“The largest untapped resource on the planet is not solar power, or wind or natural gas,” says Mark Hatch. “It’s the free time, intelligence and creativity of people. The brain is more powerful than any natural resource.”
Hatch would know. As co-founder of TechShop, the DIY workspaces that famously birthed Square and many more thriving startups, Hatch has seen firsthand how ingenuity and experimentation enables entrepreneurs and tinkerers to solve a world of problems. In August, TechShop will launch its ninth U.S. location when it opens the doors to its 18,000-square-foot communal workshop inside Cortex. In September, Hatch will return to St. Louis as a marquee speaker at Murmuration Festival.
Recently, we caught up with Hatch to discuss the significance of St. Louis landing a TechShop and what he refers to as the “Maker Revolution.”
Cortex: What exactly is the “Maker Revolution?”
Mark Hatch: It’s a resurgence and re-ignition of the passion of making, creating and designing. It really got its start with the launch of Make magazine in 2004 and their first Maker Faire in San Mateo in 2006. That event, and the other Maker Faires that followed, aggregated a community of like-minded makers and DIYers. People got excited. It was a catalytic event.
Cortex: What else factors into it?
Mark Hatch: There are a lot of drivers. First of all, the tools of industrial revolution are easier, more powerful and more accessible than they have been throughout human history. You have this democratization of tools that are relatively easy to use. And you also have this huge base of shared knowledge thanks to Google and Lynda.com and, well, the internet. Along those lines you also have sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo that allow creatives to tap into funding sources that weren’t possible before. Then they can market their products on places such as Etsy. All those things are tremendous resources that weren’t available previously.
Cortex: What’s happening with the TechShop in Cortex?
It’s on schedule to open in August. We’re really excited about what it can offer St. Louis and really happy with the support we’ve received from our partners — Cortex, Washington University, Monsanto, St. Louis University, BioSTL, and Polsinelli.
Cortex: Like other TechShops, the St. Louis location will offer memberships and classes that allow (and teach) people to use laser cutters, 3-D printers and other advanced tools, but what else do you anticipate this TechShop offering St. Louis?
Mark Hatch: In the Bay Area, our three stores there have created $12 billion in incremental shareholder value from members launching companies from projects created in TechShops. Those companies have created 2,000 jobs and $200 million in annual salaries. And the state of California is making $20 million annually in income tax from those jobs. I can’t promise the same for Missouri, but I do anticipate TechShop creating hundreds of jobs for St. Louis. Even more important than the economic benefit, however, is the social impact. How many young girls or disenfranchised kids are going to get exposed and interested in engineering because of a class at TechShop? And what about the artistic community in St. Louis? We’re a very affordable alternative for them to design and build their works. And it’s in an environment where they can interact with entrepreneurs. This brings people together. They’re not holed up in a studio somewhere. That is what is exciting to me. Our real business is creating a community of makers, artist, entrepreneurs and scientists — creating the most creative community we can.