Why do we need makerspaces
We believe that all people see opportunities to improve their world. From the person who envisions a new way to save premature infants, to the artisan with an ETSY store, to the person making a mini free library for their front lawn, to the person who makes cool ornaments for their own Christmas tree. All these people see something they would like to make to improve the world. We know that today many of these people lack the tools, the space, and the training to bring these improvements into the world. A makerspace is the place where people come to do all this.
The California Community College system has a very interesting initiative to create makerspaces throughout the state. Their website has several papers on their overall strategy, each with some well articulated information on why the country needs makerspaces. An excerpt from The Makerspace Startup Guide:
The problem our economy is currently facing is a lack of eligible employees for “middle-skills” jobs, ones that require advanced training but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree. According to the National Skills Coalition, in the next five years, middle-skill jobs will dominate nearly half the employment market. In this digital age, technological advancements across sectors continue to create jobs that require very specific skill sets, but many of our educational institutions are not evolving fast enough to meet this need.
How Do Makerspaces Help the economy?
All businesses start somewhere. It used to be in a garage, the way Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard did. But in today's world there are not as many garages equipped to make things. And the very nature of what can be made has changed. In the old days equipment for making prototypes was expensive and hard to come by unless you were a $10 million business. Today that equipment is still too expensive for a personal garage, but it is cheap enough that a group of friends could buy it to share. This is where makerspaces come in.
So many great ideas have been realized in makerspaces. Some ideas have improved the life of one person, others have improved the local community, a few have changed the world. Makerspaces act as incubators for innovation. Being multi-disciplinary, a makerspace fosters the kind of broad, creative thinking that generates new economic value in the community. A number of businesses have been able to start because they had a local makerspace. On one end of the scale is Square - a billion dollar company that used a makerspace to prototype their first product and used that to raise venture capital. On the other end is HasBags, a sole proprietor selling unique handbags and other leather goods at local art festivals.
The commonality is that all these business founders had a place where their own sweat could be used to make, test, innovate, and iterate until they had a product that worked. A local makerspace in your community can light the fire of innovation and economic development.
Here are some real world stories of companies that started in a makerspace. If you know more about one of these stories, please add to the text, or email us and we will do it for you. Perhaps you know of another company? Add it!
A mobile payment device and app that revolutionized the transfer of money for merchants and private persons. The first prototype device was created on an injection molding machine at a makerspace. Square
Now a $3B company.
When they started out they had an idea: let everyone who sells thing be able to take credit cards. In the old days it cost a lot. You had to sign up a merchant bank, get a bulky credit card reader or one of those ancient slide things. Why couldn't everyone easy sign up to take a credit card?
The founders shopped the idea around but VCs just didn't get it. Or they couldn't see it. So the founders joined a makerspace. They took classes for the injection mold machine and the Tormach to make the mold. They sweated it out themselves to create a prototype.
They made a little mag stripe reader that plugged into the earphone/microphone jack on an iPhone. The reader converted the magnetic stripe encoding to audio tones. An app on the phone listened to those tones and converted them into the characters on the card. The app was just a fake one that would display the credit card stripe information and say, "thanks for your payment." After several months it was done.
Now the founders went to VCs with a working card reader. When they made the pitch they asked the VC for their credit card. They swiped the card and the app said, "thanks for your purchase." Now the light bulb went off and the VCs could see the power of this new solution. Something that would disrupt the whole industry.
Square was born at a makerspace.
High performance, origami folding kayaks for all types of paddlers. Oru kayaks are easy to transport and store, letting you explore like never before. Many prototypes were created at a makerspace according to Anton Willis, founder. Anton says they were able to move faster and make a better product because of the access to sophisticated tools at TechShop. Oru Kayak
An India based social enterprise that develops disruptive healthcare technologies focused on reducing infant and maternal deaths in emerging markets. The team developed a blanket that is used to keep premature infants warm for several hours while they are transported to a facility with an infant incubator. The team developed prototypes in a makerspace and the chance interaction with another maker member led to the selection of a high performance polymer to fill the blanket. Embrace Innovations
As told to me by Raffi Colett:
Some Stanford students had taken a social good class. They identified a serious need. When a baby is born prematurely they need to get to an incubator quickly. In rural areas, especially in undeveloped countries, the nearest incubator can be hours away. These students developed a concept to create a blanket filled with some heat holding material that could be wrapped around a premature infant while it was transported to an incubator.
These students were working at TSMP to develop a prototype. They were puzzled over what would be the best material to use. It just happened that a polymer engineer was working on his own project at TSMP and overheard their conversation. He offered his expertise on the correct material to use. It worked.
