OpenCoffee – An excellent blend

I spent this morning at the inaugural OpenCoffee event which Saul Klein had organised. Designed to be an opportunity for “money” to meet “talent”, over 100 people turned up, albeit not many of those were fellow investors.

The Starbucks venue is located inside the Esprit store on Regent St., which doesn’t open until 10am, which was the start time for OpenCoffee. The staff clearly had a big shock therefore to see a large crowd gathering outside the store before it opened and an even bigger one to see them all wander directly past them upstairs to Starbucks. I reckon the security guards thought they had a flash mob on their hands!

Whilst there were a few familiar faces, the event attracted many faces I’d not seen before despite my regular attendance at many of the London web scene events. I listened to some great ideas/ventures and shall certainly be following up on several of these. Obviously not all of the businesses I spoke to suited our interests, but as I’ve reported before the “funding” dating game is about right price and right investor.

The event is scheduled to be held every Thursday at 10am-12pm, albeit when I left at 1pm it was still going strong. I hope that there will be sufficient interest to maintain this frequency as it would be a great shame if the event petered out from insufficient churn of new faces and too few attendees.

My tips for entrepreneurs thinking of attending are

  • don’t plan to do demos. For a start, there’s no free wifi in this Starbucks, but more importantly this is about making initial contact with the “money”.
  • be prepared to give a short explanation of what you do and what you are looking for
  • find out what the investor is looking for – they may not invest in your space or have min investment thresholds that may rule you out.
  • acknowledge that other entrepreneurs have come along to speak to investors too, so if there’s interest on both sides after say 5 minutes, then get agreement to a follow up and then move onto the other investors. If they aren’t interested, it’s not necessarily because your idea is lousy or they are “thick” and don’t get it. It may be because your venture doesn’t fit their investment profile – most times, they will explain this.
  • regularly check that the investor understands what you are describing as you are talking
  • have a good supply of business cards with you – lots of people ran out today!
  • be approachable and initiate conversations with people hovering nearby as well as encouraging people to join your group/discussion
  • circulate; it’s why you are there and so is everyone else
  • you are not in competition for investor money; if the venture is good enough and the price is right you should get funding regardless.

Apologies if this appears obvious, but some people today simply failed to follow these basic steps.

Details of OpenCoffee “members” and future events can be found here.

More coverage of OpenCoffee can be found here at Vecosys and here at the Guardian.

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