Open Source Hardware

Fostering User Entrepreneurship:

Empirical Evidence from Arduino Users



This research aims to analyse entrepreneurial opportunities available for users in the emerging phenomenon of Open Source Hardware (OSH). In this context the role played by Arduino, the first and most successful OSH microcontroller board, will be discussed. One of the peculiarities of Arduino is that it stimulates entrepreneurial activities by its users. Thanks to the OSH ecosystem users have free tools to develop their own gadgets at reasonable costs and eventually commercialize them at a cheaper price.

In order to answer the main research question, namely how OSH stimulates User Entrepreneurship, empirical cases will be analysed. Research included gathering information through personal interviews with Massimo Banzi (Arduino co-founder) and with sixteen successful users’ entrepreneurs, along with data from OSH platforms.

The study reveals that Arduino’s easiness of use, its open approach and presence of social instead of legal norms are the main elements that encourage users not only to innovate, but also to translate their innovations into business opportunities. Nonetheless, it clearly emerges that users originally did not intend to commercialize their innovations: communities systematically identify a potential opportunity.  Furthermore, this research shows how the strategy that Arduino is implementing might also positively affect the commercialization of Arduino-based projects, for example by removing some barriers that may prevent users to become entrepreneurs. This in turn leads to managerial implications for all OSH players who may exploit business opportunity in an open environment which differs from the software context. Finally, future research is encouraged to cover some limitation of this study, in particular in the field of User Innovation and Open Source

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