Peer-to-peer open-source hardware funding

electronic hardwareIn a moment of pure blogging synchronicity – right after a commenter dismissed the story about Detroit artists buying cheap houses as irrelevant, using the phrase “[c]all me when it is a commune of semiconductor engineers” – here’s a story about open-source hardware engineers getting together and forming a communal bank to provide start-up loans:

… open source hardware requires more financial investment than open source software. It isn’t as easy as downloading a few open source programs on to your existing computer, explains Stack. “With open source hardware you don’t get a finished product until you have put in some money,” he says. For instance, there’s the cost of the printed circuit boards, the solder and the components.

“To build open source software you just need to set up a project on Sourceforge,” says Huynh. “But if you get open source hardware wrong, it burns a hole in the wallet.”

The Open Source Hardware Bank, which isn’t yet fully up and running as a federally regulated lending institution, allows those interested in open source hardware to make investments in specific projects, then (hopefully) reap returns ranging from 5 percent to 15 percent from the successful sale of the projects. For the creators, the bank offers funding that could bring down the costs of their project and give them the stimulus to try out new ideas.

So, a miniature investment banking system based around a community with common interests; financial mobility and specialist knowledge are the main differences from more traditional models.

“Groups of people that have strong shared interest are really the perfect place for peer-to-peer financing to work,” says Scott Pitts, former managing director of Zopa U.S. “As a group they are not out to make a billion dollars, they just want to fund their passion and do it in a sustainable way.”

Only time will tell whether it will stay the course, naturally (and they may not be working on VLSI chip fabrication) but there’s your proof that it’s not just “hippies” and drop-outs who are trying to extricate themselves from the old systems. [via BoingBoing; image by jpokele]