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Eben Upton, Raspberry Pi Foundation : “We arrived just in time to make a contribution to home working and studying during the COVID-19 pandemic”

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Eben Upton scaled

First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?

Eben Upton : We are doing well. We had our second child at the start of May, and the opportunity to spend more time working from home both before and in the aftermath of the birth has been welcome. We’re very lucky that we live out in the countryside and have lots of space to exercise and relax: I wouldn’t want to be locked down in a city!

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined this company

Eben Upton : I started programming as a child, and founded my first company as an undergraduate at Cambridge. I was originally a software engineer, but got involved in chip design about fifteen years ago. This lead to my starting the Raspberry Pi Foundation, with the short-term aim of producing a computer based on the chips I’d been working on, and the ultimate goal of rebooting young people’s interest in computing as a career option.

How does your company innovate?

Eben Upton : We have two main tracks of innovation. The long-term hardware track aims to generate the silicon platforms for future products; to give you an idea of the success of this track, we delivered a performance increase of roughly 40x between Raspberry Pi 1 in 2012 and Raspberry Pi 4 in 2019. Our shorter-term software track aims to get the best out of our existing platforms through optimisation and general “attention to detail” work.

How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?

Eben Upton : While our office remains open, primarily to handle shipping and provide access to our hardware lab for engineers who need it, most of our employees are working from home. In many respects, this has been a positive change, as people have been able to spend their commuting time either working or with their families (or both). We’ve never been keen on meetings, but obviously being remote further reduces the pressure to meet unnecessarily.

On the negative side, decisions which could previously have been made informally after a chat at someone’s desk now require more formal methods. I think a lot of us are looking forward to getting back in the office, though maybe not five days a week anymore.

Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?

Eben Upton : Not really: it’s been very smooth for us. Where we have had to make decisions are in estimating what the medium- and long-term impact on our business will be, which determines levels of investment in inventory, and the credit levels we set for our B2B customers. So far, the short-term effects have been entirely positive, as people buy our products to help them work, study and play at home.

How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and your company in the future ?

Eben Upton : Personally I try to get plenty of fresh air and exercise, and I know this is a common response for many of our employees. Lockdown has done wonders for our fitness levels! I’ve found that the empty headspace that you get while out running or cycling has been very valuable in visualising where we might go next as a business.

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

Eben Upton : We define ourselves as a PC company, so our competitors are really all the household-name PC companies. We plan to stay in the game by continuing to innovate, increasing the performance of our hardware, focusing on attention to detail in software, and offering industry-leading price/performance.

Your final thoughts

Eben Upton : Raspberry Pi has described itself as a PC company ever since we launched our first product in 2012. 2019’s Raspberry Pi 4 delivers PC-equivalent performance for the majority of users, and arrived just in time to make a contribution to home working and studying during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re looking forward to sweating all the performance out of the Raspberry Pi 4 platform, and figuring out how to build the platforms that will take our performance to the next level in the middle part of the coming decade.

Your website?

www.raspberrypi.org

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