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The Friday Five: Best Hang-Outs for Entrepreneurs and Techies

Posted by Scott Kirsner  July 31, 2009 07:15 AM

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Every Friday, I serve up a list of five things worth knowing about.

This week, it's the most popular hang-outs for techies and entrepreneurs.

One of the more interesting local projects underway right now is the effort to create a Venture Cafe in Kendall Square. Tim Rowe, founder of the Cambridge Innovation Center, is leading a group of people who want to create a place where entrepreneurs, inventors, and investors can eat, drink, get online, and perhaps fire up an LCD projector for an impromptu PowerPoint presentation.

But until that's open, what are the places where people starting, building, and investing in new companies get together?

1. The Newton Marriott. The go-to spot for breakfast meetings, lo these many decades. The lobby is also a decent spot for quick conversations and laptop demos over a Starbucks coffee.

2. Henrietta's Table in the Charles Hotel. You'll likely spot a partner from the venture capital firm General Catalyst (their offices are in the same complex), a Harvard faculty member like Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig, or PR guru Larry Weber ensconced in his corner booth.

3. The Muddy Charles. The famed MIT campus hangout dates back to 1968. Paraphrasing "Star Wars," you will never find a more wretched hive of student entrepreneurs and inventors.

4. Andala Coffee House in Central Square. Specifically on Wednesday mornings, when entrepreneurs and investors gather for OpenCoffee, a casual conclave started by Bijan Sabet of Spark Capital and Nabeel Hyatt of Conduit Labs. UPDATE: This event still happens, but has moved from Andala to Voltage Coffee & Art in Kendall Square, which has subsequently surpassed Andala as a tech gathering place.

5. Legal Sea Foods in Kendall Square. Emma's Pizza, Au Bon Pain, Black Sheep, the Starbucks inside the Marriott hotel, and Cosi all attract their fair share of geniuses from companies and labs nearby (and, of course, from MIT), but for a sit-down lunch or after-work beverage, the fish joint is the reigning champ.

What other spots do you frequent? Add a comment...

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17 comments so far...
  1. Wow. I have had meetings in every single one of these places, even Andala (and NOT for OpenCoffee!). Went through a period in business school (at MIT) where I was definitely overdosed on Legal Sea Foods.

    Another personal favorite for breakfast-and-coffee-meetings is the Miracle of Science on Mass Ave just north of MIT. Somewhat to my surprise, they serve a great breakfast.

    Posted by Will Crawford July 31, 09 08:46 AM
  1. Great list.

    I'd add two: Miracle of Science (http://www.miracleofscience.us/). If you listen carefully at the bar, you'll hear a lot of good startup ideas being getting worked through.

    Also, (I'm biased; I work there) but HubSpot.tv -- Friday afternoons at 4pm on the 5th floor of 1 Broadway in Kendall Sq. (www.hubspot.tv).

    Posted by Rick Burnes July 31, 09 09:07 AM
  1. Scott,

    I'm with you on The Muddy. I'm dating myself, but during the 97-00 dotcom MIT startup boom, it was the place to be. Joost kept it hopping!

    Perhaps my observation is influenced by where I'm finding myself for the last few years, but those of us a few blocks northwest beyond MIT on Mass Ave hold meetings late at night at the Diesel Cafe (Somerville) and less-nocturnally at the Arlington Heights SBUX (near Trader Joe's, though with the recent cafe redesign it's a little less chatter-friendly).

    I suspect the entrepreneur density at my two places is a bit lower than those on your list! But those cafes are where my optics cohorts and I like to get our nerd groove on. Maybe I'll start referring to the 'burbs as "optics alley" and hope that it sticks.

    Gregg Favalora
    Optics for Hire

    Posted by Gregg Favalora July 31, 09 09:24 AM
  1. Never knew that Miracle does breakfast... but it has always been a great place for after-work snacks and drinks.

    Posted by Scott Kirsner July 31, 09 09:28 AM
  1. Centerfolds?

    Posted by MassMan July 31, 09 09:40 AM
  1. It's not yet at the level of the Kendall Square/Cambridge haunts - but there's lots of start-up (business and family) activity at Zumes in Charlestown: (http://my.springpadit.com/profile/jeffjaner/restaurant/zumescoffeehouse) - not to mention free wifi...

    Posted by Jeff Janer July 31, 09 09:45 AM
  1. Central Square also seems to be turning into a hotbed of startup activity with BetaHouse, TechStars, offices for a number of startups like GamerDNA, StyleFeeder, etc. including ours.

    Not uncommon to see startup folks at the Four Burgers, Central Kitchen and of course Andala :)

    Posted by Jay Meattle July 31, 09 09:50 AM
  1. A great lunch venue for a laptop demo and a snack is One International Place. Just avoid the a cappella group on Thursdays

    Posted by Ian D Smith July 31, 09 10:07 AM
  1. What about Mary Chungs? (Central Sq). Just thinking about it has me jonesing for some Suan la chow show.

    Posted by Random J. Nerd July 31, 09 10:48 AM
  1. You missed the best one in the 'burbs - Johnny's in Newton Center. Go there at 8am on any random weekday and you'll see the place teeming with VCs, entrepreneurs and hedge fund managers. On the weekends, it's teaming with kids spilling their chocolate milk all over the floor. The Challah French Toast is killer.

    Posted by Jeff Bussgang July 31, 09 11:35 AM
  1. Scott,
    Just a quick note, there hasn't been even a smell of an investor at an OpenCoffee since the last time TechStars showed up. It is mostly unemployed, 1st time entrepreneurs, and service providers. You may get an associate from a VC pop in for 15 minutes, but we all know what is a value that brings into the meetings.

    Posted by Apolinaras "Apollo" Sinkevicius | LeanStartups.com July 31, 09 11:38 AM
  1. Maybe we could start a virtual "open coffee" right here via the Faccebook forum for those of us more than an hour's drive away?!?? I'd love the opportunity to talk about my company, Fantastic Networks, and meet a few other start-ups. Im already a member of the eEnterprise Forum at MIT and am begining to dabble in the Advanced Studies program.., but think Facebook is a good way to enhance all of the above..

    Posted by Dennis Oleary July 31, 09 03:37 PM
  1. Apollo - I was under the impression that VCs are at OpenCoffee at least on occasion.... but I must confess I haven't dropped by in a while.

    Posted by Scott Kirsner July 31, 09 03:44 PM
  1. OpenCoffee is very much a hit or miss. You either have a group of interesting people, or you can't wait to get the heck out. As far as VCs go, extremely occasional associate doesn't count. OpenCoffee should really attract more Angels, except that organizers are just letting the events run autonomously, so there is no effort put into keeping the quality up in those meetings.

    Posted by Apolinaras "Apollo" Sinkevicius | LeanStartups.com July 31, 09 06:58 PM
  1. As a former bartender at the Muddy Charles and recent Sloanie grad, I can vouch for its authenticity as a hub of entrepreneurship. I met several angel and institutional investors, happy hour'ed after presentations, and drowned my sorrows when the funding didn't come through. But I also gained the courage to try again.

    Nice list!

    Posted by Ryan Buckley August 2, 09 03:01 AM
  1. I really like your blog and i respect your work. I'll be a frequent visitor.

    Posted by Peter August 3, 09 08:42 AM
  1. Actually, because of the number of chairs and the noise level, there's much more activity at the Starbucks at 6 Cambridge Center than the one in the Marriott

    Posted by Michael A M Davies August 7, 09 05:02 AM
 

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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