#OpenCoffeeLou meets in a new place and welcomes new faces

Emma Brown, Tom Cottingham, John Receveur, Fred Ruffenach, and Scott Love at Open Coffee 5

New venue. New faces. New structure… to a degree.  At this morning’s fifth Open Morning Meeting for Entrepreneurs and Coffee, this time with Chocolate, at Ghyslain at 721 E. Market Street, we hosted record numbers of attendees (27– around a quarter of them first-time attendees), including a handful of people who were there specifically to share valuable information for startup professionals.

Kelby Price assumed the moderator role at the beginning of the meeting. It was his efforts that brought us to the beautiful meeting room in a former funeral home that is now owned by Creation Gardens. Price suggested that in addition to our meetings being “regular and predictable” timewise (always 8:30 a.m., every Monday morning), perhaps they should be more “regular and predictable” structurally. He suggested that we emulate the Open Coffee Lexington model of greetings, five minutes of announcements, 20 or so minutes of sharing, and then a less structured general chat.

And we basically followed that model, with a tilt toward the “less-structured” part.

Events on our radars:

  • OpenHack is tomorrow, Dec. 4, at iHub. It’s for developers or wannabe developers. We wrote about it last week, and IL is bringing the pizza. If you’re interested in attending, please RSVP here.
  • Louisville’s own Tendai Charasika is speaking today in San Francisco about “Lean Startups” and has brought two of our favorite young tech entrepreneurs on the Kodable crew with him as an example. He will be repeating his talk for IF University on Dec. 13 at the iHub. For more information check out our coverage here.
  • Chris Vermilion shared information about Louisville’s participation in the Global Day of Code this Saturday. From the website: “A code retreat is a day-long event where programmers gather to practice the fundamentals of programming outside of the constraints of work. Pairs of programmers work to solve a problem in 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, the code is deleted. The programmers perform a retrospective, reflecting on their progress and how things went.” More information here.
  • Elizabeth Rounsavall reminded us that Awesome Inc.’s 5-Across Finals are this Wed., Dec. 5, at 5 p.m. in Lexington. We reported on this awesome (no pun intended) event a few weeks ago.
  • Michael Schnuerle from MetroMapper has an app in contention for the Google Places api Developer Challenge. Public voting will take place from Dec. 12- Dec. 31. We’ll bring you more information when we have it.
  • Sun. Dec.9 is the New2Lou Birthday Bash at 21c. Normally the monthly networking and social event happens on the second Wed. of every month, but this month they’re taking the celebration to the weekend. More on why New2Lou is important to us and to #OpenCoffeeLou later.
  • Several members inquired about the next PosSOUPbility dinner. It will be on Jan. 27, according to their Facebook page. More information on that to come; in the meantime here’s their website.
  • Dec. 18, YPAL is sponsoring an event in its Legal Series featuring entrepreneur Gill Holland talking about why he got a law degree and why he isn’t using it. More information on their calendar.

Scott Love, the Economic Development Coordinator at the city’s Department of Economic Growth and Innovation, came to speak to the group about the opportunities available for entrepreneurs and small business owners at the NIA Center at 2900 West Broadway. The NIA Center, which almost no one in the room had heard of, is a city property that is meant to serve as a base for entrepreneurs and early stage businesses. While this resource was put into place for city business people more than a decade ago, it has fallen into disuse. Mayor Fischer and Ted Smith are seeking to “rebrand” the center. From the website:

Nia comes from Swahili, meaning purpose. The Nia Center’s purpose is to empower people to develop a more meaningful life, for themselves and their business.

Many people assume that the NIA Center, because it is located in West Louisville, is a resource for West Louisville residents only. It is not. Anyone living in Jefferson County can use it.

Love gave us a rundown of all the services housed in the NIA Center– most on the 3rd Floor Business Center. Again, from the website:

  • The Coalliance of Business Associations works with local business associations and government to provide the solutions your business needs. COBA is staffed by volunteer professionals who solve and assist you with growing your business.
  • The Kentucky Small Business Development Center provides FREE consulting services for business planning, marketing, financial options for small businesses and startups, in addition to affordable entrepreneur training.
  • The Small Business Administration can help you obtain financial assistance to start, run or grow a business.
  • The SCORE (Service Core of Retired Entrepreneurs) offers in-depth counseling by people with real-world experiences, as well as low-cost pre-business workshops.
  • The Louisville Enterprise Group is the non-profit affiliate of the Louisville Development Bancorp, Inc. This group offers business loans, technical assistance and leaseable office space to businesses in Louisville’s inner city.

