How vital it is for any startup ecosystem to have communities that facilitate peer learning was my biggest takeaway from my Rajeev Circle Fellowship experience. (The community gatherings at Startup Village were modelled on the lines of the Rajeev Circle meetups that happens at Asha’s residence). And a community of founders that honours a culture of open sharing and pay it forward needs to be a central pillar if we are serious about building a good tech startup ecosystem.
Curating communities is one of the things I have engaged myself with since Startup Village days and for the most part, this is where a fair share of my efforts have been directed towards over the last 3 years . It’s been a bit more than a year now since one of the initiatives (from among a series of experiments ofcourse), Breakfast Club emerged.
I was in constant touch with few of the founders from Startup Village and have been spending time with them individually. When with few of them, (Aronin, Nikhil, Jibin etc with whom I had a near advisory relationship), the time commitments started increasing and when their facilitation needs also starting increasing in complexity, we switched to a forum model wherein we all would look to meet up once a week for an hour or two. The conversations were always open ended and there would be no fixed agenda. The best part of such a open ended and informal model is the camaraderie and the trust that also gets formed along the way between the founders — not to mention the high quality information sharing and relationship building that takes place if sustained over a relatively longer period of time.
As soon as we started this, the value of peer learning and the role of initiatives like Community Gathering in facilitating information flow dawned on me all over again. And the fact that lot of other good founders and the ecosystem as a whole could benefit from a curated forum functioning well. And that is when, teaming up with Yadukrishnan, we decided to experiment with opening up the forum for few other founders as well from within our networks.
First few months, we opened it up only a handful of founders. Found the exercise promising enough that we started opening it to more and more founders since, albeit in a very careful manner and at a slow pace. I recall that people like Sandith & Jithin were among the founders who we invited to join in during that stage. Both Sandith & Jithin have been regular attendees and ardent supporters of the model ever since.
Detailing out below our approach till date: We look to meet every Friday for an hour — start around 815am and look to wrap up by around 930am. Discussions are open ended and we still work with the model of having no fixed agenda for our meetups. Not all founders drop in on all weeks. They do every now and then and as and when their schedules permit them. On average, we find founders drop by once or twice a month. The ones who are a lot more busier building their startups and the ones who are not physically located in Cochin, we tend to see them drop in once a quarter. There are some who are yet to be able to make it — we are working on that. There are few who are yet to be brought into the forum — we are working on that as well. We are also working on figuring out how best to sustain and grow engagement. We have a WhatsApp group and we have just recently put together a mail group system also in place. We typically keep it strictly founder only, but from time to time, we have had few invited guests also join in (Saji Gopnath of KSM, Pranay Gupta of 91Springboard etc). And yes, the forum absolutely remains strictly curated — We believe the value is in the curation.
Having early morning as the meetup time was Yadu’s suggestion. He had picked up the thought from the book Startup Communities by Brad Feld. Well, I am a morning person in any case and I love breakfasts, so it was a straightforward for me to back that suggestion also. Moreover, ഈ രാത്രി കാലങ്ങളിൽ മാത്രമേ ഈ founders ഒക്കെ അനങ്ങാറുള്ളു എന്ന ദുഷ്പേരും, അല്ലെങ്കിൽ after sunset മാത്രമേ startup events ആകാവൂ എന്ന തെറ്റിദ്ധാരണയും അല്പമെങ്കിലും അങ്ങനെയെങ്കിലും മാറിക്കോട്ടെ അതുവഴി എന്നും കരുതി .
And as on date, this curated Mallu Founder Collective which we decided to name Breakfast Club (on suggestion from Aby James — he loves the movie by that name evidently) is at 44 founders. Will continue to discover and curate more founders and will continue to evolve the platform as we go along. Those who wish to know more can reach out to me or Yadu — or to any one of the founders mentioned in the list above