First there were co-working spaces, and now there are makerspaces. Makerspaces, also known as hackerspaces or fabrication (fab) labs, are one of the hottest current trends in collaborative consumption and co-working. They are the intersection of tech and making, defined not just by their physical space, but also by entrepreneurs’ ability to build products, share knowledge, and combine resources.
“The idea with a makerspace is to have access to digital fabrication tools in order to take a concept into prototype,” explains Luc Lalonde, Executive Director, University of Ottawa Entrepreneur Hub. “They’re beneficial because without them entrepreneurs wouldn’t be able to accord access to the high-end tools that are sometimes needed to prototype.”
From Yukonstruct in the north, to the West Coast’s Victoria Makerspace, to Winnipeg’s AssentWorks in the Prairies, to SimCoLab in Ontario, and the East Coast’s ProtoShed in St. John’s, these mashups of technology, creativity, and startup culture are popping up across the country.
Similar to co-working spaces, makerspaces can bring together people from across industries, which can contribute to building a stronger local startup community.
“Community is a core tenant of what a makerspace is,” says Lalonde. “They’re groups of people who have common shared values about sharing knowledge and expertise. They can help build prototypes or just through tacit knowledge sharing. But without community, you have no makerspsace.”
So how do you decide if a makerspace is right for you? Michael Grigoriev, a Designer and a Co-Founder of Ottawa Creative Mornings, says two considerations should be top of mind for entrepreneurs exploring makerspaces.
- Find one that suits your mentality or ethos – some makerspaces are more hobbyist than others.
- Be aware of the goal(s) of the makerspace – they’re a business too and working towards their bottom line.
Below are some other key tips for finding a makerspace:
- Shop local. For a comprehensive list of makerspace facilities across Canada, check out HackerSpace Wiki. You can also contact your local Startup Community to see what other collaborative working spaces already exist.
- Know what equipment you need. Many makerspaces provide rapid prototyping 3D Printers, plotters, circuit board machines and metal working equipment. Make a list of the specific tools and equipment you know you’ll need, and confirm what’s available at your local makerspace before you commit. If they don’t have something you need, it’s worth asking if they’d be interested in acquiring it for you, especially if it’s a piece of equipment that others can use.
- Confirm the costs. Some makerspaces have membership fees (monthly or annual) while others have pay-as-you-go structures. Confirm what payment plan your local makerspace uses and ensure it fits with your budget.
- Get involved in the community. On Twitter? Assentworks has a monthly updated list of makerspace-related Twitter accounts from around the world. Want to attend an event? Check out Makerspace Meetups for a networking event near you.
With all they can offer, there is little doubt that makerspaces are beneficial to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. They can play an integral role for a startup looking to produce a physical prototype, and they can be an essential ingredient in fostering a strong community for existing and future entrepreneurs. For many entrepreneurs, makerspaces are exactly what they need to take their ideas to market.