[hackerspaces] New Hackerspace Encouragement - What are your humble roots that got your space off the ground?

Charlie X Wallace charlie at finitemonkeys.com
Wed Oct 12 20:30:54 CEST 2011

nullspace labs los angeles.

One guy picked a business model for the space and found the location. Had enough reserve cash to pay rent as a buffer, have core members willing to pay a keyholder fee each month, offer cheaper memberships and free use to others. It is important to have long term plan and a few people who can see that thru. Most of the other members knew each other from LA2600/defcon/layerOne etc so that made it easier to find the right people.

Our space is a little different to some of the others I’ve been too, and more in common with the European spaces that I grew up with and we’re definitely more hacker than maker orientated. So far we’ve pretty much had a polar/absolute split in the types of people who’ll come back. Which is good thing for us since it makes it easier for people to choose and put their time and hard earned cash into the right project/place. 

We allow non paying members for people who just can’t afford it and we don’t limit where they can go or what they can do.  We run classes, don’t charge for them and if we can we will subsidise component costs. NSL is not a non profit, we’re all for profit but just want to cover rent + overheads and buy cool stuff from time to time.

Tuesdays are our official day for general public, since people seem to need that sort of of thing.

Well stocked equipment and component wise, careful buying from ebay and craiglist as well as member donations, so we have lots of soldering irons (20 + metcals), a pick and place machine that we reverse engineered and rewrote the software for), scopes, signal generators, logic analysers, two pcb mills, laser cutter in progress, mini lathe, lots of tools, projectors, screens, party lighting, and lots of development boards for cpus, fpga’s cplds etc. Our component stocks are bordering on insanity, we often get members of other spaces swinging by to find parts or use equipment.

NSL tends to focus more on individual or small group projects and encourage people to try their own rather than jump in a group project, but we do have a bunch of kits and stuff we did inhouse for people to build as simple introductions, starting off with the basic blinky led kits up to complex ARM devboards. 

Classes are things like pic programming, lockpick, malware analysis, cadsoft eagle etc that sort of thing.

We’re big on people using the space and resources to start their own companies or products too.

A varied approach such as use of advertising or how we appear as a space to people and see what fits best, simple things like whether or not we announce the Tuesday meeting, blogging, how we approach new people that come in.

We don’t push for new members, since the core keyholders cover the rent. It’s appreciated when people do sign up as members though , that also makes sure we can manage the size of the space and what is available to whom, currently we are doing a small reorg so that there is a dedicated area for public projects as currently it tends towards members having their own spot. 


From: Deech 
Sent: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 8:10 AM
To: Hackerspaces General Discussion List 
Subject: [hackerspaces] New Hackerspace Encouragement - What are your humble roots that got your space off the ground?

I looked back and found a few spaces mentioning this here and there, but nowhere did I see a thread just for it... 

So, we see new spaces springing up pretty frequently and posts from folks saying "How did you do it??". I'm thinking in this thread let's point out the humble origins and let new spaces know that they are not unique in their problems! 

I'll start, but I'm sure other AR folks can chime in with more details. 

First, we are Arch Reactor in St. Louis. We currently have about 2400 square feet in an awesome building in the southern part of town. Our membership varies, but we have about 29 full dues paying members and anywhere from 3-15 supporting dues paying members on any given month. (our dues are $30/month and $10/month respectively)
We have a lots of tools, tables and workspaces. A projector, mame cabs, laser cutter (in progress), 3d printer, cnc routing table, micro-lathe and a bunch of other great stuff. By most standards, reasonably successful so far. 

However, we started from typical humble beginnings. The first group (I wasn't a part of) met in the food court at a local Pizza World. They numbered around 8. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth over what the hackerspace should be (grey hat or white hat), if there should be dues or not, etc. etc. Money was collected in a coffee can each week. 
That group finally split up over ideological grounds and they fell back to about 3-4 people still talking about it. That's about where I came in. A member that maintained apartments had an empty one that we were able to meet in for a little while. In the end, we only had 5 core members who decided to bite the bullet and agree to split the $500 a month rent for the first year to get off the ground. It was a gamble that paid off, because once we had an actual space, we gained members so rapidly we outgrew our first space in about 5 months. 

The rest was the easy part. We had enough members to pay the increased rent for a new space, moved there, and kept pulling in new members as fast as we could. We currently pretty much break even on the rent and bills, mainly because we charge such low dues, but we're making it work. 

So, how did your space get off the ground? 


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