Turns out COVID-19 lockdowns have been good for the indoor hobby of hardware hacking: The U.K.-based foundation behind the low-price microprocessor Raspberry Pi announced close of a $45 million funding round yesterday.The cash injection into the trading arm of the (nonprofit) Raspberry Pi Foundation values it at $500 million (pre-money), founder Eben Upton confirmed. The funding round was led by London-based Lansdowne Partners and The Ezrah Charitable Trust, a private charitable foundation based in the US. “We are pleased to welcome Lansdowne Partners and The Ezrah Charitable Trust as our first outside shareholders to help us achieve the next steps in our growth,” said Upton in a statement. “We are seeing strong demand from consumers as they use our PCs to access the internet for work and entertainment, and even faster growth from industrial companies globally as they design Raspberry Pi into their innovative IoT applications. This funding will enable us to scale to meet future demand. “Our new investors will not only add value to our strategy and help support our growth but they also understand the rationale and ethos of our business model, aimed at enabling access to hardware and software tools for everyone and delivering a consumer PC experience from only $35 as well as building partnerships with a growing range of OEMs across the world.” The Pi Foundation said the financing will be used to expand what is already an ample product line of Pi microprocessors.
Spending on marketing is also planned, across both the consumer (“build it yourself” PC) and industrial (IoT) sectors. Its trading arm ships 7 million+ devices a year at this point. While, in total, the Pi Foundation also said it’s shipping over 42 million (Pi-powered) PCs to more than 100 countries. “We certainly saw increased interest in Raspberry Pi during lockdown,” Upton told TechCrunch. “It was satisfying to be able to supply units to young people who needed machines to study from home on, and we had some great philanthropic support (notably from the Bloomfield Trust) to roll kits out to disadvantaged young people in the U.K.” “Our current sustained increase in demand is driven primarily by industrial customers as the economy rebounds from COVID-19,” he added. “In the short term the focus is on investing in manufacturing and supply chain to meet demand,” he also said, expanding on the plan for the funding. “In the longer term, this funding is going to allow us to invest more in product development: As our products become more sophisticated, they become much more expensive and time-consuming to develop, so being able to hire more engineers is a key driver of future growth.” Commenting in a supporting statement, Peter Davies of Lansdowne Partners, added: “We are very excited to be investing with Raspberry Pi, an organisation we have followed and admired for many years. The commercial and human impact it has achieved in its first decade has been extraordinary and we look forward to assisting the company to expand this even further in coming years as new capital is deployed.”