Growing A Community of Innovation in Pasadena
We make no secret of our fawning love for our hometown of Pasadena, but one of the reasons we love it so much isn’t something that people tend to associate with the city: it has a thriving tech and innovation scene. Never content to sit on the sidelines and let cool stuff pass us by, Echo-Factory has not only found plenty of opportunities to participate in and promote this community, we have also invested a great deal of energy into creating a forum to foster and grow this community.
Most Friday mornings for the past five years, Echo-Factory CEO Mike Schaffer has helped to organize a gathering of Pasadena’s finest minds. To clarify: we mean in addition to the brain trust that keeps Echo-Factory running.
Friday Coffee Meetup – affectionately known by those in the know, as “FCM” – has become a Pasadena institution that attracts people from all over the Los Angeles area for lively, engaging speakers and delicious, donation-based coffee. Weekly guests share stories, advice and pep talks on topics such as design, emerging technologies, marketing, entrepreneurship and many more.
What began as an informal weekly get-together of 12 local entrepreneurs in the back of a coffee shop, sharing and comparing business challenges and successes, quickly grew into something else entirely once weekly guests were invited to present. It became dynamic and eye-opening – and too good not to share. So the group was opened up to whoever wanted to attend. From there, things took on a whole new magnitude.
From the 12 initial entrepreneurs, the group has exploded to over 5,000 members total. Every week, between 100-150 people attend the event (now hosted at Cross Campus, a local co-working space), including an average of 10 new attendees at each talk. And there are many people who have made FCM a part of their weekly schedule, trying their best to attend each and every talk.
FCM members have seen presentations and discussions on topics as wide-ranging as personal AI, changing the shaving landscape, starting a successful pizza empire and how meditation can contribute to business success. Speakers have included CEOs, founders, scientists, professors, politicians, venture capitalists and at least one American Idol contestant. We’ve featured tons of Pasadena businesses and institutions, including OpenX, Lather, Jones Coffee Roasters, ChefBox, ObEN, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
This has been a labor of love for Mike, but it’s also been a great learning opportunity for Echo-Factory. FCM has operated on an entirely volunteer basis with no budget for its entire existence. Which means that Mike and his group of FCM co-organizers have had to be exceedingly creative and strategic about how to build the FCM community. They have used social media, traditional marketing and good old-fashioned word of mouth to exponential expand the reach of FCM.
One of the marketing tools – the weekly announcement email – has even taken on a life of its own, with Mike hearing from FCM members almost weekly how much they enjoy opening the email. These weekly announcements offer an opportunity for us to show off our unbridled creativity in “selling” the week’s speaker and teasing the following week’s event, complete with “memes,” haikus, obscure facts and many hilarious non sequiturs. Below are a few examples of our favorites for your perusal.
Friday Coffee Meetup has been an amazing way to support our hometown of Pasadena, and it’s been instrumental in bolstering the amazing network of innovators, dreamers and doers we have here. We’ve also learned a ton: about growing businesses, about smart marketing, about building communities and keeping them engaged.
Every week, with every speaker, we aren’t just providing an opportunity for Pasadena’s innovation community to share and learn – we are adding to our own arsenal of creative marketing and advertising knowledge, and becoming fluent in new technologies and industries that help us constantly broaden our base of understanding. And we’re drinking way too much coffee. Save for that last thing, we are able to pass these benefits along to our clients and our colleagues and our trivia teammates.
FCM is going stronger than ever, and we are excited to continue supporting, growing and evolving with Pasadena’s innovators.
If you are an innovator or entrepreneur (or both) who would like to share your story at a future Friday Coffee Meetup, shoot Mike an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.