Meeting place for Kendall crowd will get a Harvard Square tryout
A café meant to inspire entrepreneurial doings in Kendall Square will have its start in weeks rather than months — but in Harvard Square.
At least, that’s where things are headed. Tim Rowe, founder of the Cambridge Innovation Center and president of the Kendall Square Association, told a meetup tonight at Kendall’s Friendly Toast that a terrific opportunity has arisen in Harvard Square — space essentially shared with an existing café that can provide food and drink — to serve as an “alpha” café and show what’s needed to make a permanent space work.
Because negotiations with the landlord are in progress, he didn’t want to give a specific location.
“We will do an alpha, and we will do it soon,” he said. Money from the alpha would go to funding the permanent site.
Efforts began in May for a “Venture Café” open early and late that would serve as a central meeting place and hangout space at the nexus for the academic, high-tech, biotech, entrepreneurial and venture capital crowd in Cambridge, one inspiring place-based social networking over the e-mailing, status updating and tweeting that can dominate the community’s discourse. (Although the place should have a virtual presence as well, such as by having Twitter users attach a unique tag to tweets made from inside.) The West Coast scene has such places, and Cambridge suffers from the lack of even one, Rowe believes.
“We want to encourage those connections,” said Carrie Stalder, project manager for the café.
Such a place should be within 100 feet of the Kendall Square T stop and big as well, Rowe has said. That’s a difficult combination, but he is in talks for such a place — 3,500 square feet and near the T — that could be available within six months. (Again, Rowe and Stalder were reluctant to get any more detailed.)
As the couple of dozen students, entrepreneurs and coffee mavens at the meetup broke into groups to address its design, technological needs, food and drink and membership, Rowe roved to hear conversations and offer more outlines for discussion.
While visiting the technology group, he clarified that the café has to be self-sustaining, but not necessarily profitable.
“What’s important is the degree to which the area functions as a platform for people to become entrepreneurs,” Rowe said, “but it has to break even or it’ll cease to exist quickly. We’re not looking at it as a charity.”
One step toward ensuring it becomes self-sustaining would be to sell naming rights to the café, sort of like Gillette Stadium, he said. He wants buy-in from throughout the entrepreneurial and venture capital community, but knows he will “probably” wind up providing significant funding himself.
Despite a café opening being potentially only weeks away, a name has not been chosen. “Venture Café” is a book title and copyright troubles could result from using it on an actual café — or series of cafes franchised, once a working business model is determined, under a sort of Creative Commons license.