Open Coffee Austin, Rebooted

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:

  1. began at the ungodly hour of 7:30am
  2. was on a Wednesday, directly after many Tuesday night events
  3. was always held in the downtown area

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:

  1. We alter the time to 8:30-10:30am
  2. We shift the day from Wednesday to Thursday
  3. We alternate Open Coffee locations weekly bi-weekly

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.

Open Coffee Club Austin

An open space to meet Austin entrepreneurs and investors

First Wednesdays – Jo’s Coffee* on 2nd St – 7:30-9:30a

The time for this has been adjusted, please see the reboot post for more info!

While reading through David Walker’s Born Entrepreneur blog recently, I noticed a old post about the Open Coffee Club Movement:

The idea is simple. Events are arranged on a set date in a set location. Entrepreneurs and people interested in the industry come along to chat, discuss their ideas, and build relationships. VCs also come along and entrepreneurs have a chance to pitch their ideas to them – and discuss whether they might be interested in funding them etc.

It’s such a simple and obvious idea, I thought that surely Austin must have one and that I just didn’t know about it.  It turns out that Bryan Jones and Nick Ducoff did actually start and run one in 2007 when the idea first surfaced, but they don’t meet anymore.  I’ve spoken with Nick and he was quite supportive of starting this up again.

When I first raised the idea, I was given various pieces of advice which largely centered around who would or wouldn’t come to this kind of thing.  I like the idea of a consistent meeting time that has no set agenda, no politics, and no real structure.  It’s open and that means that quite literally anyone can come by. Sure, there may be some bozos from time to time, but in general I think we’re at a point as a larger entrepreneurial community where we could stand to get to know each other better in an informal setting.  So walk up to Jo’s, grab a coffee, and find someone interesting to talk to.  And for heaven’s sakes, please be interesting! 😉

The recent AustinStartup article Wherefore Art Thou, Austin Investors spawned a lot of varied commentary, but not much real understanding about the investor perspective.  I hope that if we can attract quality entrepreneurs to meet up and connect in this open space, that we will also attract some open-minded investors who will join us and share their unique perspective with us.  There are benefits to both sides to be more open with each other and a cup of coffee seems like a good place to start.

We are going to meet on First Wednesdays at 7:30am in downtown Austin:

Jo's Coffee on 2nd

Think you can make it to the first open coffee this Wednesday?  If so, click “count me in” on the Plancast site to show others that you plan to attend.

If you want to keep up with the event as we forge ahead, you can check out the Open Coffee Austin web site for updates.

Look forward to meeting you!

*Good news about the parking situation. Jo’s can validate your City Hall parking spot!