[hackerspaces] Background stats for hackerspace business plan

Jesse Krembs jessekrembs at gmail.com
Mon Jan 6 20:46:00 CET 2014

Hey Alan

Good spreadsheet. How can other hackerspace contribute to make this info
more accurate!

On Wed, Jan 1, 2014 at 2:55 PM, Alan Fay <emptyset at freesideatlanta.org>wrote:

> Shirley,
> I tried to take a stab at understanding the hackerspace market (and its
> potential) in the largest cities, and some other markets in the southeast.
>  I found some interesting data points, but on the whole, I think it was an
> ineffective tool for understanding.  I started with a few questions:
> 1. Can we at least understand if we are under- or over-performing in our
> market, by comparing the membership rate per 1M in comparable urban areas?
>  Intuitively, one would expect for similar urban areas (similar number of
> colleges, similar demographics, similar population) that the hackerspace
> with more members is more effective at capturing the market, so they
> warrant studying.
> 2. What effect does square footage have on membership?  Intuitively,
> larger hackerspaces can support more members.
> 3. What effect does the membership rate have on membership?  Basic
> economics intuition is that all things being equal, the lower price for the
> good will bring more membership.  Intuitively, you can also imagine larger
> urban areas support higher dues, as dues may also be a function of rent.
> I looked at about 13 different hackerspaces (including Freeside), and
> pulled most of my data from hackerspaces.org.  Where possible, I tried to
> verify membership numbers against what hackerspaces self-reported on public
> financials.  My methodology is pretty flawed (I also assume that all
> members pay the highest rate, mostly just to simplify putting the chart
> together); but again, I just wanted data in the general.  Here it is:
> https://docs.google.com/a/freesideatlanta.org/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Am6XR58qPWQkdG5jdzFfZDdJQ0VMTkloNE80UTBYTEE&usp=drive_web#gid=0
> Feel free to email me any updated statistics, or email me statistics for
> your space if you think this is an interesting data set.
> Things I learned or believe as a result of this exercise:
> 1. Membership dues are largely set arbitrarily.  There's no comparable
> "product" other there like a hackerspace, except for maybe co-working space
> - in most cases, the latter is much more expensive.  So, I figure that most
> hackerspaces run to meet rent as a function of membership numbers.  Perhaps
> the rate was set when the hackerspace started with 20-30 members, to meet
> rent/utilities and then some.  There's also little competition between
> hackerspaces in the same urban region, so this does not cause a change in
> rates.
> 2. There is a lot of variance in the membership rate per 1M population.
>  This means that population alone is not a good indicator of membership
> potential.  In practice, we see many hackerspaces that perform well in much
> smaller population areas than some hackerspaces in large urban areas.  So,
> something else is going on.
> 3. The most interesting data was the *density* of a hackerspace (member
> per 1000sqft).  This value had less variance, about 20-25 members per
> 1000sqft.  At Freeside, this meant an upper bound of 120-150 members.  Of
> course, the actual upper bound is probably less - I expect Freeside will
> start to feel pretty crowded at about 100 members.
> To get back to your questions:
> I think it's more instructive to look at demographic data, rather than
> specifically STEM/Engineering presence.  Hackers are generally middle age,
> high income, and college educated.  This is just one piece of the puzzle.
> Location is an odd thing.  Freeside's members are far-flung - we have
> people that drive an hour or more to get to the space.  Of course, that's
> Atlanta, so we might be weird like that with our sprawl, lack of public
> transportation, and dispersed homes and business districts.  In some ways,
> it's a miracle we have the support we do.
> As far as a (non-profit) business plan goes, I see a few trends emerging:
> 1. Makerspaces with a K-12 emphasis;
> 2. On-campus, well-funded, college hackerspaces;
> 3. General Hackerspaces (community, shared and individual projects,
> co-working);
> 4. Niche Hackerspaces (Electronics-only, Metalshop-only, Radio-only, etc.)
> There's also art collectives, but I think the artist market is
> fundamentally separate from the hacker market, even though there's a little
> overlap.
> The Makespace K-12 stuff will be absorbed in more affluent school
> districts, and challenging to setup in less fortunate school districts.
>  That is sad, for something with a lot of buzz about coming to save
> education.  I personally think short-term it'll have the opposite intended
> effect, widening the gap between education haves and have-nots.  It's
> unknown and I feel unlikely we'll ever come together as local, state, and
> national community to reform and overhaul the education system in the US.
> Creating a hackerspace that appeals to college students seems like a big
> risk; the colleges will always have better funding for such ventures.  Take
> a look at Georgia Tech's Invention Studio, for example.  It's a beautiful
> space, lots of cool tools and machines...there's just no way a hackerspace
> with an annual budget of <$100K can compete with a university that can
> throw several million into a space.
> General hackerspaces are here to stay, but niche (interest-specific)
> hackerspaces might draw off members from existing spaces.
> I guess that's a non-answer; what I would say is have a clear picture for
> your business plan to outline how you will build up community, retain it,
> and grow it.  Take the demographics into account, and don't rely on K-12 or
> college students for long-term growth or community building.  Ultimately,
> students are transient, too.  Community trumps all these statistics; a
> strong and dedicated community is needed to draw good leadership from, to
> mange operations effectively, and to ensure that the non-profit continues
> to exist.
> On Wed, Jan 1, 2014 at 9:18 AM, Shirley Hicks <shirley at velochicdesign.com>wrote:
>> Good morning and Happy New Year to all!
>> I'm writing the Birmingham AL Red Mountain Makers non-profit business
>> plan.
>> There are a couple of things I'm having some difficulty finding at this
>> point.
>> Can anyone know of sources for:
>> U.S. engineering and STEM stats by state and city?
>> Does anyone know if these have been used to predict likely hacker or
>> makerspace membership in a given city or metro area?
>> Also, does anyone know of a maximum optimum travel radius for a
>> hackerspace? I'm guessing that
>> most people don't want to travel more that 20 minutes, max 1/2 hour to
>> their space.
>> Are there any other stats that you've found useful in your business plans?
>> Thanks in advance,
>> Shirley Hicks
>> redmtnadmin at redmountainmakers.org
>> shirley at velochicdesign.com
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Jesse Krembs
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