With hundreds of members at each location, TechShop is in the process of expanding its franchise. Here's proof that the model can work.
Jim Newton has close to 300 ideas that he would like to see realized. About five years ago, when that list seemed more manageable at only 200 items, Newton opened the first TechShop in Menlo Park, California. The idea was to empower other people to turn their one big idea into a reality. "I don't tinker as much as I thought I would," Newton recently told Newsweek, by way of explaining the ever-growing list, "but it's really rewarding to walk around and say, 'I empower this person to make this thing?'"
For a membership fee of $125 per month (entry can also be purchased annually and discounts are available for students and family), TechShop's customers get access to hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of equipment, including sand blasting cabinets, pneumatic tools, band saws, sewing machines, milling machines, injection molders, laser cutters, welders and more. "The goal of TechShop is to provide members with every conceivable tool and machine that they would need to build, hack, fix or create just about any kind of project," according to the company's official website.
There, in the safe confines of TechShop's space, where they are surrounded by others brimming with ideas and passion, the members can tinker with the high-end industrial gear and materials, piecing together prototypes for the Next Big Thing.
But does it work? TechShop, with hundreds of members, is in the process of expanding. There are already three locations in the San Francisco Bay area and a fourth in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. Over the next three years, Newton and his team plan on opening 20 additional shops, with a Detroit extension scheduled for later this year. They must be doing something right.
While not everyone who purchases a membership to TechShop is going to create a hit product and bring it to market -- many of them aren't even trying to do that -- there have been a number of success stories to emerge from the franchise. We've collected seven different ones below:
Image: Courtesy TechShop.