The old adage goes, “Give a person a fish, you feed them for a day. Teach a person to fish, you feed them for a lifetime.” But what if you make a living selling fish? Teaching people to catch their own fish might not be in your best interest. Now substitute your average fishmonger for a trillion-dollar public company, and substitute fish for iPhones. What you have is the crux of the right to repair electronics movement.
Consumer electronic companies like Apple would rather sell you a new product than provide information on how to repair the one you already own. While they offer a Genius Bar for repairs, these can be costly and visits are time-consuming. Beyond consumer electronics, farmers recently found they could no longer complete simple repairs on the John Deere tractors they own without going to John Deere. Arguments from manufacturers range from trying to ensure customer safety, to protecting IP, but the cynic in me says they just like to sell fish.
In the automotive industry, a law was passed in 2012 that required car manufacturers to provide information to owners and service centers so repairs can be conducted. While Tesla has pushed back on this, the laws are generally respected. Inspired by these laws, The Repair Association was formed in 2013 to push the adoption of the same laws for the consumer electronics industry. Adoption in this industry is slow with Apple showing little interest in the topic.
The byproduct of these difficult to repair electronics is 50 million tons, or 13lbs per human on the planet, of e-waste every year. Only 17% of e-waste gets recycled. Toxic materials in e-waste like mercury, cadmium, and lead end up poisoning groundwater when not disposed of properly. Great video here summarizing the e-waste problem.
Our latest investment in Framework is setting out to fix this problem. From their website…
Consumer electronics is broken. We’ve all had the experience of a busted screen, button, or connector that can’t be fixed, battery life degrading without a path for replacement, or being unable to add more storage when drives are full. Individually, this is irritating and requires us to make unnecessary and expensive purchases of new products to get around what should be easy problems to solve. We need to improve recyclability, but the biggest impact we can make is generating less waste to begin with by making our products last longer.
The conventional wisdom in the industry is that making products repairable makes them thicker, heavier, uglier, less robust, and more expensive. We’re here to prove that wrong and fix consumer electronics, one category at a time. Our philosophy is that by making well-considered design tradeoffs and trusting customers and repair shops with the access and information they need, we can make fantastic devices that are still easy to repair. Even better, what we’ve done to enable repair also opens up upgradeability and customization. This lets you get exactly the product you need and extends usable lifetime too.
We know these are big claims and consumer electronics is littered with the graves of companies with grand ideas and failed executions. The proof is going to be in the products. We’re excited about the team of fantastic engineers and designers we’ve pulled together who are carrying hard learned lessons from what we’ve built before, and we’re grateful for the capable and competent partners we’re working with who believe in our mission. We are looking forward to showing you the Framework Laptop and showing the industry and the world a framework for a better way.
Framework’s initial product is a laptop but they will be expanding into all areas of consumer electronics using the same strategic framework in the future. Tested did a fantastic video review with CEO and Founder Nirav Patel here. It’s a huge swing but how often do you have the opportunity to both save the planet and invest in a company with the potential to be the next Apple?