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Venture Café’s mission is connecting innovators to make things happen.


Venture café Global Institute

png-vc_full-color-logoThe Venture Café Global Institute (VCGI) supports the global network of independent Venture Café organizations. With five locations in operation and plans for expansion to new places at an accelerated pace, VCGI offers key training and resources, and guides expansion for the Network. Our core functions include knowledge sharing, shared services and systems, intellectual property, fundraising, staff on-boarding, and new site development. VCGI also operates the Captains of Innovation program, our corporate-startup connections program. VCGI is a public benefit corporation based in St. Louis, MO and Cambridge, MA, and partners closely with the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC)

VENTURE CAFE TODAY

Today, Venture Café is a fast-growing, global organization. Our global mission is connecting innovators to make things happen. At its core, Venture Café provides the necessary connective tissue to uncover and link the various parts of an innovation ecosystem. We believe innovation ecosystems thrive when the largest, varied segments of its population are participating. Venture Café seeks to:

  • Create wholly inclusive gathering spaces that remove walls, increase human connectivity, and welcome all people, ideas, technologies and industries. We reduce existing silos to build a globally competitive talent base and foster cross-sector collaborations.
  • Accelerate innovation through spaces, programs and “engineered serendipitous encounters” that bring together a diverse mix of the community. We aim to nurture collaboration, ignite creativity, and catalyze action to solve problems facing humanity today on a local and global level. 
  • Provide social support system for innovators of all kinds and backgrounds, which strengthens communities and economies. We foster relationships that increase access to resources (capital, talent, ideas). Equal access to a social support system can strengthen entrepreneurship, communities, and economies.
  • Increase the opportunity for economic mobility by lowering the barriers to entry and creating a safe environment where more people can participate in the innovation sector.
  • Lead by sharing tools and resources openly; creating a shared platform that aligns and amplifies the efforts of community partners.

Venture Café now operates in Boston/Cambridge, MA (est. 2009), St. Louis, MO (est. 2014), Rotterdam, Netherlands (est. 2015), Miami, FL (est. 2016), and Winston-Salem, NC (est. 2017), and several others are coming soon. Venture Café has been an iterative process from the beginning that continues to be refined.

OUR STORY

Venture Café was an experiment born out of the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) in 2009. CIC realized that it effectively supported companies who had some capital and a solid plan. Money and a plan are important steps in the entrepreneurial process, but in reality they are more like Step 2 or Step 3. What was missing were Step 0 and Step 1 – honing ideas, raising money, mentorship, connection to deep knowledge, and general collaboration opportunities. Together, these are the foundation in a thriving innovation ecosystem -most importantly, they are fluid enough to be deployed and redeployed over and over again to provide the right level of support at the right moment, to the right ideas, to the right people. Enter Venture Café.

The name Venture Café was inspired by the book Venture Café by Teresa Esser. The gathering theme was inspired by the first chapter of the book which highlights a regular gathering for founders to talk with experienced executives and others community members.

Our Venture Café concept was originally conceived as a restaurant but the business model didn’t accomplish our goal: gather people who don’t necessarily know each other to stay and talk to each other (restaurants typically require constant turnover and don’t foster conversation). So, we tweaked the model to a café hypothesis: if we bring together innovators and entrepreneurs to engage in spontaneous conversations and semi-curated programming, they’ll come up with never-before-imagined innovations to make the world a better place and generate economic growth. And, it’s working.