Sebastopol-based O'Reilly Media has spun off its MAKE division, creating a new company that publishes MAKE Magazine and organizes the popular Maker Faire.
The magazine and fair, launched by Dale Dougherty in 2005, have inspired children and adults alike to experiment with a do-it-yourself approach to technology, and are credited with launching a “Maker Movement” that has pioneered innovations in technology.
Dougherty will lead the new company, Maker Media Inc., as president and CEO, and the company will remain in Sebastopol on the O'Reilly campus.
“It was kind of just time to go out on our own,” Dougherty said in an interview. “It gives us the flexibility to do a few things that we might not be able to do otherwise, and one of them is to look at investment in our business.”
Dougherty first pitched the idea of MAKE Magazine to Tim O'Reilly in a cab ride in Portland, envisioning a publication that would serve as “Martha Stewart for Geeks,” he said. The first Maker Faire was held in San Mateo in 2006 and drew 18,000 people, far exceeding his expectations.
Last year, the two flagship Faires drew 165,000 people in the Bay Area and New York, and more than 60 community-driven Maker Faires will be held this year around the globe from Tokyo to Rome.
“The Maker Movement is taking off,” Tim O'Reilly, founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media, said in a statement. “A movement that began with enthusiasts has turned into an entrepreneurial revolution. As an independent company, Maker Media will be able to accelerate its growth and develop new services for the maker community.”
The MAKE division has had annual revenues of more than $15 million, Dougherty said. It employs 40 full-time staff members, and 30 of those employees are based in Sebastopol.
It launched an online store called “Maker Shed” in 2007 as a place for beginning makers buy kits to help with projects or to sell their DIY electronics. The restructuring will enable MAKE to expand that ecommerce platform, Dougherty said.
“A lot of our focus will be what we can do online ... moving away from just having a publishing orientation, but also engaging our community in new ways,” Dougherty said. “To some degree it allows us as a company to be organized around that single opportunity. It helps us act like a lean startup, rather than a larger company. Given the way things are growing here, we need to be more agile.”
Dougherty will be the majority shareholder in the new company. Tim O'Reilly and the O'Reilly family will also be shareholders.
“We've done a lot, and O'Reilly was a great place for us to grow up, but it's a little like leaving home for college,” Dougherty said with a laugh.