OpenCoffee Leeds {Tre}

The clouds parted, the sun shone and our third OpenCoffee Leeds event was another great success with our largest turnout – we counted thirty-one people in the Loftart gallery, even though we had with 28 definites out of 45 registered at Upcoming. I’m really pleased that we’re seeing new people amongst the crowd as well as regulars each month…also we had two *girls* this month! Seriously, women are badly under-represented at OpenCoffee and I now for sure there are some very smart tech women in the region (I’m talking to you Katz, Deb and Liz!)

**A special mention has to go to Justin’s guys at Loftart – they make by far the best fresh croissants and danish pastries in town! **

Surprisingly, no one cracked open their laptops this time around – perhaps a good sign that people are indeed connecting with one another…though as Ian noted, maybe the consequence of a higher proportion of suits and the be-chino‘d…please, we wanna see more DEMOS!

With the larger attendance, I didn’t manage to meet everyone, but did bump into some interesting people…

  • I came across Reinhold Behringer‘s work at Leeds Met while googling for photos of Old Broadcasting House a few weeks ago and figured he’d be a fascinating individual to meet. Reinhold is Professor Of Creative Technology at the university’s Innovation North faculty, his work focuses on computer vision, augmented reality, wearable computing and robotic vehicles…an incredible porfolio of research and someone whom I’m sure the others were fascinated to meet.
  • We had the founders of Freeserve and PlusNet, Ajaz Ahmed and Lee Strafford in the same room, respectively responsible for two of the British dotcom industry’s largest exits and notable success stories. Both from the North…I wonder if the next British dotcom hit will also emerge from this region…? Ajaz spoke briefly about one his ventures, Browzar and was curious about what I’m now up to…I owe him, so I’ll explain later 🙂
  • Earlier this week, I test drove Manchester-based Westhawk’s Phone from HERE technology for O’Reilly’s ETel blog. It’s a cute softphone applet that can run directly from within your browser. Westhawk’s Georgia Brown hopped over the Pennines to tell us more about their plans and the state of tech in Manchester.
  • Richard Garside, of Garsonix Design, left everyone with some cute origami business cards – could this be the post-Moo badge for geeks? You can read about Richard’s projects, at um Richard’s Projects – including his impressions of OpenCoffee and all about his cards 🙂
  • bmedi@‘s CEO Steve Ding and Chairman Nick Burton were also around this month. The company is a regional network of new media companies that’s created a unique tendering model that aggregates the capabilities of local firms to bid for new contracts. {full disclosure: I’m a non-executive director of bmedi@}
  • I was really looking forward to meeting Tim Waters for a whole bunch of reasons – I’m a bit of a mapping geek and Tim has some fascinating expertise in locative and geospatial media. Tim’s also behind Leeds’ OpenStreetMap project and is hoping to put together a weekend OpenStreetMap-camp in mid-September…I’m hoping we can swing the use of Leeds Met’s Old Broadcaasting House as a venue for him 🙂 Serendipitously, it turns out Tim also knows a good friend of mine, another mapping guru and fellow-Foo Rich Gibson. Rich is currently contracting for a short time in the UK and I hoped to get him up to Leeds for a few days, but sadly he couldn’t make it…we coulda had our first bona-fide American!
  • I finally got the chance to meet Andy Mitchell, co-founder of meecard – we missed each other at the first OpenCoffee Leeds and also at BarCamp Sheffield! Andy’s a great guy, with an idea which could be particularly well timed, defragmenting the various personal and social identities we’re creating across the web. Andy and I met again later in the afternoon to talk about a bunch of stuff that we could do together to help tech across the region and share our experiences working on digital ID projects 🙂
  • It was nice to see some old Orange colleagues, Jedi-Developer Mark Sailes, ultra-smart Kevin Whitworth and Graeme Moss, creator of GromBlog, a sqeamishly hilarious Boing Boing-like blog; I really wish Grom would ‘go big‘ with GromBlog, He’d be a great blog-preneur.
  • I spoke briefly with Colin Glass, a partner at accountant’s firm Winburn Glass Norfolk. Colin described how WGN uses its accountancy practice as a base to develop startups, assisting in fund-raising, business planning and finding exit routes; WGN’s been involved in a couple AIM and OFEX. I can’t claim to understand much of this – I think of stuff and I make it! – but Colin’s expertise seems like it’d be quite useful to tech startups and as such he’s a valuable guy to know.

So, two months in with three events behind us, it’s time to take stock and figure out the direction we wanna take…

  • We need a better balance of geeks and business-y guys and a more representative gender balance.
  • We need to get people from the big design agencies, such as Poulters to come.
  • Upcoming and my blog posts aren’t a good enough resource, we need somewhere for people to find and locate each other after the event.
  • We’d love to see more demos – so we need more geeks!
  • We gotta work more closely with the GeekUp guys.
  • We need to drag Sam from Blognation, Saul and O’ReillyGMT’s Craig over for the next event – show them close up that London’s not the only buzzin’ tech hub in the UK 🙂

Despite this – the feedback we’re getting from people is that they’re really loving the format and the community, so we’ll make a few tweaks as we go along and of course we welcome everyone’s ideas and suggestions on how we can make things better 🙂

OpenCoffee {Quattro} will be taking place on 4th September, do let us know if you’re coming and let your friends know too 🙂


  1. Thanks for organising this. I met some great people and had a great time. I should hopefully be able to make it to the next one.
    I advise people to get there early as I got the last danish pastry and very nearly missed out.

  2. Great way to spend the morning and re-kindled some old relationships. It really is a small world and was also good to meet some new people. Will hopefully make the next meetp.

  3. Sounds great, especially good turn out considering the holiday season (bet it rivaled London’s event given the month!). Sorry I couldn’t be there.

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