I remember there were companies in the past that were selling "OpenWRT-enabled" routers, but currently it looks like DIY-only.
Do you think the community will be supportive of buying "brand new" openwrt-flashed devices(say Dynalink DL-WRX36) from a small business for some premium ($30-$50)? The advantages are the time saved and no bricking. The devices would be sold "as is" or with a weaker warranty from a small home business doing the flashing. Any legal issues?
Not something I myself have the time for, but my son would possibly be interested. Appreciate the thoughts. TYVM
I used to buy Meraki MR18's, BT Homehub 5A's or Checkpoint L50's for cheap on ebay, flash them with OpenWrt and resell afterwards. It was not worth the time in hindsight although I did learn about serial, tftp and uboot in the process. The people who are interested in OpenWrt are often skilled enough to flash their own routers / devices. Most other people are not willing to pay a premium compared to just running the stock firmware on the device.
So the only devices that had some margin of 'profit' (not considering the time spend) were ones that were available for cheap and difficult to flash. Nowadays a lot of wifi equipment seems relatively cheap and I think it will be difficult to actually make any money.
Flashrouters.com does exactly that with DD-WRT. Note, however, that they do it primarily with new high-end devices for high-end money. (To oversimplify, they are catering to gamers with disposable income.)
Here's how I see the situation (and this is only an opinion). An enthusiast would rather flash a device on their own than pay someone else to do it. So the key is figuring out how (and what) to sell to non-enthusiasts, including businesses.
Take GL.iNet as an example. They sell a lot of travel routers. OpenWrt enthusiasts don't particularly love GL.iNet, because the company tends to release new devices with some kind of OpenWrt derivative, while support for "vanilla OpenWrt" comes later in the device's lifecycle or not at all. The buying public, meanwhile, couldn't care less. Business travelers want routers that keep them connected to The Mother Ship (aka The Home Office) via VPN while on the road. Leisure travelers get a kick out of avoiding per-device Internet access charges at hotels. This is what GL.iNet devices are designed for. They meet a specific use case that Netgear, Linksys, etc. ignore.
So if you want to sell OpenWrt, start by finding an overlooked use case and optimize your hardware and OpenWrt for it. Chances are, you won't need to fork OpenWrt; the online Firmware Selector gives you a lot of room to play.
Now what that use case might be, I don't know; if I knew, I would be working it. (This said, I keep wondering whether there's a small market out there for compact NAS/router combos.) But whatever it ends up being, you have to work it professionally: packaging, documentation, return policy, support, and all that jazz...
TYVM. My background that got me thinking:
Spent 6hour+ on flashing WRX36. Long time is due to the minimal knowledge in embedded and making sure to have planB in case of issues. Hence had to hookup CH340 to UART, figure how to enable console in U-Boot, etc. At the end all went well and managed not to brick it once, but overall would gladly pay $50 for a working device, as I personally would want the end result and not much interested in learning "the way".
Frankly speaking this is not that attractive to individuals because most users knowing OpenWrt would be able to DIY, however if you can find some small business owners it might be possible (many years ago I had some freelance jobs helping small companies setting up network, with gear supplied in limited budget)
Like I said, this is exactly what flashrouters.com does with DD-WRT (except, if memory serves, they charge $100 for installation on customer's existing hardware). They also have an inventory of pre-flashed routers available for sale. Either way, their service also includes VPN setup. Check them out; if nothing else, it's educational.
One could advertise routers designed to reduce latency for LTE or Starlink connections with pre-installed cake-autorate. But any success could be quickly hoovered up by the manufacturers. And there would be awkward issues to address like managing the warranty.
If making money is the goal then it'd be better to take a regularly traded item like guitars, girl guide whistles or rings and learn their value. Getting to know the value of such items in this way is not easy, but once learnt can be leveraged to make money. I think that'd be better than selling custom routers.