Update: CIC’s Venture Cafe Now Less of a Free-For-All
|January 6, 2012||Posted by Anharris under Events-past|
Note: This blog has been updated based on new information-also posted at Clarifying Venture Cafe’s New Policy.
Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) leaders founded Venture Cafe almost two years ago with the idea of opening a Kendall Square restaurant where entrepreneurs and funders could walk in and meet one another over drinks or a meal.
In the economic downturn, the CIC turned that beta version into an alpha version–in which just about anyone was welcome for free drinks and networking on Thursday afternoons on the CIC’s fifth floor.
Yesterday, the CIC launched a new model in which members of the innovation community will be welcome as guests–but after three visits, anyone not affiliated with certain yet-to-be named entrepreneurial groups must formally apply to become “contributors”… who actively aid others to pursue their innovative and entrepreneurial goals.” CIC clients and members of many other innovation-oriented groups will not need to apply.
In a letter to guests, Tim Rowe, a founder of both the CIC and Venture Cafe, and Chris Myles, Venture Cafe’s Executive Director, explain that “an analysis of the attendance of the Cafe has led us to conclude that we….have space for only 120 Contributors. As a consequence, becoming a Contributor is selective, similar to applying to a university, and is by application. Applicants must also provide up to three references (these maybe Venture Cafe Volunteers, Contributors, or a well-known member of the innovation community…”
The new model is an “ongoing experiment,” they write, aimed at creating “a more focused, committed core of regular attendees while preserving plenty of space and opportunity for new participants.”
As a frequent participant, I do think it’s a good idea to limit the numbers and to impose some structure on the Cafe. At times, the room gets overcrowded and chaotic; it’s sometimes difficult to find the people one hopes to meet. But I hope the new plan allows Venture Cafe to maintain the spontaneity, excitement, and sharing and openness that participants have enjoyed in its earlier incarnations.
—Anita M. Harris
Anita Harris is President of the Harris Communications Group, a public relations firm specializing in marketing communications, thought leadership and social media for companies in health, science, and technology, worldwide. HarrisCom is located in the Cambridge Innovation Center at 1 Broadway in Cambridge, MA. Anita also blogs at New Cambridge Observer.