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Asia boost as Raspberry Pi ramps up

Mount Pleasant House in Cambridge

Cambridge microcomputer pioneer Raspberry Pi has opened its first office, ramped up headcount and boosted its capability in Asia in a triple play that holds significance for generations of future engineers around the world.

The foundation has rented 700 sq ft of offices at technology entrepreneur Hermann Hauser’s UK headquarters at Mount Pleasant House in Cambridge through Bidwells and Juniper Real Estate.

Executive director Eben Upton told Business Weekly: “It takes me back to my earliest startup days in the late ’90s.”

Raspberry Pi has shipped “almost exactly one million units” across the globe and Upton added: “We’re available almost everywhere but tariff barriers are causing problems in some key territories.

“We have just licensed a dedicated China/Taiwan manufacturing partner alongside RS and Farnell, so we're hopeful of growth in that area.”

Raspberry Pi has taken on four staff over the last couple of months and will “probably take on another two or three before stabilising,” Upton added.

He felt the new offices would provide a focal point for the foundation’s ongoing activities. “I think we've taken the virtual company thing about as far as it can go,” he confided.

Raspberry Pi has achieved global traction without having to set up physical operations overseas. Upton said the foundation’s licensing model meant it could achieve good reach without going down that route.

As a charitable foundation, Raspberry Pi is not able to raise risk capital through conventional channels but its business model is “very capital-light,” according to Upton.

Upton was involved in Google chairman Eric Schmidt’s recent visit to Chesterton Village College in Cambridge to evangelise the use of modern communication aids in future education. He taught a programming lesson to youngsters there.

For the uninitiated, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is a UK registered charity that has developed an affordable, credit card sized computer for children all over the world on which to learn programming.

The concept came about when colleagues at the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory became concerned about the declining numbers and skill levels of students applying to read computer science.