SkullSpace

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Ron's Thoughts

Theory: Having a place where people can pay a small monthly fee and drop by any time, 24/7, to work, game, party, hang out, meet friends, etc. The goal would be to build the community among the hacker/programmer/tinkerer people in Winnipeg and give them a common place where they can combine their talents to work on projects. Vancouver's hackerspace has a good description: http://vancouver.hackspace.ca/wp/about/

My vision is having a big room for events/etc with couches, tables, projector, screen, and sound equipment, which can be rearranged as necessary. Then have a separate room with tables for working in, and maybe a workshop type room and a kitchen.

IIRC, Vancouver's hackerspace charges a one-time fee of $100, and a monthly fee of $30 or so. That gives the members unlimited access, 24/7. Guests would be welcome - Vancouver has one day/week when guests have full access, and Vienna has a complete opendoor policy (guests are always welcome as long as they're with a member). I prefer the latter.

I'd want to make it a non-profit, and use all money made for rent, tools, equipment, and paying back the initial investment that somebody's going to have to make. In terms of audience, I think the best one would be university folks, but everybody would naturally be welcome.

For promotion, I think the best way would be to spread the word among our friends, and also host free events. Electronic music things (whatever you call that nonsense :P), parties, etc. I think people would love to have a space like this. The one in Vienna has a few people in it at all hours. Somebody told me that 20-25 paid members is sustainable.

Initial capital will be an issue. The options are to fund raise (host a social, that kind of thing), get money from the bank, or get money from an investor (I know somebody with a lot of money who has a lot of faith in me.. I bet he'd help). I don't know much about business stuff, though, so I'm willing to argue this one.

Anyway, nothing is written in stone. Everything there is negotiable, potentially stupid, etc. In addition to that, here are things that we would potentially need to buy or discuss (we should meet in person to argue about what's necessary, nice-to-have, and retarded - this is a pure braindump).

  • Room
    • Preferably a basement type thing in the Exchange, with several rooms/one big room
  • Signage
  • Kitchen stuff
    • Coffee maker, maybe one of those fancy ones
    • Drink fridge/cooler/whatever
    • What would it take to have alcohol?
    • Vienna uses honour system to sell drinks, basically a drop box
    • Microwave
    • Frozen food for sale?
    • I'd like to avoid the coke/pepsi stuff
  • Whiteboard
  • Access control (keycard? key?)
  • Security (alarm?)
  • Network/wifi (voi or les.net?)
  • Storage (lockers, like at gym)
  • Gaming stuff
    • Foosball/Pooltable/Arcade/etc
    • RPG books, boardgames, dice, etc
  • Furniture
    • Tables, chairs, couches, foldout chairs
  • Projector(s) + screen(s)
  • Party/event stuff
    • Sound gear
    • Lighting
    • Stage
  • Workshop type stuff
    • Computer gear (monitors/keyboards/etc)
    • Electronics tools
    • Network drops
  • Membership
    • Costs, restrictions, privileges
  • Cleaning
    • Hire cleaners? Rotating requirement for members?
  • Repairs
  • Startup money
    • Donations? Events? Box social? Actual investor?
  • Advertising
    • Hosting events (parties/talks) would be a good way
    • UofM/Co-op
    • ParIT/Mondragon/etc
  • Audience (any comp sci types allowed? electrical engineers? everybody?)
  • Open door policy (ie, non-members)
  • Insurance
  • Lawyer
    • Sean (TheCanadian)'s dad does a good job and cuts me a deal
  • Library stuff
    • Books, shelves
    • Borrowing system? Honour system?
  • Official 'hackerspace' membership
  • Mailing list
  • *ugh* facebook page
  • Logo
  • Paint, stuff like that

Who's involved (alphabetically)?

  • iago-x86
  • iamstef
  • mak
  • xorrbit

See a hastily written outline of Andrew's thoughts for some other ideas/issues.

Andrew's Thoughts

First steps

  • Set up a wiki for documentations
  • Set up a mailing list for delayed discussion
  • Set up an irc channel for real-time discussion
  • Set up a regular meeting schedule (more below) to actually get things done

Policy

Ignoring policy stuff for now.

