Last week, my partners and I in The CISO Group invested as lifetime members in Caffeine Spaces, a new co-working space that opened in the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) R&D Park here in Boca Raton, Florida. Caffeine Spaces is the brainchild of Mark Laymon, who is seeking to build a strong startup community here in South Florida.
My friend Brad Feld has spent a good chunk of his time for the last few years advocating for startup communities around the world. His Startup Revolution site is the place to learn about and participate in building startup communities. Brad is the person who started me in blogging 8 or 9 years ago. I have been watching what he has done in Boulder (my previous company that I helped found, StillSecure, was based in Boulder and Brad was a board member and Mobius VC was and still is lead investor), with TechStars and with Startup Communities closely for years. I really wanted to see if I could help foster that kind of critical mass of entrepreneurship here in my area.
Caffeine Spaces seems like the perfect place. With a major University like FAU as an anchor, next door to the FAU incubator space, Caffeine Spaces seems well situated. I have spoken to Mark about his vision for Caffeine Spaces, as well as several of the folks I have met in my several visits there. Mark would like to build Caffeine Spaces throughout the area (to start) and really foster the community across the entire South Florida landscape. I think that is great, but I would like to see us start by seeing if we can build a critical mass right here in Boca Raton and then go from there. By the same token I would like to see critical masses form in Ft Lauderdale, Miami, and West Palm Beach, and then have them all come together into a super cluster.
The Boca location has a large common area to plug in and work. Several smaller conference-style rooms with white boards, that you a little privacy. There is an AV studio/room, a 3D-printing room in the works, and a kitchen area.
In speaking to the people who are coming down to the events at Caffeine Spaces, it is a mixed lot. I see a lot of people who are eager to network. Not all of them are as tech-orientated as I thought they would be. Some of them are real entrepreneurs, others are sort of geeky techies but not really sure how to go about building a community or a company for that matter. Then there are some of the usual lawyers, accountants and others who are seeking to latch onto new companies/customers. It will be interesting to see how this group comes together and what, if any, new companies are born out of the mix.
I am going to spend at least one day a week at Caffeine Spaces as well as evangelizing for the concept here in the community. I don't know if it will lead me to start a new company or join with some others who are starting a new company, but it will be fun I am sure and most of all, it will be a learning experience. I also realize that being a veteran of the startup world now for 20 years, the experiences I have gone through could be very valuable to new entrepreneurs. I will try to lend some of this expertise to them.
What about your own community? Are you involved in the startup scene in your area? You might find that bubbling under the radar there is a seething group of folks with some great ideas for new business. They may be looking for the experience in how to do so. They may be looking for talent or perhaps they are just looking for the camaraderie and fellowship to help push them out of the nest and out into the market with their new companies.
If you live in a big city like New York or Chicago, there may be several communities already out there. If you live in a smaller area, go out and get involved.
Startups are the lifeblood of innovation and of new jobs in our communities. If you listen to Brad (and you can read a lot of his thoughts on his blog or in his bogs available at Startup Revolution) they are the engine that will drive our country and the global economy. So get involved in your local area and gauge the level of the Startup Community in your area. You might be surprised with what you find.
In the meantime, if you are in the Boca area stop by Caffeine Spaces and say hi. We are looking for good men and women who want to forge a sustainable community of innovation.