TechShop CEO Offers a Manifesto for the Maker Movement

“I’m a trained revolutionary, in a sense,” says Mark Hatch, a Green Beret turned innovator and author of the recently published The Maker Movement Manifesto: Rules for Innovation in the New World of Crafters, Hackers, and Tinkerers.

As CEO of TechShop, a membership-based do-it-yourself fabrication studio founded by serial entrepreneur Jim Newton, Hatch (pictured) has helped open six locations nationwide. Members pay $125 a month for access to digital tools and machines to design, develop, and launch products.

Before joining TechShop, Hatch did a five-year tour at Kinko’s headquarters as its director of computer services. By 2006, he was ready for a change. “I ran into Jim at a software party in [Silicon Valley] and overheard him say, ‘It’s kind of like Kinko’s for geeks.’ I cornered him, because in a sense I represent Kinko’s for geeks,” Hatch recalls.

Shortly after Hatch visited the first — and at the time only — TechShop location, in Menlo Park, Calif., he was on board. “It was one of those moments, kind of mind-blowing,” he says. “When I had three entrepreneurs tell me they had saved 90 percent of their development costs [by] coming to TechShop, it became very clear to me that I was standing in an environment that literally represented the future.”

The Intuit Small Business Blog recently caught up with Hatch to talk about his book, TechShop’s methodology, and the importance of innovation.

ISBB: Why did you choose Chandler, Ariz., for the newest TechShop location?

Hatch: It’s the sixth-largest metro area in the U.S., and it’s got a very high engineering concentration with the universities there, plus Intel and General Dynamics and Boeing. An eighth TechShop will open at the end of Q1 2014 in Crystal City/Arlington, Va.

What industries use TechShop?

It’s all over the map, such as the world’s fastest electric motorcycle (by Lightning Motorcycles). They just beat all of the motorcycle competitors — all the electric and natural gas brands — in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

One of my favorite projects is a portable desk lamp that looks like a book. You pull it out of its beautiful sleeve, and it fans out into this beautiful glowing lamp. It’s called Lumio. Max Gunawan was a fixtures designer at the Gap and making brackets and wall hangings, but he wanted to open his own business. He took some soldering classes and put in an LED. He did a Kickstarter campaign to get rolling. He was looking for $60,000 and he raised [more than] $575,000.

What inspired you to write this book?

We’re still in the early days of the movement. There’s a huge potential impact in education and economic development and open innovation for large, major companies and institutions. Somebody needed to capture the gestalt of the movement and boil it down to present it in a compelling way, so that readers in these areas, as well as participants, would get a feel for what’s going on and why and want to participate.

In the book, I make a call for individuals to get engaged. It’s a personal revolution as much as it is a national revolution. I am [at] ground zero and in the middle on a daily basis. I was in a good place to capture it.

What are you looking for in a TechShop location?

Good music! We opened in Detroit, [where the] music scene is phenomenal. Pittsburgh actually has a very good, vibrant music scene. We use Richard Florida’s book The Rise of the Creative Class and a slightly modified version of his ranking. Our secondary methodology is when a major partner calls and says, “I want to help fund a location in my city”; they jump to the front of the queue. In Florida’s book, Detroit was number 28 or 29, but when Ford Motor Co. called to say “we want to sponsor an open-innovation center,” … we collaborated and opened TechShop in Detroit. It’s a 40,000-square-foot  center. It’s helped them shift their culture internally to be open to outside ideas. They’ve seen a 50 percent increase in high-quality, patentable ideas.

What is the environment like at TechShop?

On a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night, it’s the most creative space in San Francisco. The dopamine floating around in that building is just amazing. We’ll have students from UC-Berkeley, UC-San Francisco, and Stanford, as well as the arts center down the street. We’ll have professors from all of those as well. We’ll have designers and engineers from Levi’s, Gap, and Macy’s and top global design companies. We’ll also have artists who are doing major installations or preparing for Burning Man.

How would the climate for small-business startups be better if every community had a TechShop?

We’re going to see an explosion in innovation, creativity, and new product ideas. It’s clear to me that every decent-sized community around the world is going to have places like this. The economics are too compelling: When you give the creative class access to the tools of the Industrial Revolution, they can’t help themselves; they will change the world.

And they already have. We have people who have moved to the [San Francisco] Bay Area or moved from other parts of the U.S. to Austin, Texas, so they can gain access. Everybody has an idea. Now that you can model it and produce it for a hundred bucks, it changes everything.

About Kristine Hansen

A Wisconsin-based freelance writer, Kristine Hansen contributes business stories to many food and drink trade journals, as well as CNN.com, and blogs about mindful travel at Psychology Today. She also dishes out advice for writers at The Writer Magazine about running a successful writing business.
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