Archives for the month of: October, 2015

ross-nofundingFollowing our fundraising dinner with Ross Williams, CEO of Venntro, we’ve got some extra-special tips on how to grow your business. Ross famously grew his empire from next to nothing, and here are some of his tips on how to achieve similar success:

  1. 90% marketing, 10% product. You might have an amazing idea, but how are you going to acquire users?
  2. Make your partners pay for the marketing. This is how we grew White Label Dating – we incurred the risk onto them.
  3. Think about corporate venturing. Look to partner with a company who’s got your customers already.
  4. Credit cards and loans are still viable. Be warned: you might have to remortgage your house!
  5. Start small. Don’t try to build a £50m business the first time – don’t get obsessed with the big figure to start with.

And a final word from our award-winning entrepreneur:

There are no overnight success stories. Our society today is obsessed with ‘rags to riches’ tales. In reality, success takes time, and hard work.

Good luck!

What better way to learn about how to grow your start-up than by speaking with successful entrepreneurs who have already climbed the mountain standing in front of you? That’s exactly what we did this week; on Monday, we enjoyed an intimate dinner at the spectacular Lima Floral with speaker Andrew Humphries and guests. Andrew is no stranger to the start-up process, and conversation carried on well into the night. We also had the pleasure of chatting to Ross Williams, CEO of Venntro media group, and hearing his tips on building your business on your own without the support of investors.

Andrew H 1

Start-up journeys with The Bakery’s co-founder
Andrew Humphries is co-founder of The Bakery, the world’s first dedicated accelerator for the advertising and marketing industry. Previously, he co-founded two successful technology businesses raising over $42m in venture funding. For Andrew, the key to a successful start-up is learning about what drives you.

Every single company started from one step.

One of the key questions that was asked this evening was about how to know when you’re actually going somewhere with your business? When does the switch come?

The switch will happen somewhere on that journey. You have to be completely committed to your vision, otherwise it won’t happen. Get the vision right, and everything else will drop into place.

For Andrew, the life of a start-up is a journey! Who knows what will be the next big thing?

There is uncertainty. There is no magic formula. It just goes where it goes.

Andrew Humphries 2

Building a successful business without funding
Over at Aubaine on Wednesday night, we were joined by our speaker and proud sponsor, Ross, from Venntro. At dinner, Ross spoke about his background and how he grew his business into an empire. In the the mid 2000s, Ross found himself single. At the time, he himself was using online dating, and he saw an opportunity to launch his business, White Label Singles. Between 2003 and 2007, he grew the business, and at that time, Ross didn’t really know about VCs or angel investors. So this is how he did it:

Without any external funding, my agency, Raw Net, built the business. My partner put in £30k by re-mortgaging his house. However, we got into debt. We signed up for six credit cards each (e.g Egg, Mint, Goldfish etc) – something you just can’t do now! It was a slow process; it took us four years to go from 0 to £3m annualised revenue

In 2007, Ross dropped his other business, Raw Net, and decided to focus on Venntro. Ross explained during his talk how he believes that if you have two businesses on the go, then ultimately, you have to choose one.

You have to commit totally. You cannot be hedging your bets! It’s all or nothing.

One of Ross’s tips for start-up founders is to make yourself redundant; find better people for different roles at the business. Ross sees himself as an entrepreneur who is a shareholder first and foremost.

Focus on the execution. Execution is everything. Likelihood is, someone else has got your idea, so make your execution slicker.

Ross Williams 1

For more of Ross’ tips on how to grow a business, check out his post here.

Our speakers were joined by: Taylor Wessing, Mangostorm Media, PressUp, Texuna Technology, The Food Rush, Tagme, Experience Travel Group, The Mo Ibrahim Foundation, SilkFred, Story Terrace, TKG Group, PixelPin, Global Personals, Mind Agilis, SwapForex, Sentenial, Carspring, Moorhouse, Lifeshifter and Fast Growth Forum amongst others.

Special thanks to Andrew and Ross, our speakers, as well as our partner, Venntro.

