Kauffman Foundation program started in Kansas City coming to the Corridor

Coffee-infused collaboration on tap for local entrepreneurs through 1 Million Cups program

A rapidly growing way for entrepreneurs to connect with one another over coffee made its debut Wednesday morning in Cedar Rapids.

The 1 Million Cups program, started by the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, held its first event in Eastern Iowa at the Vault Coworking and Collaboration Space in downtown Cedar Rapids. Each week, a new start-up will give a six-minute presentation, followed by a question-and-answer session.

Kris Fassler, operations director at the Vault Coworking space, said everyone is welcome to the free event, including entrepreneurs, mentors, consultants and service providers.

“The premise is that if you could get entrepreneurs to have one million cups of coffee together, then that would fundamentally change the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the area, just from the relationships and interactions that form when you meet up and start talking to other entrepreneurs,” Fassler said.

The first new business to present was Bandwidth Pool, a Cedar Rapids-based startup that helps businesses determine the best price for Internet access based on their bandwidth needs. The business launched Feb. 27.

While the concept of coffee and conversation is not new, Fassler said the “harmony” between entrepreneurs in the 1 Million Cups network provides confidence to those who are facing challenges. In the future, organizers hope to live-stream presentations from around the country and create an online repository, he said.

“Entrepreneurship can sometimes be kind of lonely,” Fassler said. “There’s a lot of risk involved.

"But if you know there is a group of entrepreneurs that are all kind of doing the same thing as you, going through the ups and downs, I think it makes it easier.”

With the addition of Cedar Rapids and Reno, Nev., this week, the 1 Million Cups program is now in six cities. The idea debuted in the Kansas City area last April and expanded to Des Moines in November.

Program founders have set a goal to have the program in 20 cities, including some international sites, by the end of the year.

The weekly programs in Cedar Rapids will be held from 9 to 10 a.m., on Wednesdays at the Vault Co-working space on the fifth floor of the Guaranty Bank Building, 222 Third St. SE.

Video courtesy of Kauffman Labs for Enterprise Creation.

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