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Meet the founders – Interview to SeeedStudio Founder Eric Pan
Here’s a new episode of our Meet the Founders column!
This time we interviewed the amazing Eric Pan, founder of SeeedStudio. Eric is a long time open hardware advocate and also a great business leader. Eric was, indeed, recently featured on Forbes cover and we took the chance to ask him some advices on how to create open hardware ventures and communities and to tell us about his and Seeed story.
[Open Electronics]: What’s the Mission behind Seeedstudio? Can you tell us the story behind it? Where did this come from? Is it changed in the last years?
[Eric Pan]: Seeed helps makers turn ideas into products.
Since childhood, I’was encouraged to tear toys apart to see what’s inside. While at the university as an Electronic Engineering student, I built a lot of projects for national contests and labs, but it was so hard to source components in China by then, let alone asking the factory to help manufacture in very small batches.
After graduation, I tried to to become a designer or researcher at Intel. At the end of the day, my resume just won a product engineer role at their chipset factory.
There is a lot to learn at a chipset factory but to foresee a future that’s 10 years far away is not that interesting. So I quitted and cycled around China for 3 months, searching for my path. At some point I stopped in Beijing for one year, working on international trading and many other jobs. By coincidence I got to know Arduino and open hardware. I loved the openness, creativity and huge energy of this community and so I started to provide makers with open source products and modules plus services to help them create their products.
We refined the mission along the way for about 5 years, the concept remains unchanged.
[Open Electronics]: What’s your experience as an entrepreneur? Is there any key insight that you want to share? Especially with regards to open source hardware entrepreneurs.
[Eric Pan]: Creating Seeed is very much like biking in a remote country: adapt to the culture, respect strangers, get lost, follow your heart and keep pedaling.
Climbing is often difficult, but every climb gives you a better view of the peaks and the joy of gliding.
Always plan ahead, execute carefully and believe you can achieve.
[Open Electronics]: I’m very curious to ask you the vision behind Wish. Wish is something really fresh and interesting: did you see a good use of the service? It’s an experiment? What’s definitely the role of Crowdsourcing product development in the future of Seeed?
[Eric Pan]: Yes as an experiment: users are quite pro-active vs. our pour involvement. We created the service but didn’t prepare the right operating team/process in the past two years. It’s a very important portal for us to crowdsource unanswered demand and help people with solutions. You will see a big update soon.
[Open Electronics]: What are the new developments you’re thinking about to develop Seeed community further?
[Eric Pan]: There are already many decentralized communities, Seeed would like to connect to them and collaborate as much as possible.
[Open Electronics]: Is the open hardware movement gaining traction in China? We are seeing a lot of interesting stuff moving on (eg: the now very famous Mini Maker Faire in Shenzen) but I’m mostly thinking of companies, creators. Is there a significant amount of OSHW entrepreneurs?
[Eric Pan]: Yes, with the publishing of Chinese version “Makers: The New Industrial Revolution” by Chris Anderson, maker and open hardware becomes a new keyword in technology and business media. More and more people realize it’s an opportunity for success, but they still need sometime and support to grow into entrepreneurs.
[Open Electronics]: What are the new / future fields of development for open design? Do you think there are new significant market opportunities (further than electronics) that can be caught with a similar approach (community nurturing/open)?
[Eric Pan]: Sure, 3D printing also enables a wave of quicker atoms, more will be following. In general, I think that any professional field that opens its diploma requirements and uses a similar approach can obtain these results, it’s not a privilege of electronics but general it the power of grass-root innovation.
[Open Electronics]: What are your future plans for seeedstudio?
[Eric Pan]: We will improve our agile manufacturin service to enable more maker generated products. There are already many innovative/wild ideas turned into reality, but small scale innovators need tailored service to bring their prototypes forward. This includes small, 100 pieces batches PCBA, CNC, laser cut and etc.
Also, the makers in China are potentially growing very fast, we will support the local community well and link them with global innovators.