Updated Vision 2011

Today I wanted to talk a little bit about our vision and what we are trying to do. I’m going to start with an analogy…
“Upverter is the GitHub of Electronics.”

For starters, that’s true… We are very much a focal point for the exchange of electronics designs. But we do a lot more than just host your design. In the GitHub analogy we have also built both the git and the VIM of electronics to make it possible to host and to share your design. So let’s add:

“Upverter is the Google Docs of Hardware Design.”

Ok, now we’re getting somewhere… A community focal point and a browser-based collaborative tool. But there is a lot of talk at Upverter about rapid prototyping too. So we should probably also add:

“Upverter is the Shapeways of Electronics.“

And I think that about sums it up… for now. Phew. Confused yet?

Believe it or not, it turns out that it’s all pretty simple, and that it came from very humble beginnings. Upverter was founded to solve a very simple problem – there was no way to share or collaborate on hardware development. From the block diagram through schematic capture, to mechanics, layout and right up into production, each piece of the workflow is isolated, disconnected from the next steps, and exclusively single user.

So, we set out to build the world’s very first hardware collaboration tools.

It wasn’t too long until we discovered that despite being so commodity-based the existing tools were completely inoperable, and what’s worse, it was going to be near impossible for us to move them to the web. And there we stood at a fundamental turning point in our history, and for better or worse we realized that building the world’s first hardware meant also building web-based, and highly interoperable core design tools. If we wanted to enact change in this market, or allow a remarkable increase in the rate of innovation on hardware, it meant a much bigger challenge.

So we set out to build both the community and focal point for hardware collaboration, as well as the tools to make such collaboration possible.

And for a very long time, this was our mission. Our vision was a world where hardware designers benefited from the same reuse, collaboration, and shared libraries as their software counterparts. We have refined this vision, and our mission regularly during the first year of our life. But at the highest level, it has remained largely the same. We have grown with our mission, and as we begin to accomplish it our vision is growing too. We also see the pain in turning designs into real world boards, and so that, too, became a part of our mission. We want to remove absolutely as much friction as possible from the hardware development process and right now a big part of that is the sourcing of components, and the manufacturing of PCBs.

If you asked me today, our mission is to enable people to design hardware easier and faster.

We think that means collaboration, reuse and the web. We see shared designs, and a community around them. We see de-duplication, and little bits of distributed work instead of everything falling on the shoulders of isolated designers. We see the fundamental building blocks of electronics exposed, not in a PDF or PNG, but embedded right into a page – and just as editable, and forkable as copying source code. Building blocks are enabled to become the seed around which the next great hardware device gets designed. We see that designing hardware is no longer synonymous with starting from scratch. We see the end of blank schematic pages and cryptic digikey queries. We also see a print button for hardware. A one-stop-shopping experience where you can not only develop your designs but also make them real.

So what’s next?

Well right now we are furiously polishing our Sketch Tool, and trying to implement as many of your requests as possible. We want to live up to our claim as the fastest hardware development platform. We want to start stroking things off the mission list.

In the future we see big things from the world of mobile. There are inherent limitations and boundaries to what can be packed into a mass produced phone, and we think enabling our users to extend those boundaries will be very fruitful for both us and them. We also see tremendous benefits from our users tools being in the cloud and we want to start extending the list of those benefits. We think enabling our users to design more abstractly, with more building blocks, with less optimization and more of a “compile to PCB” mentality will be incredibly powerful. And lastly, we see a rise in distribution of custom electronics, and we are working to make these electronics beautiful. We think enabling our users to package and distribute their designs will open the door to a whole new age of electronics and we think it should be a little more Apple and a little less Radio Shack.

Beyond that I can’t really say. Its an awfully big space we’ve gotten ourselves into, and we are excited to be making a difference.

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