Tim Rowe, Venture Cafe founder, Cambridge Innovation Center co-founder and CEO and Kendall Square Association founder and President, and all-around ‘Innovation Catalyst’ shares an update on the Venture Cafe retail location progress:
Venture Café, as you know, has been operating as the “Venture Café Alpha” for the better part of the last year within the largest common area at CIC. We have been in “lean startup” mode, using resources that are free or low cost. This has been hugely valuable for us as we have gathered learnings about how to actually stimulate community and create new connections, as well as about less glamorous details, such as managing difficult patrons. To a significant degree we are already accomplishing what we set out to do, without investment. We’re happy about this.
We have built a strong team of over 10, including a manager (Carrie Stalder), bartenders, and volunteer facilitators who help bring people together. About 2,000 people have attended café gatherings so far. We have built partnerships with 42 organizations in the community, notably a strong partnership with the New England Venture Capital Association, which has led dozens of VCs and angels to hold office hours within the Venture Cafe. We have also gotten to know a celebrated restaurant chef/operator, Gary Strack, who is now a full part of our team. He plans to start doing some test-cooking in the in-house kitchen we have at CIC.
We are also making progress toward our goal of opening a “real” ground-floor café/restaurant. Toward that end, we’ve met with a variety of professionals in the restaurant industry: financial people, designers, etc. We had entirely too much fun last week going down to New York to check out some places with innovative designs.
We have a signed LOI with MIT to take a space, and we are most of the way through negotiating a lease. This is for a prime location at the base of Cambridge Innovation Center’s building (One Broadway) in a space currently occupied by Domino’s Pizza. We like that this is close to the startup nexus here at CIC. It has high visibility as you come into Cambridge from Boston by car, and is visible from the T stop. It will also be one of the closest outside restaurants or cafés to the new MIT Sloan building and One Memorial Drive (mostly occupied by Microsoft). As part of the planning process, we will go before the Cambridge Board of Zoning Appeals tomorrow, January 27, to get some changes made to allow us to operate there.
Thank you for your support. Let me know if you have any questions, and consider dropping by the Venture Café (every Thursday, 3-8PM at CIC on the 4th floor).