Thanks to Matt Genovese for the opportunity.
Back in August, I started an Open Coffee for entrepreneurs and the like just to encourage stronger connections amongst those in the Austin entrepreneurial community. The attendance was mixed…very strong the first day (we had 30 attendees) and weaker on subsequent months. The last time attendance was so low, most likely due to cold weather and the holiday period being extra busy. I personally have missed 2 of the 5 events due to work commitments so the timing of it has actually been really poor for me. This is too bad because I really look forward to the event and building into something great.
I think there are a few reasons why the event has struggled to build a more consistent following and I have a few proposals to fix these issues. Everything we do is a bit of an experiment anyway, now isn’t it. Let’s see if we can learn and adapt here to make things mo’ better.
The 2010 meetup:
The event started at 7:30am to try to give folks a chance to stop by before work in case they needed to go in to an office by 8 or 8:30. Given the fact that many of the crowd are software developers and entrepreneurs on their own schedule, asking this was quite a stretch.
Many of us attend tech events on Tuesdays such as Refresh Austin, WordPress Austin Meetup, Austin on Rails, or Cafe Bedouins. To ask people who stayed out late the night before hitting some tech event to show up way early the next day only allowed for the insanely dedicated to make the morning event.
Finally, the reason why it was set in the downtown area is that I personally do not spend much time downtown and I wanted to meet more of the crowd who lives/works/hangs out in the downtown area. It’s also a logical “city center” for everyone to gather. The reality is, though, especially very early in the morning, that it takes considerable effort to get downtown if you live way South or way North (as I do). Some even drove in from as far away as Cedar Park, Round Rock, and Buda. I think downtown is a perfect place to have open coffee discussions, but I’m also open to the idea that we should spread the love around. As I’ve learned running Cafe Bedouins, different geographic areas draw out different crowds. Changing the location of an informal coffee meetup can radically alter who attends the event, and sometimes dramatically increase it!
Given all this, I’d like to make a proposal for Open Coffee Austin going forward:
I believe that these changes will allow more people to connect and reduce some of the stressors that plagued the prior event setup.
The first three Open Coffees of the new and improved 2011 schedule are now set up on Facebook:
Are you interested in this kind of thing? Do these changes make you more or less likely to attend?
Let me know what’s what.
UPDATE: The turnout was extremely light for the North one (and sadly, Sodade coffee shop closed), so I’m going to cancel it for now. We’ll meet up bi-weekly, alternating between Downtown and Central Austin.
At Tahoe Tech Talk 2010, a question came up during Q&A about building up entrepreneurial communities outside of Silicon Valley. Brad Feld, a well-known venture capitalist in Boulder was asked to come up on stage to share a few of his thoughts.
(video clip shared with Brad’s permission)
Brad essentially made three main points:
Join us this Wednesday morning downtown at Jo’s Coffee for Open Coffee Austin. We meet up for good coffee, making connections, and conversation centered around building businesses in Austin. We meet on the First Wednesday of each month.