LinkedIn COverblogWe’ve had a busy 2014 and we’d like to thank you for being part of it.

Around this time last year, we took a decision to base the platform around business networking rather than networking for friendship. Since then, we have hosted 100′s of dinners for a diverse range of industries including finance, health and beauty, education, entertainment, travel, food, property and fashion, with topics ranging from “bitcoin” to “digital beauty” and from “demystifying hedge funds” to “building your online presence”. You can look back over all the meeting and eating here and see all our wonderful speakers here.

We’ve had some great highlights this year, including being featured in GQ, the TableCrowd branded pie courtesy of The Green, welcoming Facebook as after-dinner speakers, finding a home for our HQ in an office we LOVE in the heart of Shoreditch – and most importantly, dining out way too much!

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We are joined regularly by entrepreneurs and professionals from different fields and at different stages, both startups and established companies. We also welcome investors and journalists to our dinners. Pretty much all the broadsheets and key tech press have dined at our tables this year, together with top venture capitalists and prominent London investors.

If you’ve not been along to our dinners before and are wondering what it’s like, check out this short video, which we had a lot of fun making. If you have dined with us before, we’d love your suggestions of business themes, speakers and industries you’re interested in for 2015. Let us know here: hello@tablecrowd.com.

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A massive thanks to our 2014 partners that have supported us and made it possible for us to host such a wide range of networking dinners for our community. We are excited about plans for 2015 and hope that you’ll be dining with us.

Oh, and Merry Christmas!

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We’re happy to partner with Alma CG on many of our business networking dinners, most recently the popular PropertyTech dinner we hosted in October and the sell out investment dinner with Frontline Ventures last month. We caught up with Richard Goldhill, the Business Development Manager there, who gave us the lowdown on Alma CG’s current activities and plans going forward.

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What is Alma Consulting Group?

Alma Consulting Group are specialists in R&D Tax Relief and innovation, we have technical and financial in-house experts to assist businesses in making successful claims that otherwise may not be possible.

What’s your role?

I am a Business Development Manager. My role is to help identify potential R&D expenditure and to assist clients throughout the claims process.

What were you doing before you joined Alma Consulting Group?

I have always worked in Finance and Investments. Before I joined Alma I worked for a property investment company.

What are the biggest developments in 2014?

The government has increased the generosity of R&D Tax Relief for loss making SME’s. This is having a hugely positive effect on helping early stage companies survive and thrive. At Alma CG we have moved to larger premises, this expansion includes new colleagues such as Emma Craig-West who joined us from HMRC where she was the software specialist for R&D Tax Relief. We also work with Gavin Bate who acted as senior technical advisor for the HMRC and was a key figure in shaping the R&D Tax Relief scheme back in 2000, when he worked closely with the DTI.

What will 2015 bring?

We expect further commitment to the R&D scheme from the government in 2015 and continued expansion within Alma CG UK. Perhaps more importantly for our clients we will continue to focus on being the leader in R&D Tax Relief and ensuring that our clients have optimised R&D Tax Relief claims whilst keeping the burden on their technical and financial teams to a minimum.

Convince someone to use your product/service in under 50 words.

At Alma Consulting Group we have the technical expertise to ensure that you receive the R&D Tax Relief that you are entitled to, thus ensuring that your business can use the financial benefits to fulfil your objectives. This combined with a 100% success record places Alma at the forefront.

What’s your favourite London restaurant?

The Wolseley (Especially breakfast)

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We’re looking forward to working with Alma CG in the New Year.

You can read more Business Spotlights here.

Last night, a wonderful bunch of professional ladies gathered around a traditional Christmas dinner to chat business, life and collaboration. We were delighted to join forces for the second time with the ladies at Eyedea. Eyedea is a London-based society for women that hosts speaker and charity events aiming to inspire and connect young female professionals.

