(This month marks the 3rd anniversary of the creation of the POCC (Pune Open Coffee Club). A few days back, POCC membership crossed 4000. We decided to mark the occasion by writing an article about the history of PuneTech, how it got started, and the various milestones along the way. If you have any good story/anecdote about your association with PuneTech, and how it affected you, we’d love to hear about it.)
The Pune Open Coffee Club is a community of all those interested in the startup ecosystem in Pune. With 4000+ members as I write this, including founders, entrepreneurs, early employees, wannabes, investors, lawyers, accountants and freelancers who work with startups, it is a huge and very active community. POCC usually meets on the 1st Saturday of every month in Shivajinagar and in Koregaon Park. Attendance is open to everyone and admission is free, and you can actually network and grow under the umbrella of experience and fellow-feeling.
The Pune Open Coffee Club was started by several individuals in their own ways. The Open Coffee Club movement had become fairly popular abroad before it reached its pioneers in Pune.
Harshal Vaidya was the first of the lot who attempted to get the OCC off the ground by organizing the first meet up in February 2008. The first meet up helped send out the first few sparks in the community.
The real start spark came a month later, in March 2008, Anjali Gupta and Santosh Dawara created http://punestartups.ning.com, an online social network for the POCC on ning.com. (This was later moved to http://punestartups.org the current home of the POCC.) On April 5th, they put together another POCC event, and they worked hard to invite all the movers and shakers of the start-up community in Pune to the BookEazy office terrace for tea, coffee and networking. The idea of the POCC was seeded in their mind by Vijay Anand.
“This time around, the conditions were right and the word about the Pune Open Coffee Club spread out quickly. Our first meeting was very well attended by over 75 individuals including some very well-known names in the Pune circle such as Anand Deshpande (Persistent Systems), Chetan Shah (Synygy), Jaspreet Singh (Druvaa) and more.
On June 7th, 2008, Nick Karnik an early member of the POCC (who has since moved out of Pune), created the Pune Startups mailing list.
Although the second meetup was a great success, there was a problem. Santosh called the next meeting in the Barista on Law College Road, expecting “maybe 15” people to attend. 40+ people showed, and there was a significant amount of chaos.
After this, Navin Kabra got in touch with Prof. Harshad Gune at SICSR, Model Colony, for permission to hold POCC meetings in one of their classsrooms. The first POCC meeting at SICSR happened on 23rd August, 2008. SICSR then became the ‘regular’ place for POCC meetings. With that the final piece of the puzzle fell into place. The next few set of events was a mix of exciting talks and discussions that resonated very well the start-up community in Pune and the movement began gathering momentum.
More recently POCC is attempting to go deeper into Pune by replicating the Open Coffee Club across Pune. This initiative is seeing a lot of initial success, with the creation of POCCs in Kothrud, PCMC, Aundh, Kalyani Nagar, Tilak Road, some of which have already announced their second meetings.
Santosh, who came up with the idea, says:
“I have my fingers crossed that these will be just as successful as the original, if not more so. They are all backed by a very impressive set of individuals who want it to succeed.”
Amruta Ranade now brings out a fortnightly newsletter to cover start-ups in detail for the benefit of the community. These are posted on the Pune Startups mailing list, and on her blog on PuneStartups.org
So is it all serious and work?
No, says Santosh,
“We also have a very “fun” side to the Open Coffee Club. In the past, we have had a group paintball competition, football games, dinners and movie nights where entrepreneurs and their families can relax, mingle and enjoy. Apart from this, we intend to meet regularly every month over the weekend.” POCC has been creating POCC subgroups in each region of Pune and Santosh says the team has high hopes about the new initiative.
“Anyone who has been an entrepreneur will tell you that entrepreneurship can be very rewarding and at the same time very unforgiving. For those who have quit their jobs to become entrepreneurs, the pressure to perform is fairly intense. Moreover, there is no going back to the same skill-based boxes as entrepreneurs are expected to excel at multiple roles.
By replicating the Open Coffee Club, we hope to encourage those who have been unable to participate actively due to distance to come forward and seed their own groups just as we have done so. In good time, we are certain that each of these groups will build their own camaraderie and dynamics locally and at the same time contribute to the overall development of start-ups in Pune.”
The Open Coffee Club was always intended to be a support group of entrepreneurs who get what each other are going through and can intervene to help each other out, share ideas and motivate each other. It looks like POCC is going in the right direction since day one.
Don’t all the books that matter to mankind advise just this?