Archives for the month of: March, 2013

“One cannot think well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Virginia Woolf


Last week was the first application dinner for our “Startup Engine” crowd to help startups get investment. Yes, we know, there really is nothing we can’t do over dinner!

We hosted the dinner in the private room in Piccolino in the City. The startups each had 1 minute to deliver their elevator pitch followed by 5 minutes of Q&A led by our expert judges. The judges had the tough job of selecting the 6 startups considered the ‘best investment opportunity’. In the next round, the qualifying startups will be asked to give a longer presentation before facing more detailed questioning from a larger panel of venture capitalists and industry professionals. The winning startup will secure a meeting with a top investment firm, Oxford Capital.

We decided to start hosting this series of dinners to provide startups with an opportunity to practice their pitches and face open questioning from investors, industry experts & their peers. Based on our own experiences with TableCrowd, we knew this would be a really beneficial process for them. The feedback we have had from those that took part has been really positive, so we intend to repeat the format.

Our expert judges included serial entrepreneur, Peter Gelardi who has decades of experience under his belt with launching new businesses, Medhi Ksikes whose background is investment management and corporate finance and Jason Hesse, specialist tech journalist from Tech City News. Through firm but fair questions, they quickly extracted the key information about each company and gave their views, feedback and suggestions.

Introducing the startups…

Emma Watkinson – SilkFred – The online destination for emerging fashion designers. Provide tools and resources for emerging designers to grow their business online.

Amy Wang – Looking to launch a socially conscious fashion brand featuring accessories from women’s cooperatives in Morocco, Kenya, and Tanzania.

Carole Seignovert / Bernard Magri – Kiddosparty – An online platform for parents to organise their kids’ birthday parties.

Damien Allison – SiteMorph – A tech start up that helps web sites grow using marketing, engagement and conversion optimisation ideas.

Jon Prove – Ginicam – A new interactive broadcasting technology that is not flash based and uses very little bandwidth. People can buy and sell services and digital media in real-time globally.

Maya Traykova – The Swaproom – An online community swap market place.

Jo Sanchz – Leverme – Helps SMEs publish invite-only referral campaigns for free.

Kevin Quincey – City Beach London – Developing the UK’s largest all weather beach.

Doug Haines – The London School of Attraction – London based training company which helps men and women develop the confidence to meet the opposite sex.

Tom Kim – A project focussing on renewable energy in Korea.

Marco Ottolini – Styloola – Social fashion startup.

Brigitte Maarbach – MBA student – Planning to set up a business for design of houses and buildings.

We’re looking forward to the final on Wednesday night (27th March). Good luck to the qualifying startups! And, if you are interested in hearing when the next investor dinner is taking place, be sure to join our  “Startup Engine” crowd for notifications.

Oscar Wilde as we all know was a poet, playwright, and famed English wit as well as an expert in food and wine. He also wrote some unforgettable food quotes, such as;

Two of my favourite things combined – pizza and startups! A little piece of Monday night heaven.

On Monday night, Simona Valcuaite of The Link Foundry, hosted a fantastic dinner at Pizza East.  The Link Foundry is a private business network for entrepreneurs, investors and business owner. This was a great opportunity to meet entrepreneurs and hear about their startups.

A couple of first timers! Maya Traykova is managing partner of The Swaproom, which does what it says on the tin. You can swap stuff you don’t want, for stuff you want.

Aron Gelbard, CEO and co-founder of Bloom & Wild was at his first TableCrowd dinner following a referral. Bloom & Wild is a new subscription flower service, where the flowers delivered fit through the letterbox.

Piotr Zając joined us again from Untitled Kingdomwho is in the UK looking into business opportunities here for his crack team of iOs and android developers.

It was also nice to see Richard again. He is the founder of Living It London, which helps young professional find rooms in London.

