Maker Media Inc., the company behind Maker Faire, the popular event that hosts arts, science, and engineering DIY projects for children and their parents, has laid off all its employees–22 employees–and have decided to shut down due to financial troubles.
In January 2005, the company first started off with MAKE, an American bimonthly magazine focused on do it yourself and/or DIWO projects involving computers, electronics, robotics, metalworking, woodworking, etc. for both adults and children. In 2006, the company first held its Maker Faire event, that lets attendees wander amidst giant, inspiring art and engineering installations. Maker Faire now includes 200 owned and licensed events per year in over 40 countries.
The Maker movement gained momentum and popularity when MAKE magazine first started publishing 15 years ago. The movement emerged as a dominant source of livelihood as individuals found ways to build small businesses using their creative activity.
In 2014, The WhiteHouse blog posted an article stating, “Maker Faires and similar events can inspire more people to become entrepreneurs and to pursue careers in design, advanced manufacturing, and the related fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).”
With funding from the Department of Labor, “the AFL-CIO and Carnegie Mellon University are partnering with TechShop Pittsburgh to create an apprenticeship program for 21st-century manufacturing and encourage startups to manufacture domestically.”
Recently, researchers from Baylor University and the University of North Carolina, in their research paper, have highlighted opportunities for studying the conditions under which the Maker movement might foster entrepreneurship outcomes.
Dale Dougherty, Maker Media Inc.’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch, “I started this 15 years ago and it’s always been a struggle as a business to make this work. Print publishing is not a great business for anybody, but it works…barely. Events are hard . . . there was a drop off in corporate sponsorship”.
“Microsoft and Autodesk failed to sponsor this year’s flagship Bay Area Maker Faire”, TechCrunch reports.
Dougherty further told that the company is trying to keep the servers running. “I hope to be able to get control of the assets of the company and restart it. We’re not necessarily going to do everything we did in the past but I’m committed to keeping the print magazine going and the Maker Faire licensing program”, he further added.
In 2016, the company laid off 17 of its employees, followed by 8 employees recently in March. “They’ve been paid their owed wages and PTO, but did not receive any severance or two-week notice”, TechCrunch reports. These layoffs may have hinted the staff of the financial crisis affecting the company.
Maker Media Inc. had raised $10 million from Obvious Ventures, Raine Ventures, and Floodgate. Dougherty says, “It started as a venture-backed company but we realized it wasn’t a venture-backed opportunity. The company wasn’t that interesting to its investors anymore. It was failing as a business but not as a mission. Should it be a non-profit or something like that? Some of our best successes, for instance, are in education.”
The company has a huge public following for its products. Dougherty told TechCrunch that despite the rain, Maker Faire’s big Bay Area event last week met its ticket sales target. Also, about 1.45 million people attended its events in 2016.
“MAKE: magazine had 125,000 paid subscribers and the company had racked up over one million YouTube subscribers. But high production costs in expensive cities and a proliferation of free DIY project content online had strained Maker Media”, writes TechCrunch.
Dougherty told TechCrunch he has been overwhelmed by the support shown by the Maker community. As of now, licensed Maker Faire events around the world will proceed as planned. “Dougherty also says he’s aware of Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey’s interest in funding the company, and a GoFundMe page started for it”, TechCrunch reports.
Mike Senese, Executive Editor, MAKE magazine, tweeted, “Nothing but love and admiration for the team that I got to spend the last six years with, and the incredible community that made this amazing part of my life a reality.”
This is a very sad day indeed. The amazing and brilliant team at Maker Media are true believers who gave love, support, &enthusiasm to everyone they touched, and that was a gargantuan number of people. They made the world a better place than they found it. https://t.co/8ewXVMtozD
— Adam Savage (@donttrythis) June 8, 2019
When you’re telling or remembering the Great Visionairies of Make, Maker Faire, & Makerdom, do not forget women like @SherryHuss and @sannmer, whose female vision and tireless hard work & ability to rally the efforts of other hard workers made the damn thing happen in event form
— Xeni Jardin (@xeni) June 8, 2019
PS: full disclosure, I also started a company (@3DRobotics) that came out of the Maker Movement. We took VC and are now doing very well after a rollercoaster ride and pivot to software, but we had to leave the Maker Movement behind. But I personally kept one foot in: @diyrobocars
— Chris Anderson (@chr1sa) June 9, 2019
Former Mythbusters co-host Adam Savage, who was a regular presence at the Maker Faire, told The Verge, “Make Media has created so many important new connections between people across the world. It showed the power from the act of creation. We are the better for its existence and I am sad. I also believe that something new will grow from what they built. The ground they laid is too fertile to lie fallow for long.”