Innovation Commons: Entrepreneurs need place, space and a good espresso

Among the many great outcomes of the recent BarCamp and Mesh conference binge was a coming together of like-minded young tech thought leaders and the creation of a new initiative – the Innovation Commons – “third spaces for Canada’s tech entrepreneurs”. A national network of community-based coworking spaces and cafes, catering to independent entrepreneurial and creative professionals. David Crow continues to lead the tech renaissance as the Executive Director of this effort:

What the heck is a third working space? Home = 1, Work = 2, cafe/other/InnovationCommons = 3. For many of us home and work are the same thing. Human beings are social animals. We thrive on the energy that comes from the collisions with other individuals. It’s the creative tension from differing view points. It’s the energy and excitement of BarCamp, mesh, and other events that we need to capture. The cafe lifestyle that begins to develop in urban environments. Why not provide a self-sustaining environment that facilitates, encourages, and fosters the energy and the people.

Boris is our Mann in Vancouver who got the ball rolling thanks to Bryght, Patrick Dinnen and Jevon MacDonald are on board. I have signed on, as have others. And we Canucks are connected to Silicon Valley coworking evangelist Chris Messina.

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Innovation and creativity, contrary to common belief, is not the lonely work of scientists in lab coats and the solitary artist in their studio. The creative process is influenced, inspired and taught by others. Knowledge is exchanged among peers and transferred from one generation to another. The social nature of innovation is critical to those seeking to commercialize their creations and ideas. The innovators of the future need “third places” – not home, not the office – places where the amazing creative energy of DemoCamp, BarCamp and Mesh happens on a daily basis among passionate communities of practice. Places where work gets done, ideas developed, knowledge exchanged, companies formed and social capital built.

Entrepreneurs. Artists. Marketers. Developers. Designers. People doing interesting things. People willing to teach and willing to learn. Passionate people.

Government and large companies are struggling with how to capture and develop these most ineffable qualities – creativity and innovation. Creativity cannot be engineered. It is not built on an assembly line. In the new global competition for creativity and innovation, the winners will be based in communities – both local and global, geographic and professional – that can create environments that are supportive of their creative process and allow the best and brightest to emerge. This presents a serious collective action problem: who will invest the human and financial capital to build the community and protect it from being co-opted by narrow private interests?

Innovation Commons and Coworking are emerging as lightweight yet powerful meta-innovations: innovations that support innovation. Inspired by the ideals of community, supported by sustainable business models, driven by passionate young leaders, influenced by the economics of open source software, this is exactly the right innovation at exactly the right time. Watch or join the revolution. Innovation Commons will be a nonprofit organization, and the business model will be published under a Creative Commons license. Open, community-driven and networked.

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mesh conference a great success!

Well if you were there, you know it was great. If you weren’t there, you missed out on a lot. However, you can still follow along from home, because this was an extremely well covered conference, thanks to the copious blogging it triggered. See Publishing 2.0 for a good summary. Others are linked from Mathew’s blog and technorati tag:mesh06. UPDATE: Best one stop Mesh shopping is probably Robert Oulette’s VC/biz oriented gagglescape.

Congratulations go to Rob, Stuart, Michael, Mark and Mathew for organizing something truly remarkable. Why remarkable? Because I have no doubt that venture investments were made, product/service ideas developed and whole new companies formed. Friendships, ideas and conversations began at mesh that will continue long from now. It was a case study in creative serendipity and knowledge exchange.

My favourite moment was David Crow, Chris Messina, Tom Purves and myself talking the future of technology, media and community with Jian Ghomeshi at the Drake Hotel after party. BarCamp meets Canadian media icon. (Yes, I think Jian Ghomeshi is an icon – I remember Moxy Fruvous.) My favourite line from J.Gho: “This crowd makes me feel masculine by comparison.”

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Open Source Business Models

In looking forward to BarCampTdot, I’ve been trying to decide which of my favourite rants I’m going to dust off for the soapbox. Web 2.0 and VC? Disintermediation? Creativity and Community? Those who know me know that it is a rare topic on which I have neither opinion nor curiosity.

BarCamp is a great opportunity to try something new, so I’m going to be opening a discussion on Open Source Business Models: Beyond the Code. I don’t have the answers, but I have some questions. I am framing the discussion in two ways:

  1. Business models built on open-source software (FLOSS)
  2. Business models inspired by open-source software

If you have an interest in the topic and want to participate, first – sign up on BarCampTdot attendees list, second – put your name on the OpenSourceBusinessModelsBeyondTheCode wiki page, and third – add your questions and reference links to that page.

At the end of the session, we will have the discussion documented on the wiki page and freely available. How is that for open source?

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BarCamp Toronto – Get Your Nerd On

T – 3 Days to BarCampTDot. If you’re coming, sign up on the wiki.

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If you have an interest in technology or the future of the web, enjoy big ideas and getting your hands dirty with smart and engaging people, this is your event. Whether you’re a developer, a software professional, a hacktivist, marketer, investor or a strategy nerd and policy geek like me, you’re bound to find something inspiring this weekend.

Remember that BarCamp (unlike DemoCamp) is an unconference and a self-organized community. There are no spectators, only participants. Leadership can come from anywhere, the schedule is unknown until you show up and the group is self-organized and open. Come with something prepared to contribute. Everyone with a creative bent has a pet project or favourite rant, so bring it to the table.

David posts all you need to BarCamp like an old Pro.

Bryce knows the secret ingredient of BarCamp, and he shares it with us all in his own inimitable way. That might give a clue about the appropriate attitude coming in the door.

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