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Techshop 'is too important for Pittsburgh to fail'

Aaron Aupperlee
| Monday, June 5, 2017, 11:42 a.m.
Members work at stations inside TechShop in Bakery Square Thursday, September 19, 2013.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Members work at stations inside TechShop in Bakery Square Thursday, September 19, 2013.

Before BoXZY raised a whopping $1.2 million on Kickstarter , the Pittsburgh startup relied on TechShop to work on its three-in-one, desktop 3D printer, CNC mill and laser engraver.

BoXZY CEO Joel Johnson said TechShop, the Bakery Square maker space, is too important for Pittsburgh to fail.

TechShop CEO Dan Woods announced last week the company planned to close its Pittsburgh location unless it finds $360,000 a year from a partner or partners to cover 15 percent to 20 percent of the shop's operating costs.

In an email to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Johnson said that losing TechShop would be devastating to Pittsburgh.

TechShop is a vital organ for Pittsburgh. It is simply too important for Pittsburgh to fail. I'm hopeful that there is enough insight in Pittsburgh to see this fact. This location may not be profitable for TechShop as a business, but it is the epicenter for much of the innovation that happens in Pittsburgh, and it is the mainstay resource for many small businesses.

BoXZY started at TechShop, and it's the reason we've remained in Pittsburgh--despite struggling to find capital. It makes being underfunded non-fatal. BoXZY would have been stillborn without TechShop Pittsburgh. Techshop provides us the resources that would only be available if we were a much larger company, and it sustained us when we found no perch within incubators in Pittsburgh. It kept us alive until our 1.2 million dollar Kickstarter campaign. We're innovating two new products in TechShop, right now, products that would not be possible at our size without TechShop. We need the community, we need the tools, and we need intellectual capital. The tools are the least of TechShops benefits. The connections and relationships BoXZY has developed inside of TechShop are worth far more than the cost of membership. The intellectual capital at TechShop made BoXZY's existence possible, as well as the existence of our future products.

TechShop Pittsburgh acts as main street for niche maker spaces and small businesses, who find their members, customers, and tools, here. It feeds incubators and investor groups, like AlphaLab Gear and Innovation works, with fresh blood, the right tools, and with an innovation culture. It is also an important part of Pittsburgh's brand. Without TechShop, many of the old, unused factories in Pittsburgh would have remained that way. Innovators and small businesses start at TechShop and then fill these unused spaces. A university could fail in Pittsburgh without devastating Pittsburgh. There are many great universities here. There is only one TechShop.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at aaupperlee@tribweb.com, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

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