Five years of making at pi-top

As we celebrate our fifth birthday, pi-top CEO, Jesse Lozano, looks back on how we got this far, and why the best is yet to come.

pi-top turns five today, and as every pi-top birthday comes and goes I find myself looking back to the beginning. Having launched our first product on Indiegogo five years ago, there is a lot to look back on. 

Back then we were obsessive about documenting the process, showing people our prototypes and talking to people about the idea of a hardware and software development platform that would bring a world of real making and inventing into the classroom. 

Looking back at this time, I am reminded of what we considered a minimum viable product to be. And so, as we celebrate our fifth birthday, I’d like to speak to today’s students thinking about making something they care about.

Lessons learned

This is the first big lesson I learned - do not be afraid to show the world your idea. It is natural to feel afraid of showing off your work or talking about an idea you have, but doing so can result in great progress of your idea. It is one of the core pillars of project-based learning – to share – and to learn from that feedback. 

But when should you share your idea? In comes the notion of the MVP (Minimum Viable Product). This essentially means you will create the absolute minimum output necessary to show off your idea and then take feedback on sharing your idea to understand if people like what you have made. You can then take feedback and change your idea for the better. 

In the beginning of pi-top our MVP looked like this:

pi-top-MVP1

We learned some very important lessons from this MVP. The first of which was that blue button above the trackpad which I thought looked amazing in a sort of airplane cockpit type of way - was not an ideal placement for a power button. Because the first thing everyone did with our laptop was to turn it off! The button was just too tempting to press. 

Overall though, we 100% knew we were onto something as so many young people were engaged and delighted to use this early pi-top prototype to learn how to design, code and make.

This brings me onto my second important lesson - there is a difference between MVP and MVP you want to show people! Our actual pi-top MVP looked like this:

pi-top-MVP-prototype

The purpose this served was to prove we could –  in theory – make a Raspberry Pi powered laptop, which is no easy feat. So why didn’t we show these prototypes to the world and seek feedback at this stage? The reason is that these prototype devices had no chance of delighting anyone (except Ryan and myself). 

The idea of creating something to delight a user is something I have only very recently understood was something I was chasing these last five years. This idea is key to anything you want the world at large to use that you are creating. 

So how did I come to this realisation? I happened to be told this by some of our amazing team members here at pi-top. Their focus on delighting our users with features and ease-of-use really made me think about all that I have tried to achieve when I set out to create or make something. Ultimately I just want to bring a smile to people's faces and make them feel happy because of something I have made. 

This leads me neatly into the last lesson I have learned that I will share today, and that is to seek out great people to collaborate and share your ideas with. It has been my absolute privilege to work with the great people we have at pi-top.

It is no coincidence that although every pi-top product has delighted users our newest, pi-top [4], is far and away the best product we have ever made. And that is all down to the great people I get to work with and the great feedback we get from our amazing users and supporters out in the world. So seek out fantastic people and you will find progress is made all that much faster. 

Happy birthday pi-top! It has been an amazing five years and I am looking forward to the years’ ahead and all that we and you create with the pi-top ecosystem!

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