It makes perfect sense to me, having worked for a couple of non-profits. A regular business gets money by selling products to people. A nonprofit gets money by selling good feelings to rich people.
Often, one of those good feelings a rich person buys is a sense of control. They don't just give you money and say go; they give you money for a very specific purpose. Often, to get that money you have to apply for grants, meaning that you must conform to their desires up front, write a big project plan, and the follow that plan closely to receive the money. It's very much a waterfall approach to things, which can cause a lot of waste, and can be very distracting for people who want to focus on the non-profit mission. You also of course need a whole apparatus to find and flatter those rich people, which isn't free.
Basically non-profits sound like a better vehicle in theory than they are in practice for many purposes. And they don't guarantee fiscal probity from the community's perspective. A non-profit exec can still pay themselves millions of dollars .
For what it's worth, I am happy to help out community-oriented for-profit businesses. E.g., San Francisco's Borderlands Books, which is community-sponsored . I give them $100/year just because I want them to keep existing, and bookstores in SF aren't really viable businesses anymore.
As far as I know, the only 501c3 tax break is to donors. So the question is whether that will get them sufficiently more money to make it worth the significant downsides, restrictions, and increases in administrative hassle. I expect for small donors, it doesn't make much difference. And regardless, I'd be willing to trust that they know what they're doing in this regard.
It's going to take a while for it to become clear if this new venture is the first or the second type.
Obviously everyone is hoping for the former.
But there is nothing stopping a non-profit from selling products and services to individuals and or soliciting small donations from lots of people.
So I don't agree that this is a legitimate reason to go for profit.
With a 501c3, you don't. Although I think there are some limitations.
Just look at the American Red Cross, they sell the blood that is donated to them.
You of course can't have a profit that is distributed at the end of the year. But you can keep "profits" in the organization for furthering the goals of the 501c3.
If you have to “dance to the beat of someone’s drum” why not make it the people who are huge fans of the experience you produce?
The two weekend events presumably only occupied a small fraction of them, except in the immediate ramp-up to the events.
Complex things take skill, time, and effort. If it's not your domain it's very likely you are severely underestimating the work involved.
22 sounds like a really lean staff to pull off such vast events.
Clearly you have never organized a large event before
What's being described is way too many people, unless they're all heavily ROI-positive sales people, in which case this problem doesn't exist.
I don't get the impression he is a very good steward of the brand.
It's too bad, too. Maker Fair is one of the most important events in the penninusla. It's hugely important to educational efforts and a major focus for local makers who otherwise won't turn a profit outside of efforts like Bizarre Bazaar, which are quite expensive to attend.
Public Benefit Corporations
I do agree however is " You dance to their tune to get their funding" do not make alot of sense, you do that if you are non-profit or for-profit... You have to dance to the tune of customers if your for-profit, or donors if your non-profit... His lack of ability to under stand that is likely one reason the company when bankrupt.... If you do not deliver a product consumer what to buy you go out of business....
TechShop went bankrupt. Its successor, "TheShop.build", closed their SF location, and briefly, the San Jose location had an eviction notice on the door. The noprofit, Maker Nexus, has pivoted to being mostly an educational operation for middle and high schoolers. HumanMade opens in SF Saturday, but that's more of a job training center.
Nobody seems to be able to make the "gym model" maker space go here.
Demand is down, too. Steampunk is dead. Etsy now allows outsourcing production. There's too much Burning Man stuff already built. Google, Facebook, and Stanford all have in-house maker spaces now.
I think of Make as part of the O'Reilly Media story. The MO there for the last 35 years is to jump on emerging trends. When that trend blows up, the business does really well. It's probably easiest to see by looking at O'Reilly's conference history. OSCON, Strata, Web 2.0 where all hits with long shelf lives. Where 2.0, ETel, etc were interesting trends that didn't get big enough.
I was just leaving O'Reilly when Make was starting and the idea was that it might become the next Popular Mechanics. Make got traction, but not quite at the level where Maker projects were a normalized part of life. For all the comments saying 22 people was a lot of people, that's really not a very big company.
However, I think it's still such a great community and I love that Dale is finding a way to make it work. The phrase "rightsizing" has such bad connotations, but it shouldn't. There's a size business that fits the actual size if the Maker community. If they get that "right" then everyone can be happy.
