Framework's repairability philosophy is set to expand beyond the laptop

Framework Computer was ahead of the curve. The company was founded in 2019, as 20 U.S. states began exploring potential right to repair bills. It delivered its first product, the Framework 13, in 2021, a year before New York enacted its landmark (if flawed) Digital Fair Repair Act.

Today, the company sells its repairable laptops in 13 countries across North America and Europe, along with Taiwan. Even so, Framework has been deliberate -- cautious even -- when it comes to raising. Its last major round was an $18 million Series A, closed in early 2022.

“When we closed a Series A round two years ago, we shared our strategy around fundraising, which is to raise as little as possible and focus funds on efficiently expanding the reach of our mission,” the company notes. “You can now see the results of that investment with Framework Laptop 16 out in customers’ hands.”

On Tuesday, the company announced a follow-up -- a $17 million Series A-1. “We are a consumer company that’s not doing AI that successfully raised funding in 2024,” founder and CEO Nirav Patel tells TechCrunch, with a bit of a laugh.

There is, indeed, something oddly refreshing in a company that hasn’t shoehorned some unrelated bit of ChatGPT functionality into their pitch. Instead, Framework remains focused on its core business: user-repairable and upgradable laptops.

Patel is, however, quick to note, “fundamentally, we are a consumer electronics company, not a laptop company.” That simple clarification highlights a key element of this fundraising round. While generative AI might not be in the cards, an expanded portfolio certainly is. In addition to “scaling the reach” of its current offerings, this new funding will go toward “extending to additional product categories.” Patel did not disclose specifics.

The European firm Fairphone, which operates on a similar philosophy of consumer access, recently expanded its own portfolio. In addition to smartphones, the company now offers repairable headphones and earbuds. “We love what they’re doing,” Patel says of the kindred company. “It’s obviously a brutally competitive category that they’re in, and they’ve been doing quite well in it.”

Part of the funding will go toward hiring. Framework is planning to fill a total of 10 roles in 2024, adding to a headcount that is currently just under 50. In spite of that figure, the company maintains a wide international reach, including the brand new territory of Poland.

“It’s all direct to consumer,” says Patel. “We managed our go-to-market directly. We don’t deal with distributors or channels or retail, and we have this very, very short pipeline from warehouse to the consumer’s doorstep. That makes it operationally incredibly efficient. For the most part, we have a positive cash cycle, in the sense that we’re collecting money from the customers buying our product before we need to pay suppliers, in many cases.”

The round was led by Spark Capital and features Buckley Ventures, Anzu Partners, Cooler Master and Pathbreaker Ventures. In addition to the $17 million, the company is opening up $1 million to equity crowdfunding through $10,000 investments.

“It’s a little bit of an experiment,” says Patel. “We’re bringing in 100 investors, and probably for the most part, the vast majority of them are not going to be professional investors. This might even be the only private company investment any of them have ever made. We’ll see what that’s like, having that 100-person community board.”