Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Creating an Entrepreneur's Clubhouse in Kendall Square

Kendall Square is one of the densest collections of smart people, start-up companies, larger tech and biotech firms, and research labs in the country. Pick any square mile of Silicon Valley and I doubt you'd find such a heterogeneous hive of activity.

But one thing Kendall Square lacks is a hang-out geared expressly to entrepreneurs, innovators, and investors. (I've been harping on this topic for eight years now.) Yes, if you work in the Cambridge Innovation Center, the kitchen areas there are nice gathering spots. Yes, if you go to MIT or know how to find it, the Muddy Charles Pub is a fine place to have a pint. Sure, during a busy lunch hour, you're likely to see plenty of people you know at Legal's or Emma's or Black Sheep or the Starbucks in the Marriott or the Au Bon Pain, or maybe standing in line at one of the square's many lunch trucks.

But if you want to hang with other people starting companies, swap ideas, meet some new folks, do a laptop demo, or work for a few hours, there's no place specifically built for that. Where's the clubhouse for entrepreneurs?

Tim Rowe, founder of the Cambridge Innovation Center and a partner at New Atlantic Ventures, is working to create one. The working name is "The Venture Café," and he has just set up a Facebook group to solicit your ideas for a name, location, and the features that would make it a success.

Tim's definition of the project: "This project seeks to create a large-format, fun 'hangout' place in Kendall Square, open early til very late, where the innovation and entrepreneurship community can come together." See this discussion page for more info, or to contribute your ideas.

"In terms of financing it," Rowe writes, "we're hoping to have this jointly owned by a broad cross section of entrepreneurs and others active in the innovation community. Hopefully, this can be 'owned by all' rather than becoming the province of a select few." Rowe has already been having some productive talks with a few initial investors.

Count me as a supporter.

(Note: The Venture Café is also the title of a great book about entrepreneurship by ex-Bostonian Teresa Esser, presently in exile in Milwaukee.)

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Blogger Tim Rowe said...

Thanks for spreading the word, Scott. Anyone who is interested in being involved, please let me know by becoming fans of the Facebook page Scott mentioned.

Incidentally, the book, Venture Cafe, that Scott mentions was the inspiration for our working name. Teresa was kind enough to let us use the name. The actual cafe will have another name, however, and as Scott mentions, we're soliciting ideas.

May 20, 2009 9:42 AM  
Anonymous Stuart Foster said...

Like this idea a lot. The lack of coworking places in Boston (and in Kendall) in particular have always been a hassle to a certain extent. Glad to see that some headway is being made in this department.

May 20, 2009 9:47 AM  
Blogger Desmond Pieri said...

This is a great idea. Hopefully it will become a "Third Place" (see ) Living four years in Europe where third places are the norm (think Irish "local" (pub); think Italian cafe) we lament the lack of these when we returned to the States. Good luck with this effort. Des Pieri

May 20, 2009 10:20 AM  
Anonymous Steven Kane said...

love this idea. is kendall square the best location? i might consider central square also? or even kenmore square?

May 20, 2009 9:24 PM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

Great idea, I'm all for it and would love to do anything I can to help

May 20, 2009 9:58 PM  
Anonymous tara Greco said...

great idea, especially in this economy. happy to help.

May 21, 2009 5:15 PM  
Blogger Scott Kirsner said...

Kane -

Kenmore Square? Really? I've only been covering tech in Boston for 12 years, but I've never visited any tech company's office in Kenmore Square, and no one has ever suggested meeting there for lunch. ;)


May 21, 2009 5:16 PM  
Anonymous Anne Field said...

I would suggest you also look into the Hub. It sets up co-working spaces for entrepreneurs--mostly double and triple-bottom-line startups. It also acts as a sort of incubator. The first one was set up in London, but they're all over the world. And the first U.S. Hub is about to open in San Francisco. I can easily see Cambridge being the next.

I wrote something about it in my blog, Not Only for Profit.

May 22, 2009 12:10 PM  
Blogger Laurel at O'Reilly said...

FYI: Betahouse is a co-working space in Central Square ( Great group of people.

May 22, 2009 3:12 PM  
Anonymous Aubree Lawrence said...

Here's why Kendall:

One of the most exciting parts of The Venture Cafe is that is goes beyond being a cafe, it's a community project. Being a Third Place has been a part of the conversation since the start! :) The Cafe is intended, among other things, to bring a greater sense of belonging and adventure to a place that desperately needs it: Kendall Sq.

The Cafe will help build a presence in Kendall Sq after 7pm and on the weekends, when Kendall is traditionally a bit of a ghost town. It will help move the daily "seeing familiar faces" from lunch lines to actual shared space, which will lead to shared ideas, and a greater sense of community overall!

That said, a successful launch may pave the way for bringing the idea to other locations around town, you can never have too much community.

Laurel - Beta House rocks, and its founder, Jon Pierce, has been a helpful contributor to our planning! :)

May 25, 2009 10:06 PM  
Blogger Luciano Tourn said...

As I neighbor from 100 Memorial drive and MIT alumnus, I would love to participate and help. Count me in.


May 26, 2009 3:41 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Nice idea. Thanks you brought it up.. I'm so in to it.

Best regards,

September 23, 2009 5:37 AM  

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