The problem as I see it is that a gym has specific outputs that you want from your time (ie: be stronger, lower heart rate, etc.). Given Bay Area salaries, it's probably always cheaper to just pay someone in the mid west to build something than to do it yourself. So there's no positive monetary output.
So a maker space's output is pure enjoyment and that doesn't scale as much with better equipment. You can do woodworking without a CNC machine and lasers and a metal lathe. You can 3d print for your projects at home instead of trying to use vacuum formers and sheet metal. Without having to deal with people and scheduling and driving.
The only advantage I see of a maker space is the community but that's more of a non-profit model rather than a for-profit gym model. Community is much easier to achieve with shared ownership versus renting from someone else. It also doesn't need fancy equipment but just enough for people to come together.
edit: Community is also harder when you have fifty different machines that cater to fifty different niches.
Not only is this not true, but it's also not the point. The point is to do it yourself, and the Maker movement has always catered to that. Self-makers have always had to charge more for their crafts than mass produced models, citing scarcity and often component quality (especially true for digital electronics).
> The only advantage I see of a maker space is the community but that's more of a non-profit model rather than a for-profit gym model. Community is much easier to achieve with shared ownership versus renting from someone else. It also doesn't need fancy equipment but just enough for people to come together.
Which maker space was using a non-profit model?
So, like I said, it's about enjoyment and not monetary output.
>Which maker space was using a non-profit model?
Probably 90% of them in any area are non-profits, they're just small and don't have fancy machinery.
Tip: the members who can afford it are working so they have disposable cash.
Also - the location was prime downtown. Better to find an industrial park.
It was weird seeing the active members making Stormtrooper costumes mainly.
Also, you can get a usable laser cutter for $500 if you are willing to put in the hours to update the shitty Chinese components. $3-6k gives you a decent 40-45w one (Glowforge, etc.). Won't cut beyond 1/4" but that covers a lot of projects.
Even just a few desktop fabrication things are a lot of work to own and maintain. It's really, really nice to have a space you can go, do work, and then enjoy that without the cleanup and maintenance.
You keep assuming that you need industrial machines that can be used 24/7 to do these things when in reality you don't. You can use hand tools even but those take more time.
>I've actually helped run a woodshop for a school as part of volunteer work back before I had a kid.
I'd call that a professional space since it's used most of the time rather than occasionally.
There's people with little baby jigsaws and a circular saw. Folks with actual lathes, CNC routers that could handle hardwood, actual band saws or full sized table saws? Not so much.
> You keep assuming that you need industrial machines that can be used 24/7 to do these things when in reality you don't. You can use hand tools even but those take more time.
No, I don't. A school shop maybe runs the machines for a few hours every other day. It's still expensive.
> I'd call that a professional space since it's used most of the time rather than occasionally.
Okay, well I'd call "$200 on Amazon, a miter saw is $200, drill press is $200, a planer is $500" a professional budget to most people in America, so let's call it even?
Hardware is hard. Best to stick with software based businesses.
Instructables is still resourceful if you don't like consumer product reviews. There are also tons of hacks on YouTube and build logs on forums.
I think a the maker inertia is killed by dwindling creativity, access to equipment and fear of losing out to Chinese competition if you intend on bringing your product to market.
*I could be wrong
"Dwindling creativity" because all these expensive tools are creatively limiting. For example, 3D printing is cool, but, compared to lower-tech methods, it can also be a lot to wrangle. Once upon a time, if you needed to make a part, you'd hand-carve it, or cast a rough version and then finish it. There's very little between you and the act of creation. With 3D printing, you've got to worry about what kinds of shapes your printer can and cannot make, and have to spend a whole bunch of time on CAD, calibration, etc, etc. My own suspicion is that, oftentimes, the thing you're making is just a by-product, an excuse to play with the expensive toy.
"Access to equipment" -- yup. Once upon a time, DIY was about doing things on the cheap, and there was a lot more stuff being done with inexpensive hand tools, many of which could readily be acquired at estate sales and the like. Now you apparently need to blow a typical person's monthly entertainment budget on a makerspace membership in order to get access to laser cutters and CNC lathes.
"Bringing your product to market" just isn't a part of the DIY I originally loved. To me, DIY is a hobby you do for fun, and a creative outlet, not a yet another form of startup incubation.
