Our StoryIn 2007 we set out to make the best Linux-only hardware on the market. Since our little shop is located in the shadow of the University of California at Berkeley, we are aware of how far a dollar needed to stretch in order for students to buy their laptops and desktops. We are also aware that the laptops needed to be sturdy enough to throw in a backpack to haul to classes (or haul around the world).
Working with a team of brilliant Linux advocates, many of them contributing their time and energy for free, we were able to build the base of a strong company. The Standard Operating Procedures for ZaReason were (and are) full of standard practices that have a unique sense of community and generosity not seen often amongst corporations.
The ZaReason team also saw the community at large contributing. In 2007 and 2008 a large part of our R&D was completed by customers who emailed us saying, "Hey, did you know your laptop can do this?" Time and time again we found that the open, free nature of the community was spontaneously creating a solid base for us.
We even had customers sending us their cost comparisons. Since computers can vary widely by vendor, people would do detailed comparisons, "This 15" laptop has x, y, and z and costs $. Your 15" has a, b, and c and costs $." We were able to adjust our prices to meet or beat other companies.
How can we outperform much larger companies? Simple. It's expensive to ship things, expensive enough that if we shave off shipping costs, we are able to beat our competitors who are located in-land. We are in the San Francisco Bay area and drive by the freighters at the docs every day. This is the main hub for parts coming from Asia. Not only do we get the newer parts faster, but their prices are good enough for us to compete.
We also keep inventory so low that we can shift to newer, faster, better components the day they come out. Seriously, our little shop gets new parts in twice a day and ships out twice a day. We are able to process more than even we could imagine due to our tight processes.
One final caveat -- we do a good part of our assembly and building in the US. Why? Because the minute (the minute!) we see a problem with a system, we can fix it. The improvement process is rapid and fluid.
We are happily in our fourth year with a solid foundation and a customer base that makes us smile.