Cheap Space for Aspiring Innovators

As more entrepreneurs choose to cut back to save money in business, one location is doing its part to help innovators find space to do their thing for less reports

Consider Hacker Dojo, a do-it-yourself tech incubator that last week staged its first startup showcase at its Mountain View quarters — a rather low-rent rendezvous in contrast to DEMO, a glitzy three-day exhibit at the Hyatt Regency in Santa Clara earlier this month where startups paid $18,500 to strut their stuff.

Compare that with how low Hacker Dojo goes. Devotees pay just $100 a month for the right to plop their laptops in the open work space among like-minded techies who appreciate the free Wi-Fi, coffee and air conditioning on hot days. The operation, which evolved from the private, marathon hacking sessions that are part of geek culture, is essentially a co-op underwritten by BlueRun Ventures and other sponsors.

“The lean startup movement is very interesting,” said Ben Choi, a principal of Maveron Capital as he surveyed the startups at the demo. “Scarcity is a great driver of innovation.”

Its name may be rooted in Japanese martial arts, where dojo refers to training hall, but Hacker Dojo’s first demo vaguely resembled a Middle Eastern bazaar as investors sampled the wares of 43 startups. To spice up the affair, investors were provided a small number of chips to dole out to startups they deemed most promising.

Hacker Dojo is a largely “pro bono” endeavor, as BlueRun’s Jonathan Ebinger described it, to nurture self-funded entrepreneurs, some of whom still hold day jobs. Several Dojo denizens described how participants frequently help each other, ranging from technical fixes to advice on a funding pitch.

It is part of a trend that extols the budget-conscious, bootstrapping entrepreneur.

Photo from Hacker Dojo

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