[hackerspaces] What form of organization does your hackerspace use?

Todd Willey todd at rubidine.com
Tue Oct 6 16:57:05 CEST 2009

On Tue, Oct 6, 2009 at 3:07 AM, Bartosz Kostrzewa <bartek at fastmail.net> wrote:
> Todd Willey wrote:
>  > The Board
>> Our board consists of people from our local chamber of commerce,
>> universities, and higher ups at the local big-name tech companies
>> (Lexmark & HP).  This helps give us the legitimacy we need to raise
>> funds.  The board likes that they are fostering innovation, and see it
>> is an economic development boost, because Lexington loves brains more
>> than zombies do.  The board is glad to help us organize things, find
>> money, and host events, but most ideas come from the membership, where
>> there isn't a set hierarchy.  While the board is going to be a source
>> of some money and resources, we hope the majority will come from other
>> charitable individuals and businesses in the area.
>> The Angels
>> By relying on outside sources we're going to make membership as
>> accessible as possible ($5 / month for students).  The less barriers
>> there are to experimenting the better.  So we developed a board that
>> has some a-list players, joined up with a community foundation to get
>> tax-exemption, and are just now starting to go begging.  I think it
>> will be successful, and free up hackers to hack, and those that are
>> interested enough can take the reins and try to find monies.
> That's an interesting approach, especially the part about freeing up
> members' time for projects!
> Would you care to elaborate how you got companies interested in
> supporting a hackerspace during these times? We've tried contacting
> quite a number for sponsorship but haven't received any replies. Do they
> expect something in return?

Because of my business experience, I've been involved in the local
chamber of commerce, a business owners' association that helps with
business networking and economic development (i.e., training,
recruiting, providing benefits, lobbying lawmakers, etc) for member
businesses.  There has been a high-tech focus for a number of years,
because our local colleges (the best in the state) produce more
competent employees than we can employ locally, so they're always
trying to find ways to build more jobs for them so they don't leave
and we keep smart people in Lexington.  I ended up pitching the idea
to people who were already my peers, instead of cold-calling.

You're absolutely right that they want something in return.  Business
owners often have cultural and charitable motives, but they still need
to know their not just wasting their money.  My basic pitch has been:

* having social ties to a location is an incentive to stay after college
* networking with other hackers will lead to new businesses (like mine)
* Collexion will provide a trained, motivated pool of potential employees
* We're going to participate in events/conferences that will help give
Lexington a good name nationally
* We provide a good interface for similar organizations elsewhere, so
we can see if there are new events we can make happen locally

The important things are:

* get introduced
It is very hard to be listened to, as opposed to barely-tolerated, if
you don't have a solid introduction and recommendation.  The best plan
is to form long-term relationships with give and take on both sides,
so when you ask, you've already been engaged and given your
time/advice to the people you're asking from.

* sell something
Businesses are used to trading capital for resources, so be sure you
have resources to offer.  Collexion didn't form for any reason other
than to hack, but the emergent properties I make my pitch from are
true nonetheless.  Business development is mostly important to donors,
but cultural growth/engagement is important to both donors and
members.  The way we talk to potential members is not at all the same
as how we talk to potential donors.

* lead by example
The fact I own a business and have the same priorities has helped
immensely.  There are a number of other telecommuters and independent
professionals in our membership as well.  Find people who exemplify
something you're selling to the businesses and take them with you.
Show off any work you've done for charity, or how people have found
employment through your group.  Trust is more easy to gain when you
have a common background or interest, and trust is crucial for

I hope this helps.  Good luck!

> Cheers!
> -Bartek
> --
> syn2cat - hackerspace.lu
> 11, rue du Cimetière
> "Am Hueflach" - Strassen
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