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Tech Shop and the culture of Making
By now you probably know that I love shops. I especially like new concepts and stores that are completely different from anything that has been before. Over the last few years, it seems as though you can’t move without a new software start-up or app developer becoming the ‘next big thing’, with predicted billion-dollar valuations and huge publicity. And the amount of people willing to spend money on online games and apps proves that there is certainly a market for it. I do love apps, but have so missed that buzz of a new type of store!
There are, thank goodness, a select number of people trying to do things a little differently. My latest discovery is Tech Shop. TechShop attempts to take the start-up, low-capital mentality of a typical online initiative and transplant it into the material world. It operates on a gym-like model: for a monthly or yearly subscription fee, people can turn up to TechShop workshops, where all manner of amazing machines and tools are available to use, and just build whatever they want. TechShop even offers training for people who are new to the instruments on offer, so it is possible to completely start from scratch! The project was started in California by Jim Newton and Ridge McGhee in 2006, and is soon to celebrate its sixth birthday, aiming for 20 TechShops in the US by 2014.
Tech Shop conforms to the philosophy of Chris Anderson, editor of Wired US and author of Makers: The New Industrial Revolution. In his book, Anderson defines ways in which companies are breaking away from older methods of manufacturing, moving to more boutique, low-cost models. Anderson holds up British manufacturer Dyson as an example of reinventing the ‘normal’ processes, lauding its “high design and superior engineering” in getting customers to “pay premium prices in previously stale and commoditised market segments.” This is backed up by Dyson’s new CEO Max Conze, who says in this interview: “Our lifeblood is inventing. That is where we spend all of our money.”
The fact that the UK has its own inventive, differentiated manufacturing tradition in companies such as Dyson is exciting – who will be brave and open the British version of Tech Shop? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org, and have a great week-end.
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