Open source hardware bank: P2P lending for hardware hackers

A microcredit co-op bank has sprung up in Northern California, using money pooled from hardware hackers to fund other open source hardware hacking projects. They've found 70 lenders,
Two open source hardware enthusiasts, Justin Huynh and Matt Stack, have started the Open Source Hardware Bank to fund hardware projects such as the microcontroller board pictured above.

The fledgling bank is funding only open source hardware projects using capital raised from other hardware geeks. It's like a community of Facebook friends borrowing and lending among themselves – a peer-to-peer bank.

"This speaks to the rise of the do-it-yourselfer, someone who is not just a consumer but also a producer, inventor and investor," says Huynh. "But someone also ought to be thinking about the money problem when it comes to open source hardware and we are doing just that."

So, this is a major plot element of my science fiction novel Makers, coming from Tor next October: microcredit-funded open source hardware hackers laboring in dead malls (the first third of the book was syndicated on Salon as "Themepunks"). It's always a little weird when sf starts to leak into reality.

Open Source Hardware Hackers Start P2P Bank

Liquidware Antipasto: site for Open Source Hardware Bank


  1. Why bother? just copy and paste commercial designs like Chinese do.

    Wow, dismissive and jingoist in the same breath.

    Reverse-engineering spurs innovation. (We wouldn’t have compatible personal computers if Compaq didn’t reverse-engineer IBM’s BIOS to make the “IBM clones”.)

    If your process of innovation / invention isn’t fast-enough to out-pace the clones (and low-cost enough to do it profitably), you’re not doing it well enough to justify the existence of your business in a vigorous marketplace.

    But this is more about person-to-person lending, such as Kiva, Zopa, and Prosper.

    The Open Source Hardware Bank, which isn’t yet fully up and running as a federally regulated lending institution, allows those interested in open source hardware to make investments in specific projects, then (hopefully) reap returns ranging from 5 percent to 15 percent from the successful sale of the projects. For the creators, the bank offers funding that could bring down the costs of their project and give them the stimulus to try out new ideas.

  2. So …. it’s a credit union?

    I mean, good for them, and it’s interesting that they’re concentrated in such a tiny niche, but I don’t know that we need to call it a microcredit peer-to-peer co-op buzzword bank.

  3. @#2

    “Wow, dismissive and jingoist in the same breath.”

    You have to remember ZUZU, its very important for the myth of Western superiority over our little brothers be perpetuated. Never mind our infrastructure crumbles, while our exports consists of only debt, delusion and weapons. We’re still superior to those thieving Easternlings.

    Yet, ideas like this remind me that there is still some of that American ingenuity left in the old Red White and Blue. People can find the resources when they need to, and those smarmy giant banks are going to find themselves backing the wrong business models, before long.

  4. I wasnt sarcastic. I said what I meant – just COPY AND PASTE like Chinese. IP laws dont exist in China, that forces them to innovate. Every new clone is cheaper or better (but mostly cheaper :P).

  5. Just wanted to say thanks for finishing “Themepunks”

    I loved reading it on Salon, I can’t wait to see how it ends!

  6. The regulatory situation here is tricky. In the meantime there are (SEC registered) peer to peer lending platforms which might bridge the p2p gap:

    more info on these at:

    As well, there are at least two stealth “P2P VC” startups in the works, though they’re pretty far away from launch. One potential structure is to take advantage of the existing lending/borrowing marketplaces (at least the one w/derivatives up), and to “pay out” discounts by repurchasing loans.

    There are, of course, other potential structures, and I’ll be getting in touch with these people…

    Thanks for the story. This kind of stuff is fun!

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