The information presented below to the reader is a compilation of information about TechShop from several published resources and attempted to be conveniently summarized into a digestible brief.
What is TechShop?
Founded by Jim Newton and first established in 2006 in the Silicon Valley of California, TechShop is arguably the leading archetype of the movement to create “Maker Space” locations. These spaces are dedicated to enabling and supporting those individuals or groups interested in inventing/creating, and for those pursuing their business goals. Furthermore, TechShop provides a number of services to its community partners, such as training and workshops. They understand the importance of creating not just a workspace but a place for gathering of the “makers” of society, where in social capital is one of its keen assets, and it reflected in their daily practices. These services are provided at a staggering low cost for yearly membership. Characteristic of each TechShop location and embodying the foundation of its beliefs, hangs a sign with their central concept, “Build your dreams here.”
Officially TechShop is described as: “a membership-based, open-access DIY workshop, equipped with professional-quality laser cutters, 3D printers, sewing machines, and metal and woodworking tools, making it easy for people to give form to their ideas. It also acts as an innovation hub, bringing together companies, ranging from startups to major corporations, as well as entrepreneurs, creators, students, investors, and local communities to engage and interact.”
Through a number of business partnerships, TechShop has spread to various locations not just locally but globally. Through a series of trial and error they have developed their own particular procedure and standards to establish different branch locations. These are over headed by their headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
The Key to TechShop’s Success
TechShop’s CEO, Mark Hatch, wrote a book titled The Maker Movement Manifesto: Rules for Innovation in the New World of Crafters, Hackers, and Tinkerers, in which he goes about describing the process of establishing a Makerspace and the environment that supported the Maker movement as well as the roles big businesses played in its success. CEO Hatch has been very public about his ambitions for expansion in both in North America and abroad noting that he does not feel overly worried about competitors because of the steep cost of capital necessary for the establishment of and the maintained functioning of these makerspaces.
The minimum baseline for profits and for a community to be established was later marked at 500 paying members at each TechShop location. TechShop works under the design that it is the community that brings life and purpose into the space and it is at 500 members that “magic will be created in the community,” comments CEO Hatch. The establishment takes on the cost that the membership does not, as “the price point is as low as 125 dollars a month.” It costs anywhere from 2.5 Million 3.5 Million to open one location.
Through partnerships with large businesses, TechShop has been able to compensate for that heavy financial weight it overtakes for its members. For example, in Detroit, Michigan they partnered with Ford the automobile manufacturer. In Austin, Texas, they partnered with Lowe’s (a billion dollar company that sells home improvement and appliances in North America) giving their employees a free membership. In Arlington, Texas, they worked with the Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Bureau (an agency of the US Department of Defense for the development of technology for national security). In Munich, Germany they planned to ally themselves with BMW and in Dublin, Ireland with a private university.
Through failed attempts at establishing franchise locations in Raleigh/Durham in Portland, Oregon, and in North Carolina, among other locations TechShop decided that it would no longer license franchises rather grow its own branches instead. In both the previously mentioned locations the administration learned that location was as important as anything else in ensuring its success.
Locations for these makerspaces had to be in urban areas, where restaurants, places of gathering and convenient transportation were available to the members. TechShop has some other unique characteristics that set it above the competition such as its relatively small space. Other makerspaces tend to be zoned in areas of manufacturing or factory zones because of the machinery and safety. TechShop is not limited to these zones because of its structure, making the locations more adaptable for the busy urban areas and more accessible to the market.
Due to mistakes in Portland, TechShop learned that all equipment for any new locations would by necessity have to be new. This allowed for a standardization of training, safety procedures, repair and uniformity for members to know how to use available equipment at every location. John Taylor who is responsible for nationwide development, realized that there needed to be a standardized list for equipment and struggled with making the list because of the many variables that came with establishing in a different setting with different space.
Hatch has stated that with the automatization of manufacturing, their locations will become one of the world’s largest distributed manufacturing enterprises through its growing network of TechShop locations.
TechShop in Asia
In 2014, Fujitsu Limited Inc. (a premier Japanese global information and communication technology company), partnered with TechShop with the goal of establishing one of its famous Makerspaces in Tokyo, Japan where Fujitsu is headquartered. On October 1, 2015 Fujitsu announced the establishment of TechShop Japan Limited and that the first TechShop location in Asia would be opened by 2016 in the Ark Mori Building, Minatoku Tokyo. Currently, TechShop practices the largest membership model in Japan with more than 700 members from large corporations, startups, students, and creative individuals. Fujitsu recognized the potential TechShop had in becoming a source to recruit from, as Japan is faced with the challenge of a smaller labor force and an ageing demographic. Women have become an even greater part of the workforce then. Even in its initial opening, TechShop boated to have an approximate 30% female demographic in its membership pool. Since its opening in 2016, TechShop Japan has since provided services and workshops to over 3,000 visitors as well as boasting some of the most sophisticated machines in any Makerspace “anywhere in the world.” Only just this May, Fujitsu announced TechShop Limited its subsidiary would work with \QUANTUM Inc. (a subsidiary of TBWA/HAKUHDO Inc. to increase customer base, expand programs and services to all its members and create new business opportunities for the DIY membership workshop in Tokyo’s TechShop.
Through partnerships like the one fostered with Fujitsu, TechShop has found a way to expand and meet the need of communities to bring the tools to grow, support, and expand great ideas in order to “build dreams” through its makerspaces. They are bringing supply to the demand and it’s proving to be an invaluable asset.
"Japan | TechShopのそれほど秘密でもない秘密." Make. Make: Japan, 05 Aug. 2014. Web. 13 July 2017.
"Fujitsu and TechShop Establish TechShop Japan, a Member-Based, Open-Access Workshop for DIY." Fujitsu and TechShop Establish TechShop Japan, a Member-Based, Open-Access Workshop for DIY - Fujitsu Global. Fujitsu, 1 Oct. 2017. Web. 10 June 2017.
"Fujitsu Subsidiary TechShop Japan Enhances Programs to Accelerate Maker Movement." Fujitsu Subsidiary TechShop Japan Enhances Programs to Accelerate Maker Movement - Fujitsu Global. Fujitsu, 24 May 2017. Web. 10 June 2017.
Nicole. "TechShop Japan: Tokyo's Latest High Tech Maker Space." Mobile Geeks. Mobile Geeks, 23 May 2016. Web. 10 June 2017.