The Embrace blanket is now used in rural India to save lives.
A body fat measurement and fitness assessment system using a whole body 3D scanner. The scan allows body shape measurement and visualization. Developed in a makerspace.
An athlete could take a series of scans over time to see improvement in targeted areas. One could even compare their body shape to that of an idealized version of a person in their sport.
The prototype was done at TSMP when it was in San Carlos. Jim Schrempp remembers Raffie Collet and his wife were both scanned one day. Fit3D
An electric longboard for commuters. Revolutionizing the personal transportation sector. A skate boarder had a vision to change the world of personal transportation. Working on prototypes at a makerspace, he created the Boosted Board. A battery powered "long board" that can travel up to 10 miles at 30 mph on a single charge. Boosted Boards
It broke records with its Kickstarter campaign, but the prototype was made at a makerspace. Pebble Eventually was sold to FitBit.
Foldable, personal electric transportation.
URB-E noticed a problem - cities becoming more and more crowded with inefficient transit options. Infrastructure doesn't change overnight, so they designed a vehicle that saves people space, time and money and sets them up for success in a changing world. URB-E
Did a lot of prototyping and development at makerspace Urban Workshop.
A desk light that unfolds from a book. The prototypes were made at a local makerspace according to Max Gunawan, Founder and creator. Lumio
A novel bamboo case for the iPad. Just 5 months after a prototype was made at a makerspace, Dodocase reached $1M in sales. President Obama had one. Dodo Case
According to co-founder Patrick Buckley, "TechShop was key for us to scale as quickly as we did as a business. With the iPad coming out we wanted to make a case and the only way to do that as quickly as we did was with access to tools at [a makerspace] ... I was able to learn the equipment and tweak the process before I ever had to buy my first piece of equipment."
"Resembling a Moleskin notebook, the DODO case has exploded in popularity since debuting alongside the iPad in April 2010. Within a month, orders spiked from 10 to 900 a day. Retailers like J. Crew carry them, and President Obama keeps one on his desk.
DODOcase hasn't always had a big robot room. Or its own bookbindery. Or 25 full-time employees. When Buckley and co-founders Craig Dalton and Mark Manning started the company, it seemed more like a hobby than an assembly line. They cut bamboo on routers at their local makerspace, outsourced covers to a local bookbinder, and assembled the cases in Buckley's basement. Three years later, DODOcase has grown into a model of success for a new breed of small-scale manufacturers."
MakerBot Industries, LLC is an American desktop 3D printer manufacturer company headquartered in New York City. It was founded in January 2009 by Bre Pettis, Adam Mayer, and Zach "Hoeken" Smith to build on the early progress of the RepRap Project. It was acquired by Stratasys in June 2013. Makerbot
Makerbot started at NYC Resistor hackerspace.
Type A Machines
A 3D printer company.
Andrew Bailey, CTO, said, "The Series 1 ... was built in San Francisco right inside TechShop." Without TechShop "Type A Machines would never have come to fruition."
The company is based on Arduino classes Stephane Come, founder, had been teaching youth at a makerspace.
These internet enabled lamps let people stay connected while physically apart. Reported that early work was done in a makerspace. Friendship Lamps
Thoughtfully Curated Highly Absorbent Functional Modern Dish Towels Sustainably Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles. Started in a makerspace during the COVID pandemic. Render Goods As featured on Good Morning America!
A phone charger designed for a golf cart. It comes with a number of adapters to fit different carts. Gimme Charge.
Co-Founder & VP Tyler Back can be seen working on a new product at a makerspace laser cutter.
Like a flight training simulator, but for fork lift drivers. Forklift Simulator
8 Bit Lit
The videogame inspired, interactive lamp for your inner geek, gamer, and child. The lamp is touch sensitive, and turns on and off by tapping the bottom. It also makes fun 8-bit sounds! 8 Bit Lit
Adam Ellsworth, founder, is seen demoing a lamp in a makerspace.
Make and sell Ebike Conversion Kits and uns out of the Benicia Makerspace
Wild Child Customs
Metal fabrications and custom coatings shop that was established in 2018 by Chris & Jolynn Polley. Started in the Open Works Baltimore makerspace.
Via its low-cost technology and expert team of marine scientists, helps improve aquaculture farmers’ livelihoods while improving global food security and sustainability of marine environments. Non-invasive technology allows shrimp farmers to know instantly how many shrimp they have in their ponds and their biomass, allowing them to optimize their harvests and livelihoods. Member of the Open Works Baltimore makerspace.
