Open source: “it is basically publicly shared knowledge, the kind of knowledge that you need when you’re building robots, drones and other stuff. We felt that there should be a platform where people could collaborate and where all knowledge could come together, since this was lacking before”. Richard, one of the founders of Wevolver shares their mission and talks about the potential of open-source hardware development, innovation and why they chose FreedomLab as their new homes in Amsterdam.
Can you tell a bit about yourself and the Company?
Richard (Co-founder): “I founded an e-commerce Company 10 years ago when I was still in college. Later, I started a 3D-printing company and Wevolver. At a certain point, I sold the e-commerce company and quit the 3D-printing company (it’s still going right now: Ground3D.nl). Bram, my business partner, and I got more excited about open-source hardware. We noticed a lot was happening in open-source hardware development; people made their own hardware and raised funds from Kickstarter. So Bram ad I started working on Wevolver as well.
What is open-source hardware?
“It is basically publicly shared knowledge, the kind of knowledge that your need when you’re building robots, drones and other stuff. We felt that there should be a platform where people could collaborate and where all knowledge could come together, since this was lacking before. We tried setting it up in 2011, and we failed epically due to lack of funds. We tried again in 2013, it failed again because we didn’t have an active community. Tried again, and this time Bram decided to work full-time on the project, instead of us both doing part-time work. We rented an old space in Utrecht and had slightly more resources. And then in 2014, we won a prize in London called the Social Tech Social Change prize by the Nominet Trust, a big fund that invests in companies with a social impact. We received enough funding to start building our own software team, which was great. At the same time, we were asked by Bethnal Green Ventures to join their Accelerator. They invest in companies with a social impact. We want to enable anyone anywhere to develop technology, that’s our social impact.”
How do you stimulate use of the information?
“When Bram and I started, there was no platform that brought all this knowledge together. The community consisted mostly of individual engineers, they all had their own websites and knowledge and they viewed their projects as if they were their own children. So it was very difficult to win their trust. When we launched, we only had about 20 projects. From there on we started to grow”.
How does your community work exactly?
“Anyone can upload their products and design to Wevolver, but we are responsible for curation. For example, in addition to making projects available, we want to educate our community. So if a project is poorly documented, we want to show the owner that better documentation leads to more engagement from the community. So now, after a few years, we have an open community and a private community”.
What’s the difference between the private and public communities?
“The private community is where our business model is. There are private collaborations between users there. The open community is much larger: startups use Wevolver to share all the data from their projects. They are doing that because they are looking for a community that will not just build their projects, but also iterate them and then share back. So, if you have a successful project on Wevolver, you have the whole world working on your project for free. They do this for free, because they can then use this product themselves. For some companies it is a way to get some publicity, but mostly it contributes to rapid development and innovation. For example: there is a Japanese company that builds electronic prosthetics, for example a hand. They sell their prosthetic hand to hospitals for about $12.000, it is really advanced. But they also have an open-source version. It will cost you about $150 to build, and all the components are available for sale online or can be 3D-printed. Our community builds them and then provides the Japanese company with useful feedback, which they then can incorporate into the commercial model. Like this, they are always on the forefront of their development”.
What is the match between FreedomLab and Wevolver?
“We were looking for a community and a culture that fits with ours. A community of open-minded people who are interested in the future of technology, but also in how technology can make an impact. This resonates very strongly with FreedomLab”.
Check out Wevolver.