Whether a community of entrepreneurs, developers, small business owners, or none of the above, collaborative work spaces are changing the landscape of our workforce and driving economic development for cities. This is no more apparent than in the reaction of the community of Silicon Valley to news that Hacker Dojo was in peril.
New York Times Reports: Silicon Valley Techies Fight to Save a Popular but Illegal Haven
August 22, 2012, New York Times reporter Somini Sengupta shared that the beloved Hacker Dojo was ordered to comply with Mountain View city regulations for offices or move out.
It doesn’t have enough fire exits, sprinklers or wheelchair-accessible bathrooms, as required by city regulations. “If they can’t comply, they can’t use the building as they want to,” said Anthony Ghiossi, the chief building official for the city.
Retrofitting the space will cost the Dojo $250,000. No one wants to see the doors close.
I had the distinct pleasure of attending a few events at the Dojo before I left Silicon Valley for Austin. Like many of the work places that really work, Hacker Dojo just feels right. It isn’t an office and the idea that such a space needs to comply with office regulations, while somewhat logical, is just as illogical. Entrepreneurs, hackers, and developers are flocking to such spaces precisely because they aren’t offices; because the experience in the space, the culture, the style, the atmosphere, and the people there are the reason so many innovative ideas spin out of the collaboration, learning, and building that occurs in these spaces. With such a passionate community, Hacker Dojo considers itself a “do-ocracy” – run by members, including several self organizing teams like events, government, and operations.
Hacker Dojo is a community center in Mountain View – about 1/3rd coworking space, 1/3rd events venue, and 1/3rd a big social living room. It’s an incredible location for events, lectures, parties, BarCamps, DevHouses, LAN parties, hackathons, pie meetups (seriously), tinkering, brainstorming, coworking, and more. Technically a “members only” private club, Hacker Dojo is open for many of the lectures and classes that occur there; it’s a community space first and foremost.
Sengupta adds, “The Dojo is an example of the new work spaces that underlie the start-up culture of Silicon Valley. Coffee shops around here can be packed with coders, huddled over glowing Macs for hours at a time. Technology incubators are sprinkled across the valley, but getting into the hottest ones can be as hard as getting into business school; besides, many of them, like Y-Combinator, just down the road from here, extract equity in the start-up in return.”
Saving Hacker Dojo
With word from the city, Katy Levinson and the community rallied together and with Kickstarter, started to pull together the capital needed to retrofit the space and keep the Dojo kicking (yes, I went there).
We are currently not allowed in more than half of the space we pay rent on,” says the project, “Not permitted to hold large classes, and not permitted to hold many classes at once. This is due to restrictions placed by the city of Mountain View on the Hacker Dojo. We are looking to lift these restrictions by updating the building, and to create some amazing new resources for our community such as a dedicated event space and makerspace/design studio.”
The community responded.
Hacker Dojo, like many such collaborative work spaces around the world, isn’t just a home to entrepreneurship. Indeed, startups are incubated here, classes are held, and events help everyone connect and take a break, but good spaces do so much more for a community. Freelance professionals and service providers are starting to shun working from home or an office in favor of these environments in which they can connect with business builders and innovators. Recruiters are setting up a desk in coworking spaces giving them an edge over their competition by going right to the space where the best and brightest can be found. And the collaboration is accelerating businesses – partnerships that once took days or weeks to negotiate are banged out over a Mountain Dew in the kitchen.
Close now to their $250k goal, it seems assured that this space, a space that has already done so much for the community, will continue. But they aren’t there yet, back the project here and get involved in Hacker Dojo in Mountain View, CA.