Handmade bags of unique design. Often with laser cut panels. Used to develop and produce her products at a makerspace. Has Bags
Robbie Cuthbert Furniture
Robbie was an active maker at a local makerspace. His beautiful wooden furniture inspired many people. Robby Cuthbert
Katie Jackson Furniture
Katie Jackson was a cabinet maker who worked out of TSMP for a while making furniture out of reclaimed wood with a friend, Lila, that she met out here. Katie then moved back to Connecticut and is active in makerspaces back there. She published a book with plans for hand built outdoor furniture. Katie Jackson Woodworks
Evil Evil Guitars
Evil Evil is a boutique luthiery studio that produces a distinct line of electric instruments that encapsulate the convergence between classic and experimental instrument design. Member of Open Works Baltimore.
Intricate art work requiring specialized tools which he used at TechShop. Gyre and a group of fellow artists, including Laura Gyre, his wife and artistic partner, decided to share memberships. Then, when TechShop closed and filed for bankruptcy in late 2017, the artists of Naked Geometry acquired and refurbished their own studio space in Lawrenceville. Naked Geometry
Read about them in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette
Bird of Virtue
Mid-century modern jewelry for men + women. Handcrafted in the USA out of American hardwoods + cast acrylics. Bird of Virtue.
Linnea Oliver, founder, says that a lot of the products are made on a laser cutter at a makerspace.
He was a board game geek who was tired of the Settlers of Catan tiles moving all over the place. Working with his brother, a number of prototypes were cut on the ShopBot at a local makerspace. After refining the concept they moved to a laser cutter based design that was more precise and easier to manufacture. He now sells game boards, accessories, and model train items around the world. Prawn Designs
Single Carrot Theater
A guy with an idea designs a laser cut holder for sandwich bags. He puts it on Etsy and it becomes a fabulous success.
A crank-handle charging case for the iPhone 6. GetAMPWARE on Facebook Created in Urban Workshop makerspace.
Positive Image Products
We sometimes get a list of companies. We put them here until we have a chance to write a little blurb about them above.
Started at Dallas Makerspace
Started at Center of Gravity
- Vital Vio
- Evocative - Mycelium fungus based packaging
Started at Red Mountain Makerspace
- Conserve -  - Environmental monitoring tools to make sense of environmental data and to prevent damage to collections.
Started at Tampa Hackerspace
- Miles Space
- Tampa Deep Sea Explorers
- Intention Technology
Members of Open Works Baltimore
A touch of Gracye, jewelry
Afro Threads, apparel
Baltimore Bolts, robotics
Cheddar Certified Creations, metal fabrication
Dent Education, youth education and entrepreneurship program
Drama Mama Bookshop, bookmaking
And so many more. Contact Open Works Baltimore for more references.
Started at BioCurious
- 9th Dimension Biotech, Inc. salt and drought resistant olive plants engineered for sustainability.
- Alexcel Industries LLC
- Amid Biosciences 
- Apheleia Diagnostics --> [Now Mammoth Diagnostics: http://www.mammothdiagnostics.com/]
- Ariviya: 
- Aromatix Inc
- BillionToOne: 
- Boolean Biotech: 
- CAGE Biosciences
- Chronomed Inc.: 
- Esper Therapeutics, Inc.: 
- Etalon Diagnostics: 
- Ex Technology LLC
- Folia water: 
- Microsynbiotix: 
- Nernst Engineering: 
- Pegware: 
- Proxeom: 
- Quantgene Inc.: 
- SE3D: 
- The ODIN: 
- The Space Research: Company 
- Troner Technologies
- Vision Infinitas
- X Gen: 
- Xpedite Pharma Solutions: 
Interesting articles about the impact of makerspaces.
- How Makerspaces Help Local Economies; The Atlantic
- Makerspaces The 'LEGO' of Startups; Entrepreur.com
- Makerspaces Are Making Better Businesses; Makerspaces.com
- How Makerspaces are Inspiring Innovation at Startups; Forbes
Job Up Skill
When a popular for-profit makerspace went bankrupt, the staff was left without jobs. Yet, the very day the shop in Redwood City, California closed a local businessman walked in saying "I'm looking for laser cutter operators;" three people went to work there. The ex-employees across the country formed a private Facebook group to share their grief over losing their jobs, and to help each other out with leads.
It turned out that these employees were sought after by other companies. They had the hands-on, I-can-do-anything attitude that employers look for. Coupled with the extensive hands on work they did as employees of the makerspace, these were great hires for all kinds of businesses. In just a few months the private Facebook group wound down as these ex-employees took jobs that were often more exciting and better paying than the one they lost.
The bottom line is that working for a makerspace can increase a person's skills and future job prospects.