The Venture Cafe at the Cambridge Innovation Center

by Jonny Hankins

The Venture Cafe at the Cambridge Innovation CenterEvery Thursday in Cambridge Massachusetts the Venture Cafe opens its doors to the innovation and start up community, so this week I went to check it out on behalf of the Bassetti Foundation and Innovation Excellence.

The Venture cafe website has a calendar section that describes the event I attended, as well as those forthcoming and past. As described, the cafe hosts tables for individual meetings with lawyers, venture capital groups and other interested parties, as well as innovation competitions and this week an invitation to a green energy hackathon. Appointments are free, the tables have a schedule and an individual can sign up to as many as they like upon arrival.

There are also several meeting rooms where different actors offer advice on everything related to start up management, money raising and a host of other issues, as well as lectures delivered by leaders in the field. Again they are free to participate in and registration is done on site.

The event is not only about information though, it is also about networking. The cafe has a bar and beer and wine is served free of charge. Anyone is allowed to visit the event 3 times before they are asked to become a contributor, and it takes place every Thursday. 3 is the magic number because it is also the number of free drinks an individual can have each week.

One particularly interesting character was that of the doctor. A wooden visiting room was set up next to the bar, staffed by invited individuals that have experience in the start up world or related fields. The logo above the door was very telling; Advice Booth, for the betterment of good ideas. I had the pleasure of a long conversation with Lisa Sasso of Medical Development Partners, and we entered into a real dialogue about my work and the mission and goals of responsible innovation.

Another interesting table was occupied by the TiE Challenge 2013, a start up accelerator that is looking for applications for a competition whose 5 winners gain year long mentorship, introduction to investors, office space and cash, to name but a few.

A second interesting table was occupied by the 2nd Boston Cleanweb Hackathon and Data Jam Challenge Competition. This event boasts a $25,000 prize pool, and competitors are asked to create an application that addresses energy issues. The Data Jam section of the competition focuses on transportation energy efficiency, all takes place between 5th and 7th of April in Boston

The atmosphere was very pleasant, people were open about their work and I spoke to many innovators, entrepreneurs and funders, and I can see that the meeting could be a great resource for anyone looking for help in setting up or maintaining a start up business. The Venture Cafe is situated within the Cambridge Innovation Center, a complex that offers office space of all types to anyone who needs it.

All in all I would say that the event is a great resource for anyone interested in innovation and the fast changing world of start ups.

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Innovation, Social Risk and Political ResponsibilityJonny Hankins is a researcher and writer for the Bassetti Foundation for Responsible Innovation in Milan. Trained as a sociologist at the Victoria University of Manchester UK, his interests range from innovation in the renewable energy sector, bio and medical ethics and the role of politics in innovation, to questions of ethical and moral responsibility. He lives in Boston Massachusetts where he is also a professional musician, actor and street performer.

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  1. Thank you, Jonny, for your account of the night. We at Venture Cafe think of it as “place-based social networking” for the good of all. We believe in innovation through collaboration. The Advice Booth is a good example of our mission to encourage entrepreneurs and innovators to help entrepreneurs and innovators. If the Advice Booth is empty we encourage anyone who would like to fill the seat. Please join us every Thursday from 3pm to 8pm on the 4th Floor of One Broadway, Cambridge.

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