Maker Media, the company behind the global science, arts & engineering projects event Maker Faire and the widely popular MAKE: magazine, has, in a move surprising the world, shut down its operations laying off all of its 22 employees.
While some initially started dismissing the news as a rumour, it actually has been confirmed by Maker Media CEO Dale Dougherty. He commented, “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.”
Its flagship Bay Area Maker Faire failed to get sponsors from industry biggies like Microsoft and Autodesk. An indication of the troubles in the event industry. It can be easily seen that financial problems forced Maker Media to abruptly shut down its operations.
Maker Media started out as a venture-backed company with the maker movement ingrained in itself since its early days. The motto was simple, to believe that everyone is a Maker and to embrace innovation, creativity, and learning to improve our communities and create a better future.
This was what caught the attention of millions around the globe inspiring a generation of engineers and artists, brought families together around crafting, and given shape to a culture of tinkerers.
The Maker Media today is in deep financial crunch one which it cannot resolve on its own. While all is not lost for the company, CEO Dale Dougherty is still trying to keep the company alive in some or the other capacity, even if it only manages to keep MAKE:’s online archive running and continue allowing third-party organizers to license the Maker Faire name to throw affiliated events. Rather than bankruptcy, Maker Media is working through an alternative Assignment for Benefit of Creditors process.
The 15-year-old company was a one-stop for children as well as adults to create science projects explained through step-by-step do-it-yourself crafting. An approach boosted by the Maker Movement. Since 2006, Maker Faire’s 200 owned and licensed events per year in over 40 countries let attendees wander amidst giant, inspiring art and engineering installations.
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CEO Dougherty explained the situation, “We’re 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.”
Dougherty told TechCrunch that he’s overwhelmed by the support shown by the Maker community. For now, licensed Maker Faire events around the world will proceed as planned. Dougherty is also aware of Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey’s interest in funding the company.
Challenges Faced by Maker Media
Though the decision sounded sudden and abrupt but the company saw it coming. The CEO explains that the staffers understood the challenges facing the company following layoffs in 2016, and according to some reports, at least 8 more employees being let go in March.
Maker Media has raised $10 million from Obvious Ventures, Raine Ventures, and Floodgate and he admitted that, “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.”
According to Dougherty, the situation is especially sad because the public was still enthusiastic about Maker Media’s products. Despite rain, Maker Faire’s big Bay Area event last week met its ticket sales target. Nearly 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.
Dougherty feels that the company is stuck in limbo right now and is not able to run like a business (making heavy profits on its products), as it offers most of its content for free to the community. Dougherty concluded, “It works for people but it doesn’t necessarily work as a business today, at least under my oversight.”
Maker Media has inspired millions of children, students, tinkerers, hobbyists, teachers, engineers, adults, and even professionals to imbibe the maker movement in them. No matter what happens to the company, the community may still thrive.