Several years ago, I was approached by Justin Mawhir, who was seeking to get more involved with the entrepreneurial community. Around that time, I was mourning the loss of Open Coffee, a monthly gathering of techies and startups at an area coffee shop. It started during the dot-com era—and it, too, crashed and burned.
Justin and I met several times, over coffee of course. We researched various models and we could have formed an affiliation with an organization. However, this would have involved adhering to a model and forgoing flexibility to be responsive to our own specific community. We decided to start our own – to create the Rochester model.
Our initial event, RocGrowth Candids, was already successful. It generated a growing following and visibility. Candids involved food and beer during the evening. Coffee would be a natural complement, with coffee and bagels in the morning.
Fortunately, we encountered the team running Carlson Cowork around that time. The Cowork space filled up during its first year, going beyond anyone’s expectation. They saw the natural partnership since Coffee’s primary goal is to bring innovators together to figure out how to help each other.
Fast forward a couple of years and we now sell out each of our bimonthly events. More than 100 individuals attend and all leave with smiles. Feedback consistently cites how comfortable the interactions are and how open everyone is to helping others.
The event incorporates a relatively brief, formal component: The Lightning Rounds. Since “creative collisions” around the coffee urn are incidental, we created an opportunity for individuals to present to an audience with a time limit of three minutes. Presentations are recorded, posted on our site and made available to the presenters for promotional purposes.
People must apply to make it on the “dance card.” We are looking for folks who are entrepreneurs engaged in a startup or social enterprise. Sometimes we permit a public service announcement if the information can be impactful to our community. They must have a specific ask—like, I’m looking for a programmer, designer or help with customer discovery. We refrain from service providers or others who are selling their services or products.
So, feel free to apply anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep it short and sweet. State who you are, what you do and what help you seek from the community.
Richard Glaser is co-creator of RocGrowth and RocGrowth Candids and Coffee events. He was recently presented with Upstate Venture Connect’s Community Catalyst award for organizing programs that bring together diverse startup ecosystem players.