comments 4

OpenCoffee Cambridge & thoughts and ideas on the startup scene

First of all, thank you to everyone that came out to the first OpenCoffee Cambridge today! I wasn’t sure what to expect, and thought the worst case would mean about 3-4 people would just chat in the coffee shop. I didn’t try to make an accurate count, but I would guess about 30 people or so turned up, which was fantastic! I had a great time meeting and talking to a lot of interesting people.

Here are some photos from the day (my apologies for the blurry ones):

You’re getting close when you see this… you can’t miss it

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Here’s the venue, Caffe Nero on King’s Parade

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This is the view from the front door of Caffe Nero

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In this photo I managed to catch Laurence, Geoff, Peter, and a couple others. (Geoff also blogged about OpenCoffee here.)

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Louise was one of the women to show up (a fellow MBA)

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The group ended up taking up a good chunk of the back of the shop; this was taken after people had started leaving.

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It was a fantastic day, and virtually everyone I met and talked to today was either an entrepreneur or an investor. I want to specifically thank Laurence John and Richard Brockbank from Amadeus and Alex van Someren from Cambridge CfEL for showing up and being so enthusiastic for the idea of OpenCoffee.

After a little bit of research, it seems the two best options for organising a group like OpenCoffee is a Meetup group and a LinkedIn group. Since LinkedIn groups are free, that’s what I’ve setup first. Please click here to sign up. (Currently moderated to prevent spammers.) I think it would be great to start a Meetup group, too, but would like to gauge opinion before the $144/year charge. UPDATE: Peter Clark/Broadersheet has sponsored the Meetup group: sign up here! Please sign up so that we can let everyone know if/when we change venues… if we have a few more weeks packing Caffe Nero like we did today we won’t be welcome there much longer!

On a completely different note, a number of people had some interesting conversations about Cambridge and entrepreneurs. Talking with people today, it seems there are a few different issues that currently exist in the Cambridge startup ecosystem.

  • Social events – OpenCoffee Cambridge is meant to address this. Entrepreneurs just need a place/time to meet each other, demo what they’re doing and network.
  • Demo nights – Cribbing off of the NY Tech Meetup, I think Cambridge needs a night where entrepreneurs can show off what they’ve been working on, get feedback, and have a broader networking event.
  • Judge Business School – Judge is a great business school that could really make a difference to startups, but not enough MBA’s, MPhils, etc get involved in the startup ecosystem.

Initial thoughts on furthering the Cambridge startup ecosystem

Cambridge is an incredible cluster of startups, but it’s not perfect. These are three things that I personally think would be useful in order to address the issues above.

OpenCoffee Cambridge

After today’s success, this is certainly going to become a regular event.

Based on the feedback I got from everyone today, I think this will be most valuable as a weekly, daytime event. It ensures more angels and VC’s can attend (since that’s their day job), and needs to be weekly to develop the kind of relationships that are necessary. That doesn’t mean people need to show up every week! Just that it happens every week for the people that want to meet up.

Full Moon Madness Demo nights

A monthly demo night for entrepreneurs looking to demo their software, products, services would address the second issue. It would take place at night, ensuring as many people as possible can attend. (Both current and aspirational entrepreneurs.) Let’s face it… all entrepreneurs are a little bit mad so let’s celebrate it by demo’ing during a full moon!

This would mean that the first demo night would be Wednesday, March 11th. Are there any conflicts with that night? I’ve got one volunteer to demo already… are there any others? If there’s interest I’ll look into setting something up.

Cambridge Entrepreneurial Speed-dating

I’m not sure how this would work, but there’s a real opportunity to connect science and engineering students working on new ideas with business school students that have the business background to help commercialize them. Sometimes this will be science/engineering ideas looking for business help, other times it will be business ideas looking for science/engineering help in building prototypes, etc. I think it’s critical to get some creative types involved with this, too, but I’m not sure how.

This would ideally happen very early in the school year, and perhaps be repeated after a few months. It may be too late to effectively do this year, but perhaps if it gets developed a bit it would be ready for the fall?

Summary

OpenCoffee Cambridge is ON. Please stay tuned in for more information, but the next one will happen next week at the same time & place. (Thursday, 26 Feb, 10am-12noon at Caffe Nero on King’s Parade)

What do you think of the other ideas? Useful, not useful, something else entirely? I’d be happy to chat in the comments below, off-blog or at the next OpenCoffee.

  • Many thanks for the link and a big thanks for organising this event. I think Cafe Nero would be ideal as I suspect if it is held weekly the numbers would drop of a bit – maybe one of as could pop in and ask the manager if we could have a corner? Alternatively Starbucks in Market square has the basement lounge 🙂

    Love the full moon idea 🙂 It would mean that the day in the week would change for the event which I think in itself is good.

    Maybe we can get The Judge to open its rather closed doors for events such as the full moon ones 🙂

  • Thanks, Geoff. I agree that Caffe Nero will be good for now… we'll see how it goes over the coming weeks/months!

    Re: full moons… that's one of the big reasons why I thought doing it then would be good. Mix it up a bit in case people can't make particular days of the week. I thought about booking the Judge, but the problem there is that there's no wireless available for anyone except for Judge students/staff. If there's interest for this I think I'll look into doing it at CB2.

  • Many thanks for the link and a big thanks for organising this event. I think Cafe Nero would be ideal as I suspect if it is held weekly the numbers would drop of a bit – maybe one of as could pop in and ask the manager if we could have a corner? Alternatively Starbucks in Market square has the basement lounge 🙂

    Love the full moon idea 🙂 It would mean that the day in the week would change for the event which I think in itself is good.

    Maybe we can get The Judge to open its rather closed doors for events such as the full moon ones 🙂

  • Thanks, Geoff. I agree that Caffe Nero will be good for now… we'll see how it goes over the coming weeks/months!

    Re: full moons… that's one of the big reasons why I thought doing it then would be good. Mix it up a bit in case people can't make particular days of the week. I thought about booking the Judge, but the problem there is that there's no wireless available for anyone except for Judge students/staff. If there's interest for this I think I'll look into doing it at CB2.