TechShop, a do-it-yourself industrial workshop, based in seven cities made its pitch Thursday to expand into St. Louis.
More than 200 people attended the TechShop's presentation. The company provides industrial equipment and classes for amateur and professional inventors. It is hoping to open a location in Cortex, St. Louis’ technology district.
But in order to open its doors, TechShop needs 1,000 memberships. Company COO and Vice President of Business Development Dan Woods pushed that point at the presentation.
"I need to leave here with a really good feeling of the level of commitment that we’ll have in St. Louis, not just from individuals, but institutions," Woods said. "And putting it all down to numbers, can we get to that 1,000 membership level."
Cortex President and CEO Dennis Lower said TechShop has about a third of the membership commitments required and half of the $3 million needed in start-up capital.
TechShop provides access to industrial tools that are usually only available to a few. This includes welding equipment, industrial sewing machines, woodworking equipment, laser cutters, CNC mills and routers, and 3D printers.
"Maybe a student had access to a maker’s workshop, but upon graduation or at the end of that course, they don’t have access," Lower said. "TechShop will be open access to the public, to corporations through a membership basis, just like a gym would be."
The payoff for Cortex and St. Louis is innovation and the possible creation of new companies.
For instance, St. Louisan Jim McKelvey used a TechShop in Menlo Park, Calif., to create the prototype for Square, the technology that enables tablets and smartphones to accept debit and credit cards.
"So, TechShop is a vital component for what we’re trying to establish in Cortex, which is this innovation, entrepreneurial hub for the region," Lower said.
TechShop has three locations in California, including its first shop in Menlo Park which opened in 2006. Since then the company has partnered with corporations, the government and universities to open locations in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Austin, Texas and Chandler, Ariz.
The company has plans to open another shop in the Washington, D.C. area in March.