According to Love, the Existing Business Counseling program (EBC) of the SCORE has been recognized as one of the best in the country.

The 2nd Floor of the NIA Center was originally structured to be an incubator space, but that never came to fruition. Now the Center leases out small offices on the 2nd floor to help pay the bills. These offices are available at below market rate (and there’s free parking).

Every Tuesday and Thursday the NIA Center offers its meeting rooms for free. Contact Holly to schedule a meeting in their “chalkboard rooms” at 502-574-4140.

SCORE is also providing “shadow boards” for small companies. Not ready for a full Board of Directors? SCORE can hook you up with board-ready volunteers to work behind the scenes with you on getting your business ready for a full board.

Open discussion:

Jeweli Oately of Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation (KSTC) came to talk about the Startup Kentucky initiative, which is meant to work alongside Startup America as an entrepreneur-led group. Oately has attended the Lexington version of OpenCoffee, and promoted their “Beta Brigade,” a group of early-adopters willing to beta test products and services. Right now, Startup Kentucky and Startup America are more about networking than about providing resources, but that could change depending on leadership.

Emma Brown of Young Professionals of Louisville  (YPAL) spoke about YPAL’s partnership with Code Louisville, which will begin in Jan. 2013. YPAL was started in 1999 and currently boasts more than 800 members. “If you ever need an accountant or an attorney,” said Brown, “we’ve got a million of those.” YPAL would love to bring on more tech and startup professionals.

Brown also spoke about Venture Connectors, our local forum for entrepreneurs and investors. Venture Connectors has a luncheon every first Wednesday of the month which features a guest speaker and two 5-minute pitches from vetted entrepreneurs. The next event is Dec. 5 at 11:30 a.m at the Ali Center, and the guest speaker is Alex Frommeyer of Beam Technologies. Admission is $45.

Greg Langdon, local investor, encouraged attendees to look into the VC luncheons. “It took me a long time to get past all the neckties in the room,” said Langdon.

Venture Connectors also sponsors the yearly Venture Sharks event, which is the Louisville equivalent of Lexington’s bi-monthly 5-Across business pitch contest. The next Venture Sharks is on May 1, 2013.

Tech entrepreneur Aaron Marshall of Potluck attended #OpenCoffeeLou for the first time and spoke briefly about his business philosophy and his “lean startup,” the very successful iPhone app, OVER. Marshall talked about his family’s decision to lead a frugal life, including renting a small house and driving a Buick. He says, “Lean isn’t just a business philosophy; it’s a lifestyle.” If you spend any time in Quills on Baxter Ave, you’d likely recognize Marshall. He doesn’t have an office; Quills suits him just fine. And Marshall replies to all of his own support requests, “even at four o’clock in the morning.”

Marshall estimates that developing OVER and OVERGRAM, the free version, have required around $70K in investments. But as of last week, the duo were collecting somewhere in the neighborhood of 30K downloads… a day.

When conversation turned to funding of startups, Fred Durham, self-proclaimed “recovering entrepreneur” founder and former CEO of Cafe Press, brought up the fact that the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Louisville is so diverse. “An investor needs a theme,” said Durham. “What we need is a Chrysalis II.” Or a professional fund manager.

During our continuing conversation about the perceived “talent issue” in Louisville, Stacey Servo of New2Lou reminded the group that engaging new Louisvillians at events like the New2Lou Birthday Bash mentioned above isn’t just about the newcomers themselves. “We’re engaging a whole family,” said Servo. “We’re engaging all the people they know back home.” So while people who show up to events like New2Lou may have moved to Louisville for a job, it’s possible that they’ve brought with them a partner who is on the market. It’s also possible to turn newcomers into recruiters for our city– show them how welcoming and warm Louisville can be, and turn them into evangelists for Louisville.

Insider Louisville’s Tom Cottingham closed the meeting with the following suggestion: We should all be asking ourselves: “What are three things you really need to get accomplished in 2013? And how can we help you get them accomplished?”