A am sitting at a café working and thinking of the ideals of a social yet commercial working place away from home. Le Procope created a meeting place and exchange of ideas for great minds such as Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, and Hugo. Is it possible to create an intellectual center for geeks to match the historical cafés of the Middle East, Paris, and London? What are the essential ingredients to creating a meeting place for geeks and a birthplace of ideas and companies?
Historical coffeehouses contained small libraries, bulletin boards, and self-publishing. We now use the Internet, blogs, and cell phones to remain connected to the ideas and happenings in the world. We also have a need for startup business services to create new and revolutionary ideas. Below is my short list of ideas on an ideal sppace of work and collaboration.
Any good café needs coffee, tea, snacking food, and desserts. Larger meals could be arranged with nearby businesses for delivery if not provided in-house.
It is possible to jump-start a business using a well-known name in coffee and tea and possibly even have them run the beverage side of things. It’s also important to have non-caffeinated beverages to bring in more evening visitors. Stocking items people cannot get at home helps people spend money on little treats and small premiums such as a cola from a small producer.
Wireless Internet. Yes, an easy selection for an essential element. Wireless Internet allows café patrons to remain connected to the outside world and share their latest work. The network needs to be open, supported, and protected from abuse.
Digital bulletin boards. Community software could be used to display a list of frequent patrons, their publications, and problems in need of a solution. Information could be available at a glance to help the community of patrons connect.
Power connections. Ample power connections are needed to keep the tools of the trade running.
Modern meeting places have been unable to successfully create revenue from patrons who stay for a long time but do not purchase many goods. Offering membership perks and upsells could be one way to keep the business running. What are some possible perks of membership?
Enhanced computing environment. Members could sit at tables with a large LCD screens and a full sized keyboard and mouse.
Private rooms. You could also offer a few private rooms for members or small teams. Rooms could be reserved in advance.
Business services. Want to receive your business mail at the café? It could be a premium option.
Group event space. Reserve an area of the café for your event or small group.
Food and drink specials. A frequent buyer program would work well for frequent patrons.
Limited commerce options
The café would be the hub of activity for emerging businesses and geeks. The café could offer select services such as home broadband signups, EVDO, cell phones, computers, music, and accessories. Coffee houses in London were the birthplace of auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s in spaces attached to the café.
Could it work and be profitable? Real estate in San Francisco is pretty expensive, but as a business and maybe even a mini-venture capital service such a place might turn a profit.