That said it's also hella not cost effective. I'm in $400 or more, and have only printed a few daily use items. My printed clothes dryer knob has been working great for a few years, and my printed curtain rod brackets are working fine so far this summer. The replacement button I made for my father's CNC lathe is working fine a few years in too. That said, being able to sketch something, bang it out in openscad, and have a part waiting for me on the bed the next morning is pretty magical.
When there is a printer that an "average" person can take from new-in-box to reliably printing Benchys in less than 24hours then consumer 3D printing will have arrived. We aren't there now, and I'm not sure when, if ever, we will be.
A 40W laser cutter costs $300. AD 3D printer costs $300. An oscilloscope cost $500. A crappy CNC is not much more. Hot air rework station is $60. PCBs can be ordered in China for $10.
I buy these things as I need them.
The quality is way lower than what you can find at a maker space, but I don’t need the highest quality for a hobby experiment.
I think there's room in the market for shared workspace, but it has to be done with a for profit model and competent management, maybe renting space like mini storage units do, but with tool leasing and set up to encourage 24/7 access and work (IE, not in a residential neighborhood not zoned for light industry).
I guess the trick is to find the sweet spot in the exhibitors. You need to have plenty of "real Makers", otherwise the Faire loses its spirit, but you also need commercial exhibitors from which you can get "real" money. I remember from last year in Hannover, the big commercial exhibitors were Nintendo (who showcased their Labo stuff), Volkswagen, and Conrad Electronics (big reseller here in Germany). Also, lots of food trucks outside. But all in all, it was still acceptable in my book, and my kid loved it. So I think this can well be done with profit, but I guess that being part of a big technical publishing group also creates lots of synergy which saves cost.
Atleast in my parts, Conrad is a big sponsor of Maker stuff (they profit of the parts, after all, especially makers that don't want to handle customs), so they're fine in my book. From what I know from german makers on youtube and IRL, the fair is pretty decent and well staffed with actual makers.
I can confirm. It has definitely gotten more commercial over the years, and I also wish they would get rid of some stuff that plain weirds me out (don't get me started on the BattleBot arena... also, some of the cosplayers...), but as I said: all in all, it's still OK.
If you use such a definition, a cosplayer who makes their own props and sews their own costumes qualifies for sure.
Some costumes require custom mechanical props. Spiderman's eyes in recent movies have the mechanical-quirk. So reproducing that mechanism in real-life is certainly a Cosplay + Maker thing.
There's a lot of Cosplayers using LED Lights for highly color-accurate "glowing" effects (common for high-end Overwatch Cosplayers). Some cosplayers are just sewing / stiching things (which is fine: that's still a skill), but there are other cosplayers who are putting serious effort into their electronic components of their costumes.
One thing that has historically put me off about the maker community is these artificial distinctions where materials and ways of making things that have historically been considered "girl stuff" get less respect, or sometimes don't even get recognized as making at all.
Now, they probably don't have the capital or wherewithal to start selling electronics now, but a company like Adafruit or Sparkfun should take over the Make mantle and just use it to put out good guides and drive kit sales.
A few years ago the kits were even in every Barnes and Nobel ni the country at Christmas. (And sadly most of them were in the clearance bin in January...)
It mostly only sold kits, drones, 3D printers, stuff like that. Very little in the way of individual parts and tools. Which always struck me as a bit of a problem -- it more-or-less sold a strict subset of the actual DIY stuff that you could get at competing retailers. So maybe they'd sell someone their very first Arduino starter kit, but it must have been really hard to retain repeat customers. Having bought that Arudino kit and completed all the introductory projects, when the time comes to start getting more creative, you're going to have to go somewhere else to buy, say, an LCD display or a fistful of capacitors. And you'd presumably stay there, since there were so few things you could get at Makershed that you couldn't also get somewhere that sells the other stuff you need.
In short, it was kind of a lot like what Radio Shack had become in the end, only even more so.
It's a niche market but 80,000 subscribers and 100,000 attendees in San Mateo alone should be able to keep the lights on.
Of interest an exceptional example of educational community around "maker stuff" funded by a great shop is https://www.adafruit.com/about , a lot of excellent work there!
The gist is: you don't sell many Van de Graaf Generators (the device, not the band:^) kits until you show what happens to the girl's hair when she touches the electrode.
It makes me think that there is room for new non-profits focusing on what people actually wanna do in the various venues as opposed to be a generalist system. I hope someone will compete in this fashion.
Maker Faire will probably be better if it's primarily run by volunteers and has fewer corporate sponsors.