On Sept. 19th FabLab Oslo/Fellesverkstedet and a bunch of awesome peeps joined us for a MassRefinement on how to make a successful FabLab here in Oslo. It was a great session!
FabLab/Fellesverkstedet have funding to set up shop, they have people who want to use it, but they don’t have a steady revenue stream to run the shop. Since they want to let people use it for free.
Giving something away for free isn’t easy. Our challenge was to come up with ideas that would solve this. But as one of the participants said, the simplest way would be to charge people in the beginning. When the organization makes enough profit, then they can start offering access for free.
For example, it could be something like this:
There could be different prices, depending on what you need to do at Fellesverkstedet or the FabLab. Maybe you only need to 3D-print a small part. Okay, that would be 40 kroner. Or maybe you want to hang out the whole day and work on all kinds of stuff, that’s 350 kroner. But what about a membership. Like a gym membership? You pay a monthly fee and can spend as much time as you want at Fellesverkstedet and the FabLab.
After a while when business is thriving you could experiment with different concepts where it’s free to use the shop at certain occasions Like Tuesday Night Hacking or Kids’ Saturday where people can use the FabLab and Fellesverkstedet for free.
Since FabLabs philosophy is built on giving it away for free this is not an option. So we looked on different ways to make money without charging the regular users of the FabLab.
1) Pick and invite companies to a membership with a yearly fee:
The companies should have an interest in innovation and production. They could be private, like an architecture firm, or public, like a university. By paying a sum a year, they get a certain amount of time their employees can spend at the FabLab/Fellesverkstedet – to test things out, get inspired, as team building activities or learn from the people who use the lab on a daily basis.
2) Get paid by the government, not funded:
People who are unemployed, on long term sick leave, kids who quit school … they all have one thing in common – they often lack meaningful activity to fill their days. And the longer you’re away from work/school, the more difficult it is to get back. So we think the FabLab/Fellesverkstedet could be the perfect place for people who want to do something, but aren’t ready for a full time occupation. And we think a collaboration with NAV could be very fruitful. FabLab/Fellesverkstedet gets people who’d like to work, NAV pays for their salary and the people in question gets something to put on their CV and get to learn new skills. It’s a win-win-win!
A third way for FabLab/Fellesverkstedet to make an income is to let people use the facilities to hold courses. For example, one of the users might like to teach a class in upholstery. This person organizes, teaches and gets paid, while FabLab/Fellesverkstedet receives a certain percentage/fixed fee as rent.
These three ideas have one thing in common, and that is that for it to work, FabLab/Fellesverkstedet has to be a kickass product that they can sell.
That means that they have to create a culture of sharing and learning, a social environment, an organized and professional lab/workshop, plenty of engaged users and so on. We know that they are on the right track to making this happen, so we’ll just share some ideas that can increase FabLab/Fellesverkstedet’s reputation and credibility:
Documentation & inspiration
All users of a FabLab are required to share their learnings with the rest of the community. The FabLab could organize documentation into books and wikis that companies etc could pay to get access to. The FabLab could also prepare lectures they can hold for organizations and companies who would like inspiration and input.
FabLab/Fellesverkstedet could use part of their space to host a showroom for the products that their users make and maybe take a small fee for every sale. They could also rent the space out to a coffee shop to create a social environment in addition to get more income.
A workshop like this is the perfect setting for interesting television. A TV show could spread FabLab/Fellesverkstedet’s philosophy and make them well known to the public who might not otherwise hear about them. In addition it’s a possibility to make money, either from the channel or from advertising (for example from tool manufacturers).
Start up help
The FabLab/Fellesverkstedet could also offer start up help. Like a mini “Innovasjon Norge” without the bureaucracy and paper work. They could offer entrepreneurs free access to make prototypes etc in exchange for money/favors etc in the future (if the make it).
So this was just a selection of the ideas that surfaced during this evening. A big thanks to the participants for sharing your thoughts and energy!
If anyone has any input, do share them with us. And don’t forget to subscribe to the FabLab/Fellesverkstedets newsletter if you’d like to be kept in the loop.
The next MassRefinement will be on Wednesday, Oct. 16th and the topic is "The Internet of Things". Save the date, more info to follow!