Our other diners had ideas and businesses in fashion, music and film and a reviews based app for dining. We were a large table with 9 diners, and there was plenty of sharing and musical chairs to ensure we could all speak to everyone else. I made some useful connections and was also able to make some useful introductions for others.

Bravo Simona!

If you have a startup or an idea for a startup, then Simona is hosting weekly dinners. You can view and join upcoming dinners here: The Link Foundry Crowd on TableCrowd.

Sunday. Fresh off the plane from a very successful trip to San Francisco and NYC and headed straight to the SilkFred sample sale in Brick Lane. SilkFred is the online destination for emerging fashion designers and CEO & Founder Emma Watkinson has hosted a few TableCrowd fashion tables. It was a buzzy event packed out with designers and shoppers.

Monday. (Jetlagged). No rest for the wicked. Before my trip, I bagged a demo slot at Tech Meetups demo and drinks event (#tmudrinks) at Google Campus so tried my hand at pitching and fielding questions with jetlag. It went well.

I went straight from this pitch to a TableCrowd Startup Engine Dinner at Chico Bandito. This week we were joined by Chris Bradley, the Suitcase Startup. Chris is filming his journey as he takes his startup, Publicate, from his bedroom in North Wales to London, with no money, no accommodation and no office. Chris booked to crash on my sofa after our TableCrowd dinner via Startup Stay. Chris is featuring the startups that he stays with in his fly-on-the-wall-documentary, so we did an interview at the restaurant after the meal.

Wednesday. (Still jetlagged). Meeting confirmed with a venture capital firm in Paris, so booked the Eurostar tickets. Hosted a TableCrowd dinner ‘Make The Move – Leave The City‘ at Gordon Ramsey’s Bread Street Kitchen for professionals looking to leave the City. Met some really interesting diners, including Cali Bird, author of ‘Don’t Give Up Your Day Job’ who is hosting a table of her own on this very topic in a few weeks time.

Friday. (Jetlag not gone). Back to back meetings all day and sandwiched between them I hosted a ‘feedback’ lunch at Red Dog Saloon set up for attendees of Tech Meetup’s demo event earlier this week. I wanted people to try the site and offer feedback based on the actual experience, not just the info I shared in my presentation. Very useful info – and good burgers.

It’s the Weekend! (Still not over the jetlag, bored now). Bonjour Paris! Without having chance to unpack from the US trip, headed to Paris in preparation for Monday’s VC meeting. Used Airbnb again to grab some bargain digs and found time to check out the Arc De Triomphe, Eiffel Tower and to sample some great steak!

Are you feeling the cold today on this brisk March afternoon, how about these ‘toasty’ warm ‘loaf’ers to keep the cold out?

For more Food art images check out our previous blog: Don’t Play With Your Food – Food Art

Introducing the social dining TableCrowd quiz champions of March 2013. Thanks to all that came to The Stonemasons Arms – next stop EggHeads, watch out Kevin Ashman.

Keep an eye on our crowd Food and Fun Stuff for the next quiz to be announced. Great chance to meet some new people over dinner and potentially grab a cash prize.

The social dining world is becoming more and more popular. Have you joined for dinner yet? Come meet some of our diners and build your network of friends.

Last month, TableCrowd was accepted to join Chinwag’s 2013 Digital Mission to NYC, so as well as the great schedule of events arranged by the Chinwag team, I set up a number of other meetings for fundraising and partnership purposes to maximize the benefit from the trip. So here is a little insight into two of the most hectic weeks of my life…!

Monday. From the comfort of my downtown Airbnb digs, I read up on the other companies that were on the Mission and I realized that I was going to be in grand company. Got acquainted with most of the other missions companies over informal drinks in Manhattan.

Tuesday. First up, we had a legal master class from attorneys at Venable LLP on how foreign companies can operate / raise money in the US, including structural, tax and immigration issues. Next up was the “Patricia Show” starring Patricia Bayley of NYC Economic Development Corp and Patricia Young of UKTI, who talked about the support available for UK companies looking to expand to the US, which ranged from making introductions to financial grants.

