One year, 2000 orders

Alain Pannetrat, January 11, 2023

One year ago, I launched Lectronz: a new online marketplace for open-hardware creators. That first January, we got 21 orders, followed by 23 in February. As months passed, more creators joined us to offer their products to the community, and we finished the year with over 220 orders per month in November and December. In just one year, Lectronz handled nearly 2000 orders!

This birthday is an excellent time to look back at some lessons learned.

One feature became an unexpected success.

One of the initial goals behind Lectronz was to create a better, more modern alternative to Tindie, a well-known marketplace for makers, by adding features like sales tax calculations, better APIs, and weight-based shipping. Shortly after launch, I added a tool to help sellers outside the European Union ship their products to European customers with pre-paid taxes, thereby avoiding import hurdles. Surprisingly, this feature became one of the biggest drivers for non-European sellers to join the platform.

Lectronz is a community-driven project.

Lectronz has grown thanks to the continuous support of creators and buyers who took the time to report bugs and suggested new features on our Discord server and our GitHub issue tracker. This feedback has been truly invaluable. A new version of Lectronz is deployed almost every week.

There is even an open-source desktop client for Lectronz called Lectronizer, built by one of our creators. Lectronizer is a neat tool for sellers, which works on Windows, Linux, and macOS.

Change is the hardest part of software engineering.

Like Airbnb, Shopify or Slideshare, Lectronz is built with Ruby On Rails. With bug corrections and feature requests implemented almost every week, I discovered that managing change is the biggest challenge of engineering a software project like Lectronz. Creating a feature from scratch is often trivial, but adding a feature to an existing project can get very complex. To address this issue, I dedicated much time to refactoring code in the past three months of 2022 and learned a lot. Today, Lectronz is a much more solid project than it was a year ago.

With all this time dedicated to software, I haven't designed a single PCB in the past year. I certainly miss my time with KiCad.

Businesses are buying from Lectronz.

While most customers are makers, engineers, or DIY enthusiasts, a growing portion of buyers are businesses looking for specific open-hardware products. European hardware creators can offer VAT-free intra-community sale of goods by collecting the VAT number of the buyer during checkout.

Many small hardware businesses start as hobby projects. Lectronz will continue to support all creators, hobbyists and professionals.

Lectronz won't fit everybody's needs.

A few sellers didn't join us simply because we don't offer PayPal as a payment processor, as we rely entirely on Stripe instead. Lectronz doesn't offer PayPal mainly because Stripe has better documentation, better APIs, and, most importantly, better support. I might review that decision one day, but Lectronz is sticking to Stripe in the short term.

We need to spread the word.

I'm grateful to the community of pioneers who have joined us as sellers and customers. You have helped me create an independent marketplace free of ads and corporate influence. To become fully financially secure, Lectronz needs to continue to grow, to generate not just 2000 orders per year but 2000 orders per month! Hopefully, we'll get there next year.

Please spread the word and help me continue building the best marketplace for open-hardware creators!

Alain