The State of the Coffee… The Open Kind

In April, I took the initiative of bringing the OpenCoffee Club project to Portugal, most specifically to Lisbon. The project started as well as it could, with more than 10 people signing in the first week, which was good considering the nature of the event.

For the fist OpenCoffee meeting we had 6 persons showed up, which was not a good number considering that by the time of the event, we had almost 20 members in the group. Nevertheless, considering that the OC philosophy consists in a informal meeting, almost like a coffee with friends, these 6 members (me included) had a really nice time, sharing experiences and knowledge as it was meant to be, unfortunately not all the goals of the OC were met.

What failed?

Well, today VD, one of the members that is present on OCL since the beginning, wrote about the fact the OCL could not be successful as the OC in Boston (or any other around the world). The reasons he pointed (very well) are based on a few side chats we’ve been having since the first OCL meeting.

  • – We don’t have a lot of (new) entrepreneurs. The VC scene in Portugal is waaayyyy behind the rest of the world. Just go to London and see the differences, and that’s a 2 hours plane trip.
  • – Portuguese like agendas. If you organize a meeting / event with every aspect and topic detailed, people will criticize you but they’ll come, no matter how inflexible the agenda is. If you put people comfortable, say it’s an open meeting, say let’s go with the flow and bam! You get no one. That’s too risky and too “out there” for the majority of the Portuguese folk. We have been taught to follow the agenda, trade 100 mails deciding which does what, and without that everybody is lost. There’s no agenda in OpenCoffees, we could have it, but that removes all the purpose of the OC.

The biggest mistakes I made was to rush things too much and trust that people would show up, but since it was the first one, it would be more of an experience. We didn’t had a second OCL meeting not by procrastination as Marcos ranted about, but because we saw immediately what failed, and unlike Celso’s opinion, the OpenCoffee formula doesn’t work in Portugal, not with the original format at least.

The Next Step

VD and I tried to figure out a formula that could work here, and we took a glimpse at the major tech events here in Portugal so we could decide which elements would be beneficial to a new project. The OpenCoffee club was unlike all the others due to it’s easy going structure and philosophy, it’s not like Barcamp, TakeOff, Tecnonov, or any other except perhaps the regular meetings of some communities like the Perlmongers community.

One of the most successful events we analysed was Barcamp Portugal which takes place in Coimbra since it’s implementation in Portugal. Actually if we take a look at the events I mentioned before, the majority took / takes place in Coimbra, so having a OpenCoffee Portugal like Marcos mentioned would probably end being done in Coimbra, that’s why I took only the Lisbon share and let others take the initiative for they’re own cities.

We won’t be doing an OpenCoffee Portugal or a Barcamp Lisbon. In fact our idea, like VD mentioned, is to make something between an OpenCoffee and a Barcamp. Our goal is to get a stable core of persons meet every 15 days to discuss whatever people pre-submit to an agenda (yes an agenda!) and depending on the agenda and the number of persons who’ll be attending (besides the stable core) we can take the event to one of the two possible formats:

If there’s a good number of people attending we make it like a Barcamp, if there’s just the core group and a few number of persons we make it like an OpenCoffee.

What’s your point?

Well, our point is to carry on the OC philosophy, enrich it a little more with some structure and content type of a Barcamp and at the same time decentralizing most of these kind of tech events here in Portugal. I don’t have anything against Coimbra (I actually love the city) but there’s lot’s of people interested in this kind of events in Portugal, not only in Coimbra.

Soon we’ll have more information about the project and begin to recruit some voluntaries for the core. Meanwhile be free to join the OCL mailing list, we can then contact everyone from there.

[tags]OpenCoffee, OpenCoffee Club Lisbon, Barcamp, Portugal, Lisbon, Coimbra[/tags]

4 Replies to “The State of the Coffee… The Open Kind”

  1. hey Ricardo, while reading this post I remembered a really cool quote from Pulp Fiction, please indulge me:

    – But you know what the funniest thing about Europe is?
    – What?
    – It’s the little differences. A lotta the same shit we got here,
    they got there, but there they’re a little different.

    And it’s the same thing with this whole OpenCoffee revamp. As an example, BarCamp PT seems to follow the same model as other BarCamp events. I really cannot understand with OCL has to be a “little different” from other OC’s. If it had been occurring for half a year then yeah, I would totally agree with you guys that the model won’t stick. But from where I’m sitting it looks like you don’t want to bother to make it stick either.

  2. You’re missing the point: there won’t be a OpenCoffee Lisbon anymore. We’re changing it to something with a different structure, only we’re taking some elements from the OC and Barcamp and see if it works better. So it’s not even the “same shit” they have out there.

    Barcamp worked in Portugal because the model ‘sticked’ at the first event, simple as that.

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