The Innovation Commons

[Cross posted from the wiki.]

Inspired by such diverse influences as Dave Winer's post about this for Silicon Valley, the Queen Street Commons in Prince Edward Island, and the serendipity of continuously meeting Vancouver's local tech/entreprenuer community at Take 5 slurping lattes and free wireless, I'm announcing the kick off meeting for organizing Vancouver's Innovation Commons. I'm suggesting 6:30pm next Wednesday. Steamworks or Raincity Studio's Video Monster are two possible locations, please leave a comment suggesting an alternate.

Right now, I see the concept of the Innovation Commons tying together a network of physical locations around the world. The other people thinking along the same lines page lists links to thoughts and existing locations. For Vancouver's location, here is the working mission statement:

Build a physical, 24/7 space where Vancouver's entrepreneur community can gather to motivate each other's innovation.

I make the distinction of the Innovation Commons as a network, because I think each place has to have it's own self-sustaining community. Part of that is having a connection with that place, right down to having a name that people can relate to. Charlottetown is small enough that "Queen Street" immediately evokes the locality. We need the same thing for the Vancouver location. So, coming up with an identity/name/brand will be part of the first meeting.

We have the good fortune to have connected with a group of four university students from the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia. Nik, Stacy, Elicia, and Cam -- thanks for being on board. They're going to be helping put together a business plan.

I've already spoken with Dean Punzo of Take 5 Cafe. He's on board in principle as the "anchor tenant" that will provide the cafe in the public space. His location at Granville and Hastings already plays host to dozens of "in the know" people. Providing much-needed sustenance and caffeine to entrepreneurs, as well as catering for after hours events such as AGMs, launch parties or other such events, this should be a profitable, self-sustaining business.

How to get involved/keep track? I recently set up a wiki running on Drupal and hosted by my company Bryght. The Innovation Commons page is the "top" of most of the information. Please tag all contributed pages as "innovation commons", which you can see a filter of here -- http://wiki.bryght.com/tags/innovation-commons. There is an RSS feed for this tag here.

What follows after the jump are some hopes and dreams for Vancouver's node of the Innovation Commons:

<ul> <li>provide 24/7 access on a membership basis – work on your great ideas any time of day or night, without pesky cafe closing times</li> <li>provide affordable office space and shared resources for entrepreneurs and start ups</li> <li>serve as a location/funding organization where motivated co-op students (see University of Waterloo, University of Victoria) can spend semesters developing their own business ideas and/or working on open source projects, rather than more traditional work placements with actual companies</li> <li>bring the power of small teams to large companies: rent space and buy memberships for your employees (I’m looking at you, ActiveState and Blast Radius) to interact with the wider universe of small teams and innovative ideas; or even let your employees do "20% work" on their own projects like Google does, working at the commons one day per week</li> <li>providing a physical space for various meetups; ActiveState does a great job of doing this now, but we need access to the Internet, people! And, it should be open to everything from Vancouver Company of Friend’s Sunday Jams to Biodiesel enthusiasts and social venture groups</li> <li>(insert more ideas here – create a new page on the wiki)</li> </ul> <p>Want to participate? Please use the wiki, and add your name to the list of Innovation Commons Supporters.</p>