Company Behind Popular Maker Faire Closing Down Due to Financial Struggles

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A young maker lounges inside a Tinkerdrop trailer in the tiny homes display area of the 2018 Bay Area Maker Faire.  (Tara Siler/KQED)

Maker Media, the company behind Make: magazine and Maker Faire, the do-it-yourself science and art family events, is closing down after 15 years.

The San Francisco-based organization laid off its 22 employees last week after letting several employees go earlier this year in a last-ditch effort to cut costs.

"Our mission is wonderful, we just weren't making a lot of money," said founder and CEO Dale Dougherty.

The bimonthly Make: magazine published its first issue in 2005 and featured DIY projects as well as coverage of the broader "maker" community. The first Maker Faire took place in 2006 in San Mateo, and over the last 13 years, the fairs have gone global with more than 200 licensed Maker Faires in more than 40 countries happening each year.

Described on its website as "part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new," the fairs brought together thousands of tinkers and techies to show off what they had made. Dougherty said the most recent Bay Area Maker Faire last month in San Mateo met its ticket sales target, but attracting sponsors has become a problem.


Despite the popularity of the fairs, Dougherty said as the events became more community-focused, technology and Silicon Valley companies lost interest in sponsorship. He added that businesses didn't feel like they were getting a financial return for sponsoring the event.

"As a culture we're focused on, even in San Francisco these days, money," he said. "I think we're missing and losing creativity and sort of the individual and small group magic that made this place special in the beginning." 

The ending of the company is a sign of the changing times in San Francisco, he said.

Dougherty said the business won't be filing for bankruptcy, but will instead go through a different process that could allow Dougherty to revive Maker Media as a nonprofit organization.

The hundreds of Maker Faires around the world shouldn't be affected because they aren't run by Maker Media, but rather have licensing agreements to use the name. Dougherty said the continued existence of the Bay Area Maker Faire will depend on financial support.

"I can't guarantee that Maker Fair will happen," he said. "We won't have it unless the community decides it's valuable and wants to support it."