Diners this week had the pleasure of joining Alex Dunsdon, the founder of The Bakery London for dinner at The Green in Clerkenwell, and Ross Williams, CEO and founder of Venntro, at Tom’s Kitchen, St Katharine docks. Here’s what happened at the latest TableCrowd dinners:Dinner with Alex Dunsdon, founder of The Bakery London & Investment Director at Saatchinvest
Tuesday night saw The Green packed out with a group of TableCrowd members enjoying dinner with Alex Dunsdon and hearing his viewpoint on the truth about venture funding. With CityMapper being his first investment, at Saatchinvest, they like logical and thoughtful founders.
Founders are everything.
The best startups Alex knows have all crowdsourced VCs from the very beginning, and they phone and distribute between their network whenever any major decision needs to be made. Much of what investors are buying is fragile and uncertain, so, it’s important for VCs to believe in the founders. Alex’s top tip for dealing with a VC is to get the barriers out. Get out of the selling mode and into a ‘working together’ mode. Ask them up front about what they want from you. Let them know what you’ll achieve and by what date.
To peek the interest of a VC, first send them a foresight teaser, don’t send a full deck.
Hustle, charm and excite us!
Alex says having an attitude about your product or service is a must, but remember getting investment from a VC is hard.
I have to crush 99% of people’s dreams.
Your job in the first meeting with a VC is to excite them. The last piece of advice Alex imparted to his fellow diners was to take the opportunity to interview the VC when you meet with them. By getting them to talk about themselves, you will be able to figure out how to pitch to them. Securing investment is definitely not a one-size-fits-all scenario.
Dinner with Ross Williams, CEO & founder of Venntro
Dining at Tom’s Kitchen on Wednesday evening, Ross, his fellow diners, and Sarah from our partner Mangostorm Media, discussed the way he has secured 45m consumers, 25K+ sites and annualised revenues of £50m from his third business, Venntro. Working within the online dating industry, Ross’ company has every conceivable dating site, from their own brands (datingagency.com, datingrepublic.com, love2meet.com, singles365.com) and offering white labelling to media brands (London Evening Standard, Closer, Xfm etc), to incredibly niche dating sites like dateginger.co.uk. You can easily see how they’ve successfully notched up over 25,000 sites spanning across the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Ross’ main topic of advice was the importance of having several different payment providers, as having a single one, regardless of your turnover, can destroy your business! Learning from experience, Ross found himself in a situation where his payment provider terminated their contract with him. As his company’s sole payment provider, this resulted in them having a £1.5m shortfall in cash flow, as they had no guarantee of when the money held by the credit card provider would be released to them. (Check your T&Cs for termination periods and how long the provider can retain your money!) Thankfully, their bank lent them the money which meant their successful business wasn’t about to close due to the termination of a single contract!
The time to get a bank on side is not at a bad one. Get them on side before you need them, so you can make sure they’ll be there for you when things go wrong.
So, for all those eCommerce businesses out there:
- Be sure to know the terms of your contracts with your payment providers
- Have multiple payment providers
- Think about the processing time, not just your acceptance rate – remember they’ve got your cash!
- Get on your bank’s good side early and before you need them
- Back up, back up, back up
For the secret to being a successful founder, Ross divulged his strategy: simply employ people who are better at every single part of the business than you are. That way you are left being a shareholder instead of running the show. That is how you build capital value in your business. And above all, be sure to align your business model with the needs of your consumer.
Our speakers were joined by: ReChannel, Stylect, Sleekster Club, EarlyBird, WeMakeWebsites, Sun Park Living, W Kollective, Story Terrace, OpenPlay, Pivigo, Mysteryvibe, Ignition Law, Adcash, Sentenial, Racepoint Global, Care Across, Apparel Systems and IBDrelief amongst others.
A special thanks goes to our speakers Alex Dunsdon, Ross Williams and our partner Mangostorm Media.