Meeting

Initially we should meet once a week (or perhaps once every two weeks - but no longer than that!) at some bar/coffee shop/etc to discuss our plans and get things rolling. Two major items that should be discussed every time we meet are money and space. They seem to be the foundation of everything else, and these two, along with a sustainable plan is key to success. *thrust*

Money

We need to get a rough (or even better, precise) figure on how much money we need both to start this project, and how much we need to sustain it. Here are my thoughts/estimates which may be way off:

  • Monthly expenses:
    • Rent: $2000-4000 (based on a couple quick kijiji searches)
    • Insurance: $200 (I picked this one from a hat so to speak)
    • Internets: $50

That brings us to around a $2250 / month operating budget at minimum.

Now in order to start we need:

  • first month's budget
  • 3 more months at least
  • a sustainable plan to keep having at least a 3 month buffer in our bank account

So we have 4 * 2250 = 9000 so let's say to kick-start this thing we might need around $9k initially.

That doesn't include ANY one-time purchase costs like paint, coffee maker, tables, etc. All that stuff will be pretty dependent on the chosen space, but can we say maybe $2k or so budget for that stuff? Pulling numbers out of hats again, it would be good to go through a list of items we will need to secure (either by donation or whatever) initially. So $11k initial investment total.

Also in order to become a non-profit corp, we need to first do a registered name check ($40) to make sure no one else is using SkullSpace (or whatever we choose) and then file for a non-profit incorporation ($100). $140 total.

Sustainable income

The only real sustainable income I can think of right now is member dues. Assuming a $2250/month operating budget, that means at 20 people (which seems to be the minimum number based on ron's discussions at metalab, and I've read similar elsewhere), each person would need to pay $112.50/month in membership dues, and we would need to keep all 20 members around forever.

Right now, 20 people sounds like a LOT. Likewise, $100/month membership dues also sounds like a LOT. Unless my numbers are way off (which is possible), then we need to come up with some better ideas in order to keep this sustainable. Some other possible income sources that are sustainable:

  • Sale of beverages/snacks/food (This might be negligible as if we do too much of a markup people simply won't buy them from us)
  • Some kind of ongoing sponsorship
    • Something like les.net giving us free internets in exchange for a banner drop. Not directly income but it would help.
    •  ??????

Upon further reflection it might be more appropriate to determine what we can afford. Let us assume 20 members, each willing to pay $30/month. This seems reasonable. This comes out to be $600/month. Not a heck of a lot, but let's see where we get with that. If we take off $50 for some internets, we are left with $550/month. This will have to be split into rent, utilities, insurance and upkeep. Let's lump everything but rent together and say it all costs maybe $200 (very conservative, likely more?), then we are left with $350/month for rent. This gets us very little. From some quick kijijiing (kijijing?) we could get around 250 sq feet [1] or [2]. These are both not the best areas (and the second one is actually very rough).

Space

Before we start looking for suitable space, we will need to define what exactly suitable means. Here's my list (which may be way off/silly/whatever, just off the top of my head) Also this is an 'ideals' list, some things might not be particularly possible/practical:

  • 800 sq. feet MINIMUM (think small hangout area and small work area) ideally something like a 2000 sq feet+:
    • hangout area (couches, board game table, maybe a tv+xbox/etc)
    • work area (work bench, soldering stuff, well lit)
    • kitchen area (microwave, fridge, cleaning supplies, sink)
    • washroom (private with shower)
    • lab area (computers & desks)
  • good electrical, access to breaker box (do we *require* grounded plugs? lots of old buildings don't have?)
  • internets-able (phone line for les.net dsl)
  • 24 hour access for 20+ people
    • Everyone gets their own key, might be expensive for crazy key systems, something to watch out for
  • heated for winter
  • air conditioned for summer
  • we need to be able to control our entire space's heat/AC temperatures
  • windows!!!
    • Also required for plants
  • roll-up warehouse style door
  • private washroom
  • nearby 24 hour parking
  • decent bus routes
  • good neighbors (well, tolerable neighbors)
  • fire suppression system
  • alarm/alarm-able