Our trip coincided with Social Media Week (#smwnyc), which is a global event exploring the social, cultural and economic impact of social media. Took in my first session, which was a roundtable discussion from published social media authors. Bang on trend, there were prizes for the most prolific tweeters, the winner knocking out around 1 every 2 minutes for the hour session #inanotherleague.

Spent the evening at the Social Media Week opening party for food, drink, music and networking.

Wednesday. Very excited about a morning visit to Google’s office on 9th Street, which they bought for the bargain price of $1.7bn. The space is both the second biggest office in New York and Google’s second largest space. 

So what goes down at Google? Well the space is so extensive that there are scooters to whizz around on and our employee tour guide said even after 3 years at the company, he still risks getting lost when venturing to an unfamiliar floor. There are fire escapes (ladders from ceiling to floor) connecting some of the floors to save time when navigating. Each floor has multiple micro kitchens, which are stocked with complimentary goodies to refuel staff. There are also bigger fully serviced restaurants where staff can sample top-notch grub knocked up by guest chefs looking to showcase their dishes. Each floor also has a tech stop, which is effectively an engineer drop in site, where staff can get tech issues fixed.

The whole place was a spacious hub of creativity with themed break out areas, workspaces and cubbyholes. Something to suit all tastes; download a book, have a jam, enjoy a massage, get a sweat on with a gym work out or a challenge a colleague to a round of ping pong. And if graffiti is your thing, you can pretty much write on every wall, so you’d fit right in!

We had Q&A session with an employee from Creative Labs. THE dream job for anyone in the digital or creative industries where teams of four people work in concentrated two week blocks to develop ideas, often from specs direct from Google’s Larry Page. After the initial development phase, around half are scrapped and half progressed. No clients. No limit on creativity. No tight budgets. She introduced Google Glass. The website went live at 3am the previous day so was literally hot off the press. The intro video had me mesmerised. Although how Google normalizes this and removes its robotic feel must be a problem to solve.

I dived back into Social Media Week for the BuzzFeed evening session. They used an entertaining analogy of going to a party to explain how to best use social media and to decide how/when/what to post.  In short, you won’t be a particularly popular party guest if you constantly talk about yourself, interrupt people, beg people to like you or say what you said at the last party! I can see the transferable messages when using Twitter.

Thursday. We had a breakfast round table at the British Consulate where we had time in small groups with UKTI, real estate and branding experts to help answer our questions on operating in the US on a more intimate level. I gathered some interesting information regarding grants available for market research and trade shows which could be applicable to TableCrowd.

We had a visit and Q&A session at Spark Lab, a really cool space near Union Square where a number of startups operate from. Vivek Boray (startup attorney) facilitated a really informative discussion on the fund raising process with the help of Adam Lewis of InnovateCV who had been through the process. Very interesting that many of his experiences already replicated our own as we embark on that same fundraising journey.

In the evening, Chinwag hosted the Great British Pub Quiz at Ogilvy & Mather where teams battled it out with Chinwag’s Sam Michel up on stage as quiz master extraordinaire. The evening was topped off with an after hours tour of the offices and their spectacular rooftop garden.

Friday. Headed over to Brooklyn on the Manhattan bridge (yes, this was a navigational error) to visit Huge Inc, which was … huge (sorry, couldn’t resist).

They grew from a small team of 7 to over 600 people since launch. The name was meant to be ironic, but they have certainly now grown into it. It is a great space, which matches their client list. Interesting to hear that bagging a big client in New York is likely to mean $2.5-5m yearly revenues, versus the $500k revenues for a comparable client win in the UK. Found the Brooklyn Bridge for the stroll back to Manhattan.

Finished the week with one final Social Media Week session, “you said you like me, but we never do anything together” which discussed the best ways to interact with fans.

The Social Media Week closing party was held in a converted synagogue and was a cracking end to a action packed week.

– Kate