Free Geek Startups

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What's with all these Free Geeks, anyway?

They may or may not be using the name FREE GEEK, but there are people out there who are working on projects much like ours.

When we hear from someone who wants to start a freegeek or join a similar group in their area, we refer them to the startup email list, where they can search the archives for mention of their location or sign up and ask if there are lurkers local to them.

We came up with the Free Geek Principles in order to guide those who might want to use our name; sort of a trademark kinda thing, a distillation of what's most important to us about what we do.

The Many Projects

Those using our name:

logo state
& web link
FreekiWiki link
Freegeeklogo.gif Oregon Free Geek in Portland (that's us!)

Organizations that are in the process of starting up

logo state
& web link
FreekiWiki link
Fg-michiana-logo.png Michigan and Indiana Free Geek Michiana
Fg-penn-logo.gif Pennsylvania Free Geek Penn
Washington Free Geek Olympia
FG-tacomaLogo.png Washington Free Geek Tacoma
Fg-cmh-logo.png Ohio Free Geek Columbus
Fg-chicago-logo.png Illinois Free Geek Chicago
(FB Bellingham assisting two non-profits) Washington:

RE-Lectronics / RE-Store

FB Bellingham

(Encourages the FG principles,
++ other services!) Montana Free Geek Missoula
(TBA) Murfreesboro, TN Middle Tennessee

Other projects we work with:

Projects we've crossed paths with:

mine this discussion thread for more. People spoke up from Minneapolis, Worcester Mass, Perth Australia, and elsewhere about their local FG-like places. -Pete


(very incomplete list!) (yeah! so when you are checking me out don't forget to update me!)

Starting a new Free Geek:

FreeGeek works on a lot of volunteer labor and a few, dedicated, paid staff. The rent, lights, and wages for staff are paid out of an income stream that is dominated by sales of refurbished equipment in the thrift store, tax-deductible donations, fees for monitors disposal, and sales of materials to industrial recycling companies. The willingness of the volunteers to put time and effort into the place comes from many sources, including: free computers to people who put 24 hours in (in one of our programs); to people who build 6 computers (another program); free food often around from random volunteers acquiring it as donations to a nonprofit or from dumpsters; classes, and the ability to learn things; forwarding of external job offers through to those who might want them; and finally, because we make it a cool place to work by not having a lot of formality.

Probably the most important thing is to have a group of people focused on turning the stream of stuff into a stream of usefulness, both by getting computers built and adopted, and by getting stuff sold, donations made, and equipment being recycled turned into actual, recyclable materials, and then those sold to vendors who will pay the most for them (while staying within the responsible recycling framework). If you can build the streams which generate revenue, you can build staff. If most of your staff people spend their time playing with the 'cool thing' that just came in the door, you're doomed.

That said, FreeGeek isn't particularly lucrative for anyone. At FGPDX, 15 paid staff make just a bit more than minimum wage here, after 5-6 years of operations.

Free Geek Principles
A short list of things that help you decide if you can call your new organization "Free Geek" or not.
Getting Your Own Free Geek Started
Advice on getting a Free Geek up and going.
Free Geek Bylaws
A copy of the official bylaws of Free Geek in Portland.
Site Analysis Guidelines
What kind of qualities to look for when picking a location.
Case Studies
Some stats about some Free Geek startups.
E-Waste Best Practices
The best ways to reuse and recycle.
Organizational Narrative
The story so far.
Free Geek Definitions
Confused by all these terms? Here's your dictionary.
Software Overview
What makes Free Geek in Portland run.
Free Geek Startup Franchise Application
More than just an application, it's a checklist to make sure you're thinking of everything that needs to be thought of -- and a tool to help decide if you're getting in over your head.

Being a Free Geek Ambassador

For Free Geek in Portland people assisting an outside group:

Please visit our Ambassador Basics page. Please? Thanks.

Join the Mailing List

If you want to join in the conversation with other people starting (or wanting to start) a new Free Geek, you probably want to sign up for our startup mailing list. Ask and answer questions. Ask for and give advice.

Visit to sign up.