I just want to start this post by telling you that you have to watch this video. The whole thing. It’s worth it.
For the price of a good, big city gym membership, you can join one of the growing number of TechShops, which are super-outfitted workshops that are essentially a playground for creativity. You’ll learn, create and work alongside entrepreneurs, university professors, new hobbyists, teens, seniors and in-between — anyone who has a desire or need to make things the things they dream up.
A TechShop membership of only about $125/month gives you access to over a million of dollars of equipment, such as 3D printers, CNCs, laser cutters, welders, waterjet cutters, a machine shop, wood shop, metal shop, and textile department. That’s just the hardware — you’ll also have access to design software like the entire Autodesk Design Suite. Beyond hardware and software, you’ve got access to tons of free and inexpensive classes and events. You don’t even have to be a member to attend. To give you an idea of the schedule, in the San Francisco Tech Shop they gave about 150 classes last month.
There are TechShops in seven cities now: Menlo Park, San Francisco, CA, San Jose, CA, Raleigh, NC, Allen Park, MI, Rockland, TX, and Pittsburgh, PA. Three more are in planning, in Chandler, AZ, Washington, DC, and Brooklyn, NY.
So why is this 66 minute video, shot in TechShop San Francisco, so worth watching? Blogger, technical evangelist, and author Robert Scoble, who does the interview, considers TechShop “the most important startup to the United States’ manufacturing industry.” You’ll be fascinated as he spends an hour with TechShop CEO Mark Hatch, as he learns about TechShop and meets some interesting members along the way who call TechShop home to their startups (like Emotimo, Type A Machines, SF Made, ProtoTank). Personally, I’d never been to a TechShop, and the magnitude of the facility blew me away.
To give you an idea of how powerful a TechShop can be to someone with an idea, someone that perhaps has no related maker experience, here’s Hatch on just one of the success stories. Pointing to a CNC machine, he says “There where’s Patrick Buckley got started. He was in Menlo Park. He came in and asked what classes do I need to take to learn how to make an iPad case out of bamboo? 90 Days later he had sold a million dollars of product. Four million in his first year, ten in the second; I just read an account that he did $35 million last year.”
Summing it up, he continued, “I like to say we can now send people through their own personal industrial revolution in 90 days. So, if you’re a bright guy, or bright gal, and got an idea, you can now turn that into reality, just like people in code did 15 years ago. Now you can do it in hardware.”
For the right entrepreneurial young people out there, who might be too smart for conventional education, this might be money better spent than college.