 28, 2012 7:22 am

westfw wrote:
I launched my first oshw product about 3 weeks ago: a usb-to-gpib adapter.

That's a tough one. I'd think that the intersection of people that might want an HPIB interface, and the people who are following open source hardware would tend to be pretty small (HPIB is the predecessor of HPIL!) Although perhaps it shouldn't be. As the existence of your project points out, there is a significant userbase of "lab equipment" that has "odd" requirements that are well-matched by open-source hw. (there's always been a lot of sharing of some University projects. For example, the SUN-1 CPU board was the core hardware of quite a few start-ups, back in the 1980s. I don't think it was quite "open source", but it had a pretty easy license.)

You could try "press releases" to appropriate "trade magazines" (and blogs, I suppose.) That used to be a source of cheap (free) "advertising" for companies without much in the way of marketing budgets. In your case, appropriate magazines might include science journals as well as things like "Test and Measurement World." For example: http://www.tmworld.com/article/519857-B ... out_30.php
"Galvant Industries releases USB to IEEE-488 converter for connected measurement as Open Source Hardware."
Are there not forums and mailing lists frequented by the people who have to coordinate all that lab equipment?
(Frankly, it'll be an interesting experiment to see how such journals react to "open source" stuff.)
(And also frankly, such magazines are in dire straits, lacking for articles and readers, as people get more of their info from the web. It's still worth a try.)


That's a very interesting idea! I forgot just how much pain those print magazines are in, and might be a decent way to get the project out there. I'll have to check that out.

There might be forums and/or mailing lists, but I don't know of them :(. It's always just been "ask your colleagues", including your supervisor, to find solutions for lab equipment.
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