Open Coffee at Louisa’s: Internet Startups, Investors, and One Notable No-Show

6/17/08Follow @gthuang

This morning I had the pleasure of attending my first Open Coffee Club at Louisa’s Bakery & Cafe up on Eastlake Avenue in Seattle. Every Tuesday morning from 8:30 to 10 (note to self: bus schedules mean nothing here, just like in Boston), it’s where local tech entrepreneurs gather to network and talk ideas over a casual breakfast.

Open Coffee was started just over a year ago by Andy Sack, the online entrepreneur and investor who runs Seattle-based Founder’s Co-op, together with Chris DeVore (more on the co-op soon). As an Xconomist, Andy is also a key member of our elite team of local advisors.

So, over a chocolate croissant and piping-hot latte (7.0 on the Huang scale), I got to chat with a nice cross-section of Seattle’s tech startup community. About 20 people, maybe more, showed up. The room was really informal and inviting. I got the sense that this is where important connections are made, and so I hope to go regularly.

Here’s a quick sampling of who was there today:

—Andy Sack (he’s usually there), who was giving advice to an entrepreneur from West Seattle about the local online advertising space. Some of it was along the lines of his recent blog post.

—Buzz Bruggeman, founder of ActiveWords, a downloadable Windows application that allows you to switch to a different program, say, or access any info you want just by typing a keyword into whatever program you’re in. It’s been touted by the likes of Jim Fallows at the New York Times.

—Phil Lee, founder and CEO of Spottago, a Seattle-based community search site focused on college apartment and house rentals. Spottago has been in beta testing since April in five sites around the Northwest. The key challenge for this type of site, says Lee, is how to scale up operations. “Nobody has figured out how to go from local to national, in both medium-sized and big cities,” he adds.

—Kelly Kerr, a professional singer and voice teacher who is looking to start up a community site for voice lessons. This is part of a big trend—people figuring out how to deliver their expertise online to the masses, and how to monetize it. Kerr says that she needs a business development partner and a tech developer—the key, as always, is finding the right people.

One guy I didn’t get to meet, regrettably, was the “Dildo Dude.” I don’t know his name. I don’t know his face. I’ll say as little about this as possible. Apparently there’s an electric toothbrush that was invented in the Seattle area and manufactured by Sonicare, and female customers discovered certain “other” uses for it. So one local innovator is starting a company around the idea. He draws a crowd whenever he shows up. “He’s done the physics. He’s got data,” says Eric Fowler, a Microsoft developer and Open Coffee regular. Alas, he was a no-show today.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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