We welcomed the brilliant Vivienne Sung and Tracy Doree, founders of Llustre, as after dinner speakers. They shared their tales of success (Llustre was acquired by Fab.com after just 10 weeks) and where they’re at currently.

Tracy and Vivienne talked through initial customer acquisition through a smart referral scheme and forming relationships with key influencers. They talked about the importance of brand and how having a beautiful platform and user experience was as important as selling beautiful products. The dynamic between them as co-founders was great and it was easy to see that their personalities would have shone through at each stage as they developed the business - they hosted their launch party at Tracy’s flat, which gave a real chance for guests to get to know them as people. They highlighted the importance of a women’s perspective when the target audience is predominantly female and the opportunities for businesses with that focus. They also touched on fundraising, decision making and how the exit came about. The wine flowed (considering it was a Monday) and the evening ended with some great questions from the other diners.

We were joined by professionals and entrepreneurs from Net a PorterMyCarGossip, Blu Dot, byflock, Travelex, Microsoft, Wayfair, Bloomberg, Running in Heels, a black and white story, TreniqCooking With Mama and others.

A few snippets from the evening:

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A gorgeous 2 course dinner of traditional Christmas turkey and Christmas pudding were enjoyed at the Green Restaurant in Clerkenwell.

Wishing all you ladies (and men) a Merry Christmas and best of luck with your ventures!

Have a look at our upcoming tables in the new year here.

Damian came to our recent Corporate Innovation dinner with Jon Bradford from TechStars and we’re looking forward to seeing him again at the Sharing Economy dinner coming up soon. We caught up with him about his Event startup Showslice, what’s in store for 2015 and some key learnings he’s picked up along the way. Let’s hear it from him…

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What’s the elevator pitch for your business?

Showslice is the sharing economy for the meetings and events industry. A platform where event organisers can make value connections to save money and help hold better events. Showslice confidentially connects events between organisers with similar supplier requirements, in a similar area, around the same time so that they can share common infrastructure costs back-to-back at 1 venue. From large exhibitions to corporate parties, Showslice collaboration frees up extra budget and time as well as improves event supplier efficiency while having a positive impact on the environment.

If you have co-founders, where did you meet them?

Jon Gunn and I clicked first while we were both working for LOCOG (London 2012). He was the venue manager for the Basketball Arena and I was the Health & Safety advisor for that cluster of venues on the Olympic Park. We got on so well that our late night antics resulted in the team nicknaming us Midnight Cowboy and Night Hawk. I’ll let you guess who’s who…

What’s your biggest ‘hindsight’ moment?

I had these cool ideas that they today call Google, Facebook and Amazon but some guys got there just before me…pity.

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What will 2015 bring?

It’ll be the year that we break down the communication barrier between international event organisers. You will see bigger and better events at less marginal cost with a significant reduction in waste. The way big events are executed in terms of supplier utilization and underused temporary structures will change drastically in 2015 not just because of Showslice but because the time has come.

1 piece of advice for someone starting a business in the sector :

A sharing economy business is bridging the old with the new and is driven by technology, the economy and cultural change. Understand your market and create real solutions which need to constantly be adapted as you learn. We are part of change so always expect to keep changing.

Convince someone to use your product/service in under 50 words:

A unique venue, a marquee, catering, staging, sound, lights, video and even the production crew and event staff are things you need to make your event unforgettable. Exhibitions, meetings, corporate parties, weddings…get want you want and more by simply connecting with people just like you. Showslice, where events come together.

How would you describe TableCrowd to someone who’s never heard of it before?

TableCrowd is a networking innovation of our time. It takes little pockets of like-minded people with focused interests and puts them around a table to ‘break the ice’ and learn from each other. Loosely based on a model taken from legends such as King Arthur and a chap they call Jesus is by far an awesome idea.

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Have a look at our upcoming tables here.

