Posted on October 24, 2017 by staff

Pimoroni taking sweet approach to coding tools


A shared love of the Raspberry Pi and a belief that more people should be encouraged to code spurred on friends Jon Williamson and Paul Beech to set up Pimoroni.

In fact, it was Beech who designed the famous Raspberry Pi logo after winning a competition, while Williamson had run digital agencies in the past.

The Sheffield business, soon to celebrate its fifth birthday, designs, makes and sells bright and bold kits that aim to put the fun into electronics for an affordable price.

With sales worldwide, the business has experienced growth of 80 per cent year-on-year and is eyeing further expansion as the popularity of coding takes off.

Its first product was the Pibow – a laser-cut rainbow case for the Raspberry Pi, which has sold more than 175,000 copies, and Picade, a desktop arcade machine built from a flat-pack kit, was the UK’s first Kickstarter project and raised more than double its funding target.

From humble beginnings with just one laser cutter, the business has built up its product range and workforce, with 37 people, five laser cutters and several circuit-building robots based in a large factory, and has recently set up a German operation.

“Our growth has very much been because of the growth in interest within education for getting children coding and the idea that digital creativity isn’t just about sitting behind a computer – it’s about making as much as it’s about software,” head of marketing Emma von Cooper told BusinessCloud.

Of course, the Raspberry Pi being the biggest selling British made computer has helped, along with increased interest via the BBC Micro:bit. Pimoroni sells a whole range of kits and accessories for both, with the emphasis on fun.

“We’re keen to be accessible and make what could look quite daunting colourful,” said von Cooper. “People often tell us we look like a sweet shop and that’s totally on purpose.

“A lot of products come with free code and we supply free help on social media because we’re really keen to help people get the same bug we have for electronics.”

Customers are all ages, with a core community of existing enthusiasts as well as children and their parents new to coding. Rapid expansion of the business has meant little time for much else, but the duo intend to begin working with schools to encourage children and teachers to feel confident with coding and, hopefully, address any future skills gaps.

Their Sheffield location, with its low start-up costs and history of manufacturing, has made growth a smooth process.

“There’s also a general ‘do-it-yourself’ attitude that meant the guys have just got on with it and smashed it without worrying about pushing forward,” von Cooper said, adding that further growth may come through increasing the number of outlets that sell their products.

Currently customers can buy directly from the website or via Maplin.

“Our plans for the future include developing new products, keeping people excited and interested and also talking more to schools and parents,” said von Cooper.