Kickstart for hi-tech work

Paul Beech and Jon Williamson with Flotilla, their latest Kickstarter project.
Paul Beech and Jon Williamson with Flotilla, their latest Kickstarter project.
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A fast-growing Sheffield electronics company has raised £146,680 to launch a new range of products - by appealing for funds from the public.

Pimoroni posted on Kickstarter and 1,504 people pledged money - smashing the £32,768 target set by the firm.

Kickstarter is a crowdfunding website - a way of raising money for projects through large numbers of people over the internet.

Flotilla is a range of 12 modules and sensors for electronics hobbyists that plug into the Raspberry Pi computer. They can be used to create devices such as a light sensitive pet feeder, a walking robot or a weather station.

Pimoroni co-founder Jon Williamson, aged 34, said they had worked for a year - and hired two people - for the project.

He said: “Flotilla is a big investment for us as a business. Kickstarter wasn’t really about finance as such it was a way to get feedback before launching. We would know if it was going to bomb - but it went well and we can prepare for production.

“Success on Kickstarter is down to your interaction with the community. They either believe in you or not.”

Pimoroni is based on Manton Street in Sheffield city centre. Founded in 2012, it employs 15 and turned over £870,000 last year with 100 per cent year-on-year growth. Co-founder Paul Beech, aged 38, was a graphic designer who won a competition to design a logo for the Raspberry Pi, a credit-card sized computer made in the UK aimed at encouraging people to learn to program. More than five million have been sold worldwide.

He came up with the idea for a case - the Pibow - and borrowed a laser cutter to make one. It sold 2,500 in a weekend. The firm launched in July 2012 and within six months it had five laser cutters and had moved to larger premises. Pibow sales today have topped 125,000.

Jon, a former software developer, added: “It was hard work but good fun.”

A second product, the Picade retro-style arcade box, was the first on Kickstarter when it launched in the UK.

Jon added: “Our sector is a niche, but it’s quite a big niche. It’s not about using devices to consume online. It’s about using them to do what you want, like fixing the little things in life that don’t work right. It’s an attitude.”