TechShop shuts up shop after sudden bankruptcy declaration

TechShop, a chain of hack-spaces and workshops offering a range of services including 3D printing, has declared bankruptcy and shut down all ten of its US locations without prior warning.

The company stated in a release that it had depleted its funds, despite efforts to “restructure the company’s debt” and to “raise new capital” for a new business strategy.

Obama at the Pennsylvania TechShop with 3D Printer and ZeGo founder Andy Leer. Photo via Chuck Kennedy.

“Never stop making”

TechShop filed for “Chapter 7” bankruptcy after maintaining a reduced operation under “Chapter 11” was no longer deemed to be financially viable. The enterprise’s assets have now been handed over to court-appointed trustees who will sell them on, in order to pay the company’s creditors.

Commenting on the sudden closure, CEO Dan Woods, who joined in 2016, explained to Make: magazine that “we’ve been operating on exceedingly low cash balances for quite some time now. Until recently, this meant late payment to instructors and vendors, which none of us liked, but at least we were able to pay everyone, albeit several weeks late, and keep the doors open.”

Woods also explained that the company “invested too many years and too many dollars trying to prop up the wrong business model,” which relied upon subsidies from outside sources, a route that proved unsustainable.

However, the TechShop brand will not become obsolete. Outside of the U.S. TechShop locations in Abu Dhabi, Paris, Lille and Tokyo are incorporated under TechShop Global, registered in the Irish city of Cork, and will continue to operate through local licensees.

Type A Machines founderAndrew Rutter. The 3D printing OEM is just one of TechShop’s many success stories. Photo via GigaOm.

“Build your dreams here”

TechShop was founded in 2006 by Jim Newton at an initial workshop in Menlo Park, California, before growing to 10 locations and over 9000 members worldwide. Access to its tooling and machinery services including 3D printing, cutting and worked out to around $1000 a year.

The services offered by TechShop included education access programs, workforce training (including the retraining of armed forces veterans), and advanced manufacturing hubs.

TechShop also tried reinforcing its business model with a series of corporate partnerships, including automobile manufacturer Ford and software company Autodesk.

“Don’t try it at home, try it here!”

Co-founder Dan Woods noted that in spite of the closure, much of TechShop’s vision had been achieved. He stated that “as dark a moment as this is, I also want to acknowledge the enormous impact TechShop has had on our members and their communities over the past ten years.”

Successful startups launched at TechShop locations include Health-tech company Embrace, tech accessory company Dodocase and 3D printing manufacturer Type A Machines, which launched its Series Pro FDM 3D printer earlier this year.

In 2014, TechShop Pittsburgh received a visit from then-US president Barack Obama ahead of the White House Maker Faire. The former president received demonstrations from some of the ventures developed by users of the TechShop including ZeGo Robotics.

Niti Parikh with laser cut letters at TechShop San Fransisco. Photo via Joseph Schell.

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Featured image shows an empty TechShop at Arizona State University. Photo via ASU.