Venntro logo

 

retail_technology_shutterstock-680x308
With Christmas shopping just around the corner, retail is on our minds next week. So what does the future of retail look like? With the growth of e-commerce, will we even need shops any more? Next week we’ll be focusing on key trends and the future of retail at a dinner with speaker Cate Trotter from Insider Trends. Why not pop by for dinner and drinks next Wednesday with Cate…

Key retail trends and the future of retail

The future of retail isn’t about selling, it’s about creating an experience.

Cate Trotter is Head of Trends at Insider Trends, who help global brands create world-leading and profitable retail ecosystems. Their client list includes Marks and Spencer, Chanel, Unilever, Absolut Vodka, Clarks, Philips, BNP Paribas and Lego. Cate will be talking about the future of retail, including key retail trends, the use of technology and omnichannel retail. These vital insights will be invaluable for your own plans, so this dinner will be perfect for those with fashion or retail start-ups.
Dinner is at 6.45pm on Wednesday 4th November at Jamie’s Italian, London Bridge

calendar

Also coming up next month:
> Building a successful digital agency with Chris Donnelly on Tuesday 17th November
> Being a successful female leader with Georgie Cole of Sheer Luxe on Wednesday 18th November
> “Fashion Techonology” dinner with FashTech founder and Head of Marketing Development at Cortexica on Wednesday 18th November
> Making your company a ‘talent manager’ before everyone knows who you are with Mark Hardy, CMO of Viber on Monday 23rd November

Take a look at the full listing of upcoming dinners here.

We hope to see you very soon!

beautybloggerSo you’re a new brand with some fabulous products that you can’t wait to promote. You know that a feature on a prominent beauty blog will give you excellent exposure and is an essential marketing tool. But how do you get your brand featured?

Hayley Carr, aka London Beauty Queen, shared some of her essential dos and don’t for contacting a beauty blogger, and building an audience that supports your brand, at MyBeautyMatches’ Digital Beauty dinner last week (check out the full post here). No doubt, you’ll be on a beauty blog in no time!

The Do’s

  • Build a community. Make sure you’re having conversations or saying thank you. Answer questions and respond to tweets.
  • Create ‘passion points’. Be it cleansers, lipsticks or Back to the Future, get passionate!
  • Drip-feed information, so that you’re creating a bigger picture.
  • Target different audiences with different messages. Don’t put the same content on each channel. People inevitably follow you on different platforms. For example, Instagram is more behind-the-scenes and inspirational. Different networks have different purposes.
  • Engage in conversation.

The Don’ts

  • It’s not all about you – nobody likes a show-off. Social media is about conversations, and engaging with your customers. Limit self-promotion and use your social media platforms to share worthwhile content with your followers and garner their interest through interacting with them first-hand.
  • Don’t assume! Don’t assume that just because you’ve got something to offer, they’ll be pleased to help.
  • Don’t shout. Understand that there’s a time and a place.
  • Don’t only schedule content. You should be responding to content. It’s important to say thank you when people retweet. Be reciprocal.
  • Don’t only rely on giveaways as you’ll end up with a follower-base who just want freebies. Be careful about how much you rely on competitions and giveaways.

If you’re looking for more tips on how to promote your brand and even get into the glossy’s take a look at Sarah Jossel’s top tips here.

Business Presentation

Ever wondered what it’s like on the other side of the table? Eyal Malinger is responsible for Countrywide’s growth and venture investments and has seen his fair share of pitches from start-up teams. After last week’s PropertyTech dinner, we wanted to share Eyal’s insights. Read these seven things Eyal notices before you meet your next VC!

  1. Team dynamic. I am a keen observer of how people work together.
  2. Knowledge. Whether you know your facts about the industry. Be it property, security or food, the VC will know it! Know your competitors.
  3. Preposterous assumptions. Your assumptions have to be robust and your projections should be realistic. However, don’t be too conservative – if you’re pitching something, it must have the potential to be big.
  4. Follow-ups and responses. Whether it went well or bad, email them after. Keep an Excel spreadsheet of your contacts, and keep in touch with your contacts via updates. Don’t nag them but send them a ping. Keep people posted, even if you don’t know them, it’s a network that you have to keep alive.
  5. Not leaving your job! Are you serious about this if you’re still working on something else?
  6. What is your IT strategy? I want to know if you’re outsourcing your IT.
  7. Pitch in 20 seconds very clearly. Make sure your business idea is easy to communicate.

