The Kauffman Foundation’s weekly educational program for entrepreneurs, 1 Million Cups, has taken off, recently expanding to 60-plus cities across the U.S. and adding chapters weekly. Recently founded chapters include Riverside, Calif., Yankton, S.D., Detroit, and Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Launched a little more than two years ago in Kansas City, Mo., the free program is based on the idea that business owners brainstorm problems over coffee. 1 Million Cups (1MillionCups.com) participants meet on Wednesday mornings, with two entrepreneurs making six-minute introductions of their startups to an audience of peers, mentors, advisers and potential investors; 20-minute question-and-answer sessions follow each intro.
At a recent 1 Million Cups at the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, about 200 people turned out to hear pitches from two very different products: Axe-Handler, a guitar stand, and Farmobile, a data-collection system for farmers that provides an electronic record of agricultural activity and performance. Members of the audience energetically offered questions and suggestions for both products, and many stayed to continue conversations after the event ended.
“Kauffman Foundation is so good at bring people together, at bringing minds together. People come to talk and to share, and they’ll stay until the next event starts, and then they’ll continue talking in the parking lot,” Kauffman senior analyst Neil Neumeyer says. Other groups have even spun off from 1 Million Cups, including 1 Million Miles running club.
The 1 Million Cups program has spread to at least 29 states and one U.S. territory, with more than 2,500 people attending weekly.