5 Things Accelerators and Co-Working spaces can learn from a Makerspace and one they can learn from them.
The human race has always been making; we’ve harnessed fire, created the wheel and shaped the world around us. We’ve changed each others lives for the better with technology. What is being called the maker movement is no exception. Makerspaces and Hackerspaces have existed since the early 2000’s and aim to change the status quo. These spaces are where technologies becomes bridged and new things are created. Some makers move on to create their own business and work out of incubators and co-working spaces. This doesn’t represent all types of spaces, but here are five things that accelerators and co-working spaces can learn from makerspaces and one thing that makerspaces can learn from them.
Culture and Inclusivity
Many accelerators and co-working spaces I’ve seen have fairly closed ecosystems. You also may not be privileged enough to even get into one. Many people in co-working spaces work on their own projects and don’t share or collaborate with one another. Makerspaces lower the barrier for entry by providing lower cost memberships. They also push for collaboration between different individuals and orgs. Together they help level up each other. This results in more work being done as well as friendships being made during those late work nights.
Makerspaces host a slew of events. They promote lifelong learning by having weekly talks, meetups, classes and more. Many of these events are advertised and open to the public. They bring in an interesting group of individuals and new members into the makerspace. I’ve seen classes that consist of everything from soldering, woodworking, programming, liquid nitrogen ice cream socials, and even intros to new languages. I’ve seen a lot of co-working spaces produce events that focus on business. My recommendation is host a few events that are not in the wheelhouse of your co-working space.
Tooling & Training
Makerspaces have the tools and knowledge you need to create anything. Many co-working spaces and incubators do not have the tooling in-house. This causes extra stress for the company or individual. It often also results in longer lead times and a higher costs in the prototyping process. Time is money. Being able to create a working prototype in a few days can be a game changer for many companies. If you can partner with a makerspace and negotiate access to that tooling, it’s a win-win for all.
Proper training on tooling is just as essential as the tools themselves. It not only keeps you safe, it keeps the tools lasting for a long time. Makerspaces require you to get proper training on the tools. Additionally, members help other members learn skills. For instance someone that is an electronic engineer helps another member who is a seamstresses learn how to solder or create a circuit board.
Many makerspaces run on grass roots style campaigns due to small budgets. This includes flyering and physically reaching out to the community at large, but also includes electronic media such as facebook, twitter, instagram and others. For co-working spaces, if you know someone who can successfully implement a grass root campaign, stop reading this and hire them immediately.
This one is a double edged sword. The majority of makerspaces operate on a small tight budget with no paid employees. This forces them to build a community of people who want to help and volunteer their time to make the space a success. With many accelerators and co-working spaces, there are employees that receive a paycheck. Having someone focusing full time on the project can be beneficial but can also stifle community. You need to walk a fine line on this one.
As for the members benefits, a person or company can grow out of a makerspace or co-working space organically where on the other hand accelerators have a set time you can be there. As many of us know having a deadline sometimes is not a bad thing. Accelerators often give you capital which is a crucial thing to start a business. But also not selling your company after it’s IPO and having a lifestyle business is option as well. You really need to think about what works best for you in this category.
Makerspaces do a great job pulling together a space, community, tooling, events, and class materials. Many makerspaces spaces lack other shared resources. Lawyers, grant writers, intern opportunities, etc.
I’ve seen and have worked with successful models ranging from schools, for-profits, and non-profits. I’ve also seen successful hybrids between co-working, accelerators, and makerspaces that have a great ecosystem. Each part feeds off and grows with each other. Before you start or join a space, remember, every community is different and you need to think what works best for you and them.
If you haven’t already started the search, find resources and your closest makerspace though Nation of Makers http://nationofmakers.us and the Ananse Group. https://nationofmakers.us/resources/ananse-group