All posts filed under “Announcements

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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.

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Announcing OpenCoffee Club in Cambridge

Saul Klein started the OpenCoffee Club just about two years ago with an initial gathering in London. As I’ve mentioned before, Cambridge is one of the other hearts of entrepreneurial ventures in the UK and Europe. About 10% of venture capital across Europe is invested in Cambridge. (A city of just 80,000 people if you don’t include students.)

What Cambridge doesn’t have right now is a regular place to meet fellow entrepreneurs. While organisations like the Cambridge Network and the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning and Judge Business School all run events with some excellent networking afterwards, there are no regular events.

The OpenCoffee Club in Cambridge is meant to help change this. As Saul described in his first post on the idea:

This is an attempt to establish recognized, open and regular meeting places where entrepreneurs can meet with investors (and anyone else who fancies coming along) in a totally informal setting.

The key is a regular place and a regular time – it’s not important who comes along, some days it might be no one – just that people know if they want to meet, this is the time and this is the place.

We want to create some density for people — a few places where people know they can meet or bump into others.

Think of OpenCoffee Cambridge as office hours for entrepreneurs and investors. It’s simply a regular, weekly time to get together to demonstrate what you’re working on, discuss current challenges, and pitch your ideas.

When and Where?

The first OpenCoffee Cambridge will be held this Thursday, February 19th from 10am-noon at Caffe Nero on King’s Parade. (Directly across from King’s College Chapel.) Click here to see the Upcoming invite.

Map:

View Larger Map

This day/time is far from set in stone… if attendees (or people that want to but can’t) have strong feelings for or against it, please feel free to comment here or contact me directly. Or better yet, come along to talk about it!

I really look forward to the very first OpenCoffee Cambridge this Thursday, and hope you can come along. If you’d like to hear about future OpenCoffee Cambridge events, please join the group on Upcoming. (I hope to shift this and make it a Meetup Group soon.)

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A fascinating blog

I have a slight confession to make. While I got my undergrad degree in engineering, I’ve always enjoyed reading and try to read quite a bit. By all rights, I should detest grammar, and in many ways I do. (Probably because I never really learned it properly.) But that said, I’m fascinated by the ins and outs and twists of good and proper English grammar.

If this sounds like you at all, this is a webpage you must bookmark:
http://topics.blogs.nytimes.com/tag/after-deadline/

Each week, the New York Times goes through grammar mistakes it’s made in the last week and explains what was wrong and how the stories could have been better written. I mean… wow! It’s great to see self-reflection but also what a teaching tool for up-and-coming journalists and interested writers like me!

I hope this particular blog lasts for a long, long, time.

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Get fit in London

So exercise is clearly linked to thinking better. Depending on who you ask, that and reading are the two keys to life.

But let’s face it, exercise isn’t easy. If you’re pushing yourself, it’s pretty painful. Rowing, for example, at any sort of serious level involves legs and lungs feeling like they’re on fire. It’s great to win, but it can be a tremendous sacrifice to get there. Because it’s not easy to do, it becomes easy to skip. And once you start skipping exercise, you can pretty rapidly lose fitness.

One solution is either getting involved in exercise classes (anonymous and generally not tailored to your needs) or seeing a personal trainer (expensive). A personal trainer can sometimes be trying to mold you into what they want you to be, and not what you want.

If you’re in London, there’s a new solution. Two friends of mine and LondonAnnie have established a new Personal Training company that’s specifically geared to what YOU want to do in life: Point2Fitness. For older people, that might mean being more active with their grandchildren. With others, it may mean training to become an Olympic athlete or climb Everest.

The two founders, Baz and Carla, are World-class athletes themselves. (They won bronze in the 2007 Rowing World Championships in addition to World Cups, Olympics, and more.) LondonAnnie in particular has seen and experienced them in action, as they are long-time members of Thames Rowing Club, and have been experimenting with new fitness routines at the club recently.

Please check out the Point2Fitness website and look into it! Baz and Carla are both talented athletes themselves but also incredibly down-to-earth and focused on making their customers happy and their business a success. It’s great to see what international-level athletes are able to do with their careers when they choose to stop competing, and I wish them the best of luck!

(I particularly like that all of the photos were taken in/around Thames Rowing Club; it’s a very professionally produced website.)