A little less than two weeks ago we launched ROCC at the same place with a total of 13 people in attendance. We started with a brief discussion on what it takes to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Ramallah. We then went around the room and had everyone introduce themselves and talk about what they’d like to get out of their participation in ROCC. The remaining time was spent as an open forum, where various folks shared topics/news on which they wanted to hear feedback from the group.
To provide some context, OpenCoffee Clubs are currently held in over 150 cities worldwide (you’ll notice Ramallah has now been added to the list). It was originally started by Saul Klein in London with the goal of offering a regular informal setting for everyone engaged in the entrepreneurial community to meet, interact, network, and grow. An important part of the OCC value is offering a platform that encourages interaction between people from diverse professional backgrounds. As such, OCC is not restricted to developers, techies, or entrepreneurs. It is really for anyone who is interested in startups and wants to engage in the community and get involved.
My first exposure to the OCC concept came from Brad Feld’s book on building startup communities (which I reviewed in a previous post). In the book, Brad has Jason Mendelson tell the story of how Boulder OpenCoffee Club came to be (Jason founded BOCC). I had a call with Jason last week to hear more about his experience launching BOCC. I also wanted to understand how they went from 9 people when they first started in 2006, to now occupying the Atlas Purveyors coffee shop to full capacity on every meeting, and in some cases turning people away.
Based on my conversation with Jason, the main takeaways can be summarized in 5 key factors that will contribute to the success and sustainability of ROCC. These same factors are also good reasons for why you should join the Club. I call them the NICER Factors 😉
- Nothing: Jason drew an analogy between OCC and the Seinfeld show. He pointed out that the success of the Seinfeld show was in no small part due to the fact that it was a show about nothing! ROCC is an “un-meeting”, and similarly part of its success will depend on it being a meeting about nothing. This relative lack of structure, lack of formality, and lack of an overarching subject or theme allows room for everyone to participate and be part of shaping each event. You will have the opportunity to help make each ROCC unique in a way that is relevant to you.
- Inclusivity: ROCC is the type of event that is meant to engage the full spectrum of actors in the entrepreneurial community. Anyone who is interested in startups is encouraged to join. The more diverse the backgrounds of the participants are (business, tech, marketing, telecom, creative, etc.), the richer the interactions will be. You will have the opportunity to hear new perspectives, and expand your network’s reach.
- Communal: As is the case with other OCC’s, ROCC is lead and operated by the community. The success and sustainability of ROCC (and similar activities) will largely depend on it not being attached or dependent on one person. If you’ve been thinking about becoming more active in the community, ROCC is a great opportunity to do that. You own it! You’re regular participation and contributions will keep the wheels turning at ROCC, and potentially place you among an organically-forming leadership group that will keep ROCC going and growing.
- Engagement: At ROCC people will have enough room to speak and share, while ensuring participants continue to get value out of these interactions, and while constantly promoting new connections, and a culture of giving, and mentorship. Getting feedback from people on what they want to get out of their participation at ROCC will always be a priority. To help keep conversations at ROCC fresh and relevant, we’ll want to make sure everyone gets to participate, while at the same time making sure the conversation is effectively moderated. As Jason puts it, at OCC people share to make a point, not to prove a point – the conversation should be kept fast-paced. ROCC group can be your platform to make your voice heard in the community, or a sounding board for your thoughts and ideas.
- Regularity: This is probably the most important of all the NICER Factors. By keeping a regular place and a regular time (Zamn Al-Tireh every other Tuesday at 8am), ROCC becomes the pulse of our fledgeling startup community. A sign that we, as a community, are alive. A de facto place to go to for newcomers or visitors to get plugged into the developing entrepreneurial ecosystem in Ramallah. Chances are, a bi-weekly Tuesday morning routine involving good coffee and a great conversation will be much better than most other routines you now have going on on a daily basis. All you need to ROCC your calendar is to add an event that starts tomorrow (Tuesday) at 8am, and recurs every other week.
When I started writing this post, I wanted to come up with a “Top 10 Reasons” list for why you should join ROCC (David Letterman style). Then I figured it will be more fun (and better material) to have the community collaborate on it. You can post your reasons here as comments on this post, or on the ROCC FB page. We’ll figure out a way to select the best/funniest entries, compile them, and share them on the ROCC page.
One final thought: Boulder OCC launched with 9 participants, while Ramallah’s launched with 13. Let’s work together to sustain this advantage. Hope to see you at ROCC, and make sure you spread the word in your respective circles.
Saed Nashef سائد ناشفA technologist, entrepreneur, and investor, I co-founded Sadara Ventures – the first early-stage venture capital in Palestine – to invest in exceptional entrepreneurs and help them build great companies. This blog is my attempt to capture and share some of my thoughts and experiences along this journey. Read more ...
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