Hacker Dojo is a free-spirited community of developers in the heart of Silicon Valley that’s been at risk of being shut down due to upgrade requirements by the city of Mountain View, Calif. Hacker Dojo didn’t have money to bring the public workspace, which was where Pinterest was born in 2009, up to code.
But a last-minute savior has come through. The YouWeb incubator headed by founder Peter Relan has come to the rescue. The Hacker Dojo was supposed to come up with $250,000 in money for renovations, and it still had $57,000 to go — or face being shut down at the end of December. Relan and YouWeb stepped in by donating the last $57,000. Other contributors included Andreessen Horowitz, Microsoft, Google, AT&T, Palantir, and funders on Kickstarter.
“It was certainly a nail-biter finish,” said Hacker Dojo director of development Katy Levinson, who has been running the fundraising campaign since late January, “We weren’t sure what we were going to do if we didn’t make it. We have hundreds of thousands of dollars of renovations which could not even be started until we could convince the contractors we could cut a check.”
Relan founded YouWeb in 2007. It has spawned social game startups including OpenFeint (sold to Gree for $104 million), Crowdstar, and Agawi.
“I started my career as a hacker, and I spend almost all my time today at YouWeb working with other developers and hackers,” said Relan. “The idea that the world’s largest community center of hackers could be displaced right here in Silicon Valley was simply not acceptable to me. I spoke to Katy on the last Friday night of their campaign goal, and after not sleeping well over it I called the next day to make my pledge. YouWeb and I are dedicated to the mission of supporting hackers and developers all over the globe, because they represent the best chance we have of improving our societies and conserving our planet’s scarce resources.”
In an interview with VentureBeat, Relan described Hacker Dojo as a “crucible” for talent in Silicon Valley. It is a place to where you can learn new programming skills, before starting a company, in a chaotic but very accelerated environment, he said.
Now Hacker Dojo is working to make changes to its space, which includes 8,000-square-feet of communal warehouse space, in time for the December deadline. After the renovations are done, the center will create an events space for conferences to use for free and a design studio. Relan, who started a site for founders dubbed Founder Quorom, will make himself available for developers to learn from.
“We’re really excited to be working together,” said Levinson, “both groups share a love of understanding technology and an unfettered yet directioned creative process. This is going to be awesome, what you’re seeing is only the beginning.”