Sunday, March 04, 2007

OpenCoffee Club: structure vs free-form

People have been giving me some really fabulous feedback on OpenCoffee Club since the first meeting last Thursday. Phil Wilkinson has put up a really thoughtful post on his Crowdstorm blog.

Phil is a smart guy, who cares passionately about improving the scene here in Europe and he really gets the motivation behind OpenCoffee - in fact I couldn't have put it better myself:
"Imagine it more as a big open lounge where people come and go, talk to others in their industry, showcase demo’s of what they are working on, save the world, and ultimately maybe get some work done and run a few small meetings."
Phil also brings up some great points about the principles and spirit behind OpenCoffee Club which I wanted to comment on:
Let’s not treat it just another social networking event - if you don’t make it along, it’s not the end of the world - there’s one every week. You don’t have to go round speaking to everyone - sometimes it’s good to meet a few good people and a few in-depth discussions - the other people will probably be there next week!

>> Right on - the whole point is that OpenCoffee should feel like a public office for people interested in startups. One of the things I liked about last week was the lack of pressure because it's a regular occurrence in a regular place.

More demonstrations - let’s have more of these. We noticed one or two people going to one of the tables and just showing some new technology or even what they have been working on to-date. Definitely should be much more of this. You never know, it might stir some ideas for business partnerships with people or they may be able to match you with people who can help and enhance your offering. Plus, it’s much more fun!

>> Completely agree and I know there are other folks who want this as well. I think a good model is the one in NYC by my good friend, Scott Heiferman with his NYC Tech Meetups. I'm working on finding a good venue for this to tie into OpenCoffee (any offers let me know), but I also loved the informality last week of people just firing up their laptops and showing people what they're working on.

Never, ever, have name badges or colour coded tags: it’s not that type of event and never should be. It’s not even an event - it’s a place where internet people come and go for coffee, chat, and a cake.

>> Yes. Yes. Yes. I know a lot of peple have commented in our Meetup group that they'd like First Tuesday or FOWA like stickers - OpenCoffee is not this kind of an event, as Phil said it's a place and I like the idea that you have to find out what people do by actually (careful!) talking to them.

Filtering the people - which can be a bit controversial. Last week was perfect - a great blend of good people from our internet industry who could potentially add real value to someone else’s business or aspirations. Now, what I don’t want to see, and I’m sure everyone else feels the same, is a bunch of PR execs, recruiters & headhunters, or bob from the stationary department at big corp X coming along because they smell opportunity. If we want it to become the cult of e-cademy, then that’s the quickest way to go about it. Let’s just be polite but firm if they saunter on to our pad.

>> This is controversial. I have to say my view is no filtering - open means open, it's up to the people who come to do what Phil is and make sure we are making the most of it' Let's aim as Marc Eisenstadt for an"overwhelmingly positive can-do atmosphere, and the very high signal-to-noise ratio."

Journalists, VC’s, and Angels are more than welcome and we should help give them some fun and interesting stories, and opportunities. These guys often have a good perspective on the industry as a whole and are definitely worth talking to in the non-pitch sense. Remember, they’re here to take part too and get away from people trying to sell them things - at least for a few hours.

>> Of course they are welcome, we're helping to kick it off :) One of the big points for me with OpenCoffee is to make investment more transparent to entrepreneurs and exactly as Phil says, move away from the pitch to the conversation. Investors can give entrepreneurs really valuable feedback and hopefully in this environment this can happen in a pressure free way.
Phil also references Ben Metcalfe's views that we should look to sharing learning experience with the great talent in the US. I spent seven years working in the US from 1995-2002 at and with startups both big (Microsoft) and small (Firefly) - I learnt an enormous amount and still treasure and keep very active the relationships I developed.

We're so easily connected now I'd encourage anyone who's not experienced the buzz of a Silicon Valley start-up to get on a plane and spend a week out there meeting people. Keith Teare, someone who has experienced startups both in Europe (easynet) and the Valley (realnames, Techcrunch and edgeio) will be hosting an OpenCoffee Club especially for folks coming from outside the US looking to be plugged into the Valley.

In 10 days since OpenCoffee Club was announced we've had events in London and Dublin - there are also now events planned in Paris, Amsterdam, Cambridge, New York, Seattle and Boulder.

The enthusiasm is great and this completely in synch with vision of being able to go to any entrepreneurial hub and meeting other like-minded startup freaks - let's keep it rolling, and yes, the wiki is on it's way to connect us all up :)

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At 3/04/2007 08:56:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Saul, in Amsterdam people are also enthusiastic. We scheduled the first OpenCoffee on March 15.

For more info:


At 3/05/2007 12:26:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The informal style of the OpenCoffee Meetup worked very well. The structure (or lack of) seemed to force people to engage quickly in conversation. The atmosphere was also helped by the fact that there was quite a lot of room to move and circulate (unlike FOWA the week before which was so packed that networking was almost impossible).

Given that 80-120 people pitched up for the first Meetup, numbers could become a problem. How do you manage perhaps 200 or more people showing up?

If you are going to evolve the format, then perhaps do it in a very “web 2.0” way. Experiment with small changes that can be “rolled back”, encourage open conversations about what works and what doesn’t and ask for volunteers if you need to share the admin overhead.

This initiative is off to a great start.

At 4/23/2007 02:02:00 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Saul,

I am interested in helping spread the OCC in Eastern Europe.

How do I start one for instance in Ljubljana (Slovenia) where I am based?

an at

At 7/09/2007 05:42:00 pm, Blogger Bob Karr said...

Phil, I like the open club idea. This ties in nicely with what we are doing at and your members will benefit by depth of information on the people, capital and companies of the Silicon Valley.

Bob Karr, CEO

At 10/07/2008 03:01:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

in some places it probably works better if the concept is slightly modified!

At 5/22/2009 07:00:00 am, Blogger loluckbaby said...

Hi Saul, I am Loluck Baby From Trivandrum,Kerala, India. This city is the capital city of our State and there is no OCC here. Iam interested to start it here. Please send me the procedures of how to start the opperations, and give me some contact details of the most successful OCC members in India. Iwill contact them. my mail is

At 6/08/2009 09:33:00 pm, Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Saul, I am Eleftherios Pontikakis from Thessaloniki Greece and there is no OCC here. I am interested to start it here so please send me the procedures of how to start the opperations, and give me some contact details of the most successful OCC members in Greece. Email is

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At 11/04/2009 03:42:00 am, Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Saul Greetings from Puerto Rico in the Caribbean we dont have an OCC in my island will love to open one and shared with the area. Please send me information about how to organize and any recomendations to follow. Thanks in advance Eric


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