A New Vision for Consumer Hardware | Framework

Episode 39 of S³

There's a different way to build consumer hardware: creating an ecosystem for modularity & upgradability.

Meet CEO and Founder Nirav Patel of Framework who are reinventing laptops, and soon much more, in Episode 39 of S³.

Founding member (Employee #0001) of Oculus

Nirav has an “almost unfair advantage,” according to him, in building consumer hardware. He was engineer #0001 at Oculus, acquired by Meta in 2014. In the episode Nirav talks about what he learned at Oculus and how he applied it to Framework.

TLDR: iterate really fast.

The Framework approach

Nirav swapping components on the Framework Laptop 16.

Framework's laptops are designed to be fully modular and user-repairable.

As Nirav put it, "People don't want to have to buy an entire new computer just because their battery wore out. That'd be like replacing your car because you got a flat tire."

Another insight Nirav shared: consumer hardware is rarely a product problem, it's normally an audience and business model problem. He spoke quite a bit about the "Innovation Diffusion Curve," an plotted-line we're all familiar with thanks to the popular meme.

Nirav took quite a bit of time to explain how Framework has mapped through their core audiences:

  1. PC enthusiasts, linux users, Linus Tech Tips fans

  2. Commercial & SMBs, whose IT departments are run by the former

  3. Eco-minded consumers

Framework started with PC enthusiasts who (1) immediately got the value of Framework, (2) mapped to SMBs from that entry point, and (3) created a new GTM for mainstream consumers who simply want a reliable, long-lasting laptop that aligns with their values.

Every component on the Framework laptop is modular & replaceable, from the ports (which are swappable expansion cards) to the mainboard. And they've made the process intuitive enough for anyone to do, with clear labeling & instructional QR codes.

Framework is also fostering a community of third-party developers to create new modules & components, much like an app store for hardware. The goal is a vibrant ecosystem of options for repair, upgrade, and customization.

Expansion time

From founding at the beginning of COVID to consumers having laptops in hand, the Framework team took only 18 months.

Beyond that, they're still moving and iterating at light speed, right in alignment with Nirav's hardware tenets.

Framework isn't just a laptop company, that would be impressive enough however, they want to apply their "framework" for consumer hardware to other product categories...

I've been a Linus Tech Tips fan for a long time, if you're not familiar he's a ~pretty intense~ tech reviewer. Despite that, Linus made his 1st public investment into a company after an exceedingly positive review experience of the Framework laptop.

Tech isn't everything, it needs to be met with great strategy and principles.

By Framework aligning their business incentives with product longevity, they're modeling a more sustainable way forward for consumer hardware. It's the kind of startup I'm excited to root for.

Consumer hardware is a notoriously tough space for startups, but Nirav and Framework are charting a novel path by efficiently targeting underserved audiences & building products that get better with time.

I can't wait to see what product category they tackle next.

Keep on building the future,

— Jason