[hackerspaces] what is your opinion about the closing of 3rd ward?

john lunger justj1915 at yahoo.com
Mon Oct 14 23:41:08 CEST 2013

My opinion:
 We are planning to start a new hackerspace in Hayward, CA. 
I can't tell you how many people kept coming to me to NOT make it a 501c3. I am not sure what their issue was but I had to reiterate that it was NOT going to be for-profit. 
One guy started yelling at me and saying that I need to make him some head chief of marketing or promotions and it has to be some kind of LLC or whatever. It was crazy. 

Anyways, lots of people just don't get it and see it as a money making machine which is not the case. Is it just plain greed? 

I am worried in the sense that I hope it never bankrupts us but don;t plan to grow big too soon. I want to take things slow and easy and one step at a time. I want to be sure that it can be sustainable. Ideas to prevent this?


On Monday, October 14, 2013 10:35 AM, William Macfarlane <wmacfarl at gmail.com> wrote:
Right, and 3rd Ward's mistake is probably not that they discontinued an unsustainable membership practice (obviously unsustainable practices need to be discontinued or modified), it's that they did so with little-to-no explanation and in a way that alienated many members of their community.

A lot of what a co-working space is selling is community (and 3rd Ward was as much co-working space as anything else), so any management decisions that are harmful to the sense of community of the space make the product less desirable.

Running a co-working space as a business is super-duper hard, and probably just a bad idea.  I think it ultimately turns out that there's not a lot of money to be made in shared artist/coworking spaces, since your target market is poor and self-starting and reasonably able to form their own little co-ops that suit their own needs.  

Blending co-working, tool-library, and class-running as various kinds of ways to make money to keep the space running works better, in part because you just get a lot more utility out of your building (different kinds of users using it at different times), but also because it makes the space feel like one big community.  

This is something that Artisan's does well that 3rd Ward (I think) did poorly -- the sense that all of the different kinds of users and members are variously and legitimately part of the community, and all the parts are integrated together.  It's cool to take a class at Artisan's in part because the resources are tremendous and the instructors are good, but it's at least as important that the class is _in Artisan's_, and when you come you get to wander around the space a bit, see lots of fun and interesting people, many of whom are your friends and many of whom you wish were your friends, making really cool things that you wish you knew how to make.

The "take free classes" "pro" membership at 3rd Ward might have been a terrible financial decision, but this sort of option does a few neat things.  It creates a membership tier that means "I'm really super-into this organization", and does so in a way that creates a sense of belonging-and-ownership.  There are some problems with this sense of ownership/entitlement, but I think, at core, the informal "this is my place" sense is really great and important as long as it's connected with "I need to help it keep working."  The other thing that this kind of membership does is it encourages long-time community members to take part in classes, which are frequently the ways that new people get involved.  This is neat because connecting new folks to older folks is the best way to help new folks feel welcome!

I wonder whether a "take free classes" membership policy might be profitably changed into something that fulfills these goals without being an economic disaster.  Something like "if, 1 day before it starts, a class isn't full, then a certain tier of member can take it for free" so that your free class-takers are neither pushing out payers, nor causing lots of extra classes to be run.  This doesn't work for some classes, which will always fill up, but maybe that's okay.

On Mon, Oct 14, 2013 at 10:23 AM, Gui Cavalcanti <gui at artisansasylum.com> wrote:

One interesting piece of information that's pertinent to everyone that came out of this is that they were offering a membership with unlimited classes built into it - and, furthermore, that the removal of this offering after several years is one of the things that got everyone in an uproar. When the asylum offered an unlimited class pass, the members who used it ended up using 2x the price they paid for the pass in a year in payments we had to make to teachers - luckily, we kept the experiment small, and it didn't cause any serious harm. Given that 3rd Ward and the Asylum were of a similar size (programmatically and physically) I can see no possible way such a business plan/offering could've worked out in the long run.
>Navigate such discounts and deals at your own risk, especially as they become standard offerings in your space. 
>Florencia Edwards <floev22 at gmail.com> wrote:
>Managing  a makerspace or hackerspace is soo hard. I think that this happening put the fact out there that its hard and requires subtle work and communication. Before this i thought only our makerspace struggled with money ,prices ,and how to make everyone welcome but not go bankrupt for not charging. This makes me realse we are not alone and that we can learn from this mistakes. 
>El 13/10/2013 20:33, "William Macfarlane" <wmacfarl at gmail.com> escribió:
>Yeah, I guess my question was whether there could be a trick of contract-law that resulted in giving membership refunds priority over other debts.
>>I did forget about personal guarantorage, which is a foolish thing to forget about since I'm the personal guarantor on the line for my space.
>>On Sun, Oct 13, 2013 at 7:24 PM, Arclight <arclight at gmail.com> wrote:
>>There are a few problems with choosing who to pay if you close down. First, it's become common for corporations, including non-profits, to need personal guarantors when they sign leases or pretty much do anything these days as a startup.
>>>Not paying the later rent check might leave your "angels" in a big financial mess. 
>>>Secondly, if you actually need to declare bankruptcy, you absolutely cannot give preferential treatment to anyone. The court decides who will get what share and when, regardless of what you think is equitable. If you accept a preferential payment, you can be forced to give it back later.
>>>And I do agree that not having "the money talk" early and often is the surest way to fail.
>>>Discuss mailing list
>>>Discuss at lists.hackerspaces.org
>>Discuss mailing list
>>Discuss at lists.hackerspaces.org
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>Discuss at lists.hackerspaces.org


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