For more inspiring tips from investors, keep in the loop with our fundraising dinners.

We finished our jam-packed week of dinners with MyBeautyMatches’ latest Digital Beauty dinner and our Tech Stories dinner with Blaze’s founder on creating ultimate products for urban cyclists. If you haven’t done so already, please do check out the highlights from the first three dinners we had this week here.

avenue Digital Beauty dinner – the dos and don’ts of creating your own brand
We dined in the sumptuous surroundings of Pall Mall restaurant, The Avenue, and it was the perfect setting to an exciting evening of debate and discussion surrounding beauty blogging. We were joined by both Hayley Carr, aka London Beauty Queen, and Nidhima Kohli from MyBeautyMatches.com, they both shared an insight into what retail websites and beauty bloggers expect from new brands.

New beauty brands, take note! This is what Nidhima advises to new brands who are seeking to be stocked on a retail website…

  1. Build your brand profile and presence before you approach a retailer.
  2. We believe there are too many brands out there and we want to know which products are of high quality.
  3. Everyone claims that their product is the best thing – so make sure you are clear when you are approaching blogs.
  4. When approaching retailers, your email should contain:
        > How many products you have
        > Where you are listed
        > How long you have been trading
        > An attachment
        > Your USP, e.g. ” X number of women loved it…”

To find out from Hayley Carr on her tips for new brands approaching beauty bloggers, check out this post.

blazeDine with Emily Brooke from Blaze, creating ultimate products for urban cyclists
Also on Wednesday night, on the other side of town, we were at dinner with our speaker Emily Brooke, founder and CEO of Blaze. Emily shared her fascinating tale about how she got into got into her business after several attempts by her parents, incubators etc to push her in other directions. She spoke about what drives her and how to deal with constant suggestions from others as to the direction the company should go in. Emily’s philosophy on pivoting is as follows:

Always focus on the end goal…it makes difficult short term decisions easier to make.

Our speakers this week were joined by: MyBeautyMatches, Atosho, Janiro Ltd, The Hut Group, Type the Hype, Fighting Fifty, Mrs Jonas Recommends, Beauty Seen, Qmarkets, Coppr, Khunu Limited, Williams Powell, and Space Synapse amongst others.

Special thanks to Nidhima Kohli, Hayley Carr and Emily Brooke.

With a total of five dinners spread across three days, this has certainly been a jam-packed week here at TableCrowd. We’ve split our roundup into two separate posts (find the other one here) because we’ve got so much to fill you in on! From the beautiful arches of the Royal Exchange on Monday for our dinner for London FoodTech Week, to Aubaine Mayfair on Tuesday with our PropertyTech dinner, to The Avenue, Pall Mall on Wednesday for our beauty bloggers dinner, we’ve been all over the capital dining and networking with like-minded folk. Read on to hear our highlights…

rexLondon FoodTech Week – Successfully funding your food business
As part of London FoodTech Week, we hosted a dinner at the sumptuous surroundings of the Royal Exchange in Bank where we were joined by a panel of speakers: Michael Wilkinson, Head of Equity Investments at Crowdcube, Ben Pugh, founder at FarmDrop and Oliver Pugh, founder and CEO at EarlyBird who successfully funded their businesses using CrowdCube. Ben and Oliver having both gone through the CrowdCube process, shared their experience using this fundraising platform:

There are no silver bullets; just work damn hard

The panel advised potential CrowdCube companies to be sensible and realistic about valuation and ultimately:

Be scrappy or go home.

oisinThe future of mobile marketing with Oisin Lunny
Also on Monday night, we were over at The Green in Clerkenwell to discuss the future of mobile marketing with Oisin Lunny. With technology changing as quickly as it is, mobile marketing is becoming more important than ever. As Oisin outlined, we are embracing mobile use wholeheartedly – it is the fastest growing market. 73% of world’s population now have a mobile phone. There are more active mobile connections than people. More people have access to