On April 11, 2012, the Kauffman Foundation launched 1 Million Cups in Kansas City with 12 attendees. It eventually expanded its model, which boils down to a cup of coffee and community, to Des Moines, IA, the same year. Four years later, and the initiative is active in 86 cities nationwide (21 of them in the South).
1 Million Cups has become a staple in many ecosystems. As a past 1 Million Cups organizer, I’ve witnessed what the educational program that caffeinates startup communities one cup at a time is capable of. Every Wednesday morning at 9 a.m., in cities across the country, communities congregate to hear one to two entrepreneurs tell their story. The presentations last six minutes, and a Q&A sessions takes 20 minutes.
The format and time are the same in every city. Each presenter receives tools and resources like the Kauffman Founders School Powerful Presentation Series to help them. The consistency of the program is one of the reasons for its success. If someone wants to be introduced to the entrepreneurial community, 1 Million Cups is the gateway.
There is at least one community in every state in the Startup Southerner coverage area, except for Alabama. Florida leads the way with seven communities, North Carolina has four, South Carolina has three, and Georgia has two.
1 Million Cups Around the South
- Asheville, NC
- Atlanta, GA
- Charleston, SC
- Chattanooga, TN
- Columbia, SC
- Daytona Beach, FL
- Fayetteville, NC
- Flagler County, FL
- Gainesville, FL
- Grand Strand, SC
- Hopkins County, KY
- Jackson, MS
- Little Rock, AR
- Orlando, FL
- Research Triangle Park, NC
- Savannah, GA
- Shreveport, LA
- Petersburg, FL
- Tallahassee, FL
- Tampa, FL
You’ll notice the cities chosen aren’t always the biggest cities in their respective states. There is an interesting dynamic with 1 Million Cups. Smaller to medium-sized cities can find a unique fit in their communities. Much of the success of 1 Million Cups lies in hands of the organizing team.
Led by volunteer community organizers in each city, 1 Million Cups is facilitated by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. Brad Felt states in Startup Communities, “The most critical principle of a startup community is that entrepreneurs must lead it.” Because of that, communities tend to have a personality much like their organizers. Each city may use the same format, but every city has something that makes their community special. You have to witness it to appreciate it.
The Kauffman Foundation provides support to help organizers make 1 Million Cups a success in each community. Hosting 1 Million Cups Organizer Summits and a Slack channel are a few ways organizers can learn from each other.
Presenting at 1 Million Cups for many is an introduction to the entrepreneurial community. Again, it’s a gateway. The members of the audience could be entrepreneurs, friends, community advocates, mentors, etc. The gateway goes beyond your community. Past presenters can apply to the Passport Program enabling them to present in other 1 Million Cups cities.
During the Q&A entrepreneurs are provided with immediate feedback. One of the coolest parts of 1 Million Cups for me is the question each presenter is asked, “What can our community do for you?”
Are you ready to caffeinate your community? If you’ve ever been to 1 Million Cups, please let us know why it’s special to you. Please tweet it out using the hashtag #1MCnation.