[hackerspaces] Background stats for hackerspace business plan

Alan Fay emptyset at freesideatlanta.org
Mon Jan 6 20:59:59 CET 2014


Just send me your figures!  I'm keeping the spreadsheet just read-only, so
as not to lose data.  If we want to migrate this to a wiki page on
hackerspaces.org so we can track and revert changes, I'm all for it.


On Mon, Jan 6, 2014 at 2:46 PM, Jesse Krembs <jessekrembs at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> Discuss mailing list
>>> Discuss at lists.hackerspaces.org
>>> http://lists.hackerspaces.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss
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> --
> Jesse Krembs
> 802.233.7051
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