We met Jimmy for the first time at our dinner on the topic of scaling fast & fundraising with the founders of the tech startup Mopp. He liked the concept so much he approached us to host his very own dinner, which of course we gladly accepted! We’ve just co-hosted our first dinner with Jimmy and the Institute of Directors on the hot subject of the Sharing Economy on the 25th. Read more about Jimmy, the IoD and his interest in this growing sector…

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What is the Institute of Directors?

We’re one of the oldest business groups in Europe, with a Royal Charter that requires us “to promote the conditions favourable to entrepreneurial activity and wealth creation.” We have 34,000 members from all over the UK, covering every conceivable sector and background. Our main focus is on supporting individuals, start-ups and SMEs with everything from tax advice to work spaces. We also have a large policy team who produce original research on everything from energy and infrastructure to innovation and disruptive technologies.

What were you doing before you joined the IoD?

I previously worked in political communications, starting out on Boris Johnson’s first Mayoral Campaign in 2008 and since then for a range of financial and tech clients.

What were the biggest developments in 2014?

The extent to which we continue to cram our entire lives into a smartphone. I haven’t had one for the last few weeks and it’s complicated pretty much every area of my life from travel to finance.

What will 2015 bring?

Further disruption of the traditional industries, combined with a real devolution of power and autonomy to regions, cities and individuals.

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How are you involved in the Sharing Economy?

The IoD has a real interest in this area and in what it represents for the future of our economy. We hosted the founder of Uber, Travis Kalanick, at our recent Annual Convention and our members really engaged with the case he put forward about the potential benefits of his business philosophy. We have just launched a report on the subject calling for the Government to extend the ‘rent a room’ scheme to the whole of the sharing economy, and increase the tax free allowance of earnings in this sector to £10,000.

Why did you want to start a TableCrowd table on the subject?

I attended my first one with the Pete Dowds and Tom Brooks, the founders of Mopp, and thought it was a fantastic evening with lots of likeminded people sharing ideas and talking about the future of our economy. I knew immediately that I wanted the IoD to be part of that debate, and that we are in a good position to contribute.

What’s your favourite London restaurant?

Tremendously difficult question, but probably the Big Easy or Hawksmoor …

Thanks Jimmy, it’s been wonderful catching a glimpse into what you do and your plans for the future.

For our upcoming tables, click here.

Last night saw the gathering of some of the leading professionals and entrepreneurs in the Sharing Economy space. And what an exciting space it is. The sharing economy is estimated to reach 50% market share in key sectors such as holiday accommodation and car-sharing/car rental by 2025. We dined at the prestigious Institute of Directors on Pall Mall, who kicked off the evening with a short introduction followed by lovely food, wine and networking.

After dinner, Debbie Wosskow from Love Home Swap gave an insightful talk about her review of the Sharing Economy for the UK Government and extensive experience through her Sharing Economy business. The report goes live today.

We were joined by some innovative entrepreneurs and startups including The People Who Share, GoCarShare, StepUp, Senselab, ShowSlice, JustPark, Coadec and many more.

Here are some snippets of conversation and photos from the evening:

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We hope to see you at another dinner soon – check out what’s coming up here.

We were proud to partner with the IoD on this Sharing Economy dinner.

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Last night a selected group of professionals, entrepreneurs and bloggers gathered in the gorgeous downstairs dining room at the Noodle House in Soho to discuss the latest digital innovations in the beauty sector and how best to move their businesses forward.

Thanks to Nidhima Kohli from MyBeautyCompare, we had a real mix of influential people and organisations present, from established companies like L’Oreal, to startups like PRETTLY, to brands including LittleOndine, Yours Truly Organics and Jardin D’EDEN and writers from Mail Online and Not Just Powder to name just a few. We were thrilled to welcome the co-founder of Wahanda, Lopo Champalimaud to speak about his fascinating entrepreneur journey in this space after dinner. Lopo had many useful insights and stories to share.

Here are some snippets of conversation of the evening:

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A couple of photos for you to enjoy:

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The guests dined on a lovely feast of South Asian food and wine at the private dining room at the Noodle House in Soho.

Thanks to MyBeautyCompare for hosting and to Rackspace for their ongoing support.

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Last night was a chance for startup founders and entrepreneurs to wind down with others over food and drinks around the topic of investment. Our expert for the evening, William McQuillan from Frontline Ventures gave an insightful talk after dinner on how to secure a meeting with an investor and how not to. Frontline Ventures is a pioneering early-stage venture capital firm, believing in ideas and investing in passion. They focus on the needs of the new wave of technology entrepreneurs, investing in the best teams, who build capital-efficient businesses in high-growth markets. We had an interesting and useful Q&A that helped diners answer all their burning questions on the topic.

William said of the night:

“I was genuinely impressed by the quality of entrepreneurs who’d attended. Nice format, good food, smart people.”

We were joined by diners from SilkFred, MyBeautyCompare, MyCarGossip, MyCognition, Fans Choir, StreetBees, Crypta Labs, Twizoo, Savoo and lots more. We dined on delicious Pan Asian food at the Clerk & Well.

Here are some snippets of conversation of the evening:
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Here are some photos for you to enjoy:
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We’re proud to partner with Alma Consulting GroupEurope’s leading R&D tax relief and innovation specialist.

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We had a sold out dinner last night at the hip Ask for Janice restaurant in Smithfields. The theme of the night was ‘how to get exposure for your business’ and we couldn’t have asked for a better after dinner speaker on the subject, Alex Wood Editor at Tech City News. Delicious food & wine was served and the evening ended with a lively Q&A and some further informal networking. Everyone left having gained a good insight into online publishing.

We were joined by some fascinating founders, professionals and startups including Netberg, Pass the Popcorn, Cookbooth, Revolut, Lexoo, Kwanji, Pearlshare, Apppli and many others.

Here are some snippets of conversations from the evening:

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We’ve got an exciting calendar of dinners planned over the next few weeks. Check them out here.

Samantha’s been to a few of our dinners, most recently our ‘Growing your Fashion Business’ dinner – which is pretty apt as she’s Head of Sales & Marketing at unique urban fashion brand Bill+Mar. We caught up with her about her role and family business (her sister founded the label in 2010) – Thanks Samantha!

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What’s the elevator pitch for your business?

Bill+Mar is an urban womanswear label that designs fashion forward, accesible collections for girls who want to stand out from the crowd.

If you have co-founders, where did you meet them?

My business partner is my sister Rosie, who founded the label in 2010. I joined in 2013 to develop the website and take over the digital marketing and social media as the brand was starting to become more established. People always ask what its like working with my sister. We’ve always been close and have a good working relationship, but it does help that our skills are very different so whilst we discuss everything, the person with the expertise on something makes the final call.

What’s your biggest ‘hindsight’ moment?

I don’t have one paticular monment – yet! Its more a gradual learning. You have to be clear on your vision for the brand and the goals you want to achieve. Its important to be open to constructive critisism and advice, but at the end of the day you have to focus on what you want to stand for, for us its the signature Bill+Mar style, and not be swayed by other people or easy options that may dilute the brand identity.

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What will 2015 bring?

We’re really excited about the SS15 collection, I think it’s our best yet, and we are also going to be doing some exciting collaberations – so watch this space!

1 piece of advice for someone starting a business in the the sector

Before you set up your company – fashion label or any other – go on holiday one last time. Lie in the sun, drink loads of cocktails, take in the sites and enjoy every minute, as you’ll be working pretty hard once you start!

Convince someone to use your product/service in under 50 words.

If you want to be able to walk into a room and stand out, whilst feeling confident, comfortable and sexy in your outfit, shop at Bill+Mar

How would you describe TableCrowd to someone who’s never heard of it before?

A great opportunity to meet with like minded people in a relaxed sociable environment and expand you business network, contacts and understanding on a range of subjects.

Have a browse of our upcoming tables here.