I wrote this in July'08 but for a lot of reasons it had to wait to see the light of the day... or maybe attending yet-another-OCC meet today motivated me enough to push out my draft, finally :-)

What is OCC?

OpenCoffee Club is a regular, open and informal meeting place for people involved in bootstrapping or yet-another-startup to meet. It was started in London by Saul Klein and now has mushroomed into various independent OCC groups around the world (and we still keep Saul in the loop). In Bangalore Vaibhav and Ramjee sowed the initial seeds with a mailing list in August 2007 and a year on we have grown and how !!! Being a 'social networking site challenged' person, i categorize myself in the old-fashioned mailing list kinda person vis-a-vis reading TEXT mails in one convenient place - my mailbox BUT yet we needed a space online. They have a website, a wiki and a blog ; in addition to the mailing list which has grown to 800 members in the last year. wOw !!

OCC is purely volunteer driven and each of us is a stakeholder in promoting it, expanding it and creating a buzz so to speak. It does not own or have a permanent meeting space but (going by Saul's initial idea) our meetings are very regular. In Bangalore we meet biweekly, on Sunday's at 10.30AM at venues which alternate quite a bit so keep track of the same on the m-list (an existing member has to invite you). Did I mention that its a FREE (as in cost) event to attend.

What happens?

OCC meets are by nature unstructured and un-conference like. So we DONT have formal presentations (too boring, right?), ppt's or long lectures or product demos. Typically at one of these meets you can introduce and talk about yourself, your idea (or the lack of it :-P), find a co-founder, jam up with a person who is just as lost as you are and find direction, get answers or feedback for your product and idea, criticise an idea, find incubators for your idea, share unsolicited advice with others, or get another perspective for your product from a complete stranger and the fun-nest part is the networking, the meeting, the getting to know people. It definitely gives you a perspective of all the good stuff that is happening out there and opens your mind to various possibilities. So dont be very surprised to find a person talking about YOUR great Idea that s/he is already working on ... it happens, all the time :) !!

Who attends?

Bootstrapping entrepreneurs many have similar issues and if you are an existing, or doubtful, yet wannabe entrepreneur and want to meet-up with like minded crazy people, be sure to show up for the biweekly Sunday meets. Being a part of the OCC ecosystem means you can go to cities all over the world and get to know  more people, know which places (and at what times) you will most likely meet other entrepreneurs. We also have many venture capital firm partners who are regulars at some of these meets. Bangalore with its technology professionals, IT companies and bootstrapping entrepreneurs is the hot-spot for angel investors (which we have less of in India), incubators and VC's.

Why is OCC different ??

The USP of OCC is its free-flowing, unconference style format and is one of the main attractions for me. I find formal events which tend to strait-jacket the listener to listen to yet-another-technical-product-presentation very boring, but that's me. Luckily we have a lot of other pro-entrepreneur events catering to different tastes and a mighty bit of of overlap, in terms of people, with Barcamp and Headstart/Startup Saturday, although to their credit they have a different format and cater to a different niche in the entrepreneur ecosystem. Just like HS and Barcamp, OCC is a FREE networking event and we dont charge you to come and go yakkity- yak about your cool startup, product or service.

Tips to Remember !!

As is with any unconference-styled event, the signal-to-noise ratio is quite high and at times it can get frustrating when people misuse the platform. Here are some tips to guide you to being unto others as you would like them to be to you :-) Please remember :

+ Dont spam the list : OCC is not a medium or platform to advertise yourself, or your company or your product/service for free or a job portal so please dont spam 800 people with CV's. Its going to annoy 800+ members and just imagine if each of them decided to return the favor. Sounds scary doesnt it? -- so help us help you create value for your time and ours too !

+ Volunteer : Since we function purely on self-driven adrenalin, drive and initiative we are never short on ideas but are constantly short on willing hands to help us out. These could be in the form of creating content for the website, or adding content to the wiki or the blog.

+ @Meets : If the meet is at a local restaurant/bar/club, please do remember that the restaurant/club owner is doing us a favor by allowing the group to use his premises for 2 hours and at the very least we should BUY drinks or food (and please SETTLE the BILL before you leave) in exchange for having used THEIR space for more than 2 hours.

Pan India network !

OCC is now present in 8 cities in India - Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Delhi, Noida, Kolkata. Here is a list of the existing OCC-India network. If I have missed any , please leave a comment. If you want to start one in your city, go ahead and tell us about it so we can keep a track of how we grow.

OCC-India (feed for the pan-Indian OCC network) : http://pipes.yahoo.com/siddhi/occindia

Delhi ~ http://occdelhi.ning.com/main/
Noida ~ http://groups.google.com/group/occnoida/about
Kolkata ~ http://groups.google.com/group/occ-kolkata/about
Pune ~ http://punestartups.ning.com/
Hyderabad ~ http://hyderabadopencoffee.ning.com/
Bangalore ~ http://groups.google.com/group/bangaloreocc
Chennai ~ http://chennaiopencoffee.ning.com/
Mumbai ~ http://groups.google.com/group/opencoffeeclubatmumbai/
OCC-Mumbai is missing so please leave a comment if you have the link. [updated thanks to Mitesh]

In summation, at OCC there are no experts doling out gyan (knowledge/advice) since each of us helps bolster the other person by creating a shareable network of knowledge and an interactive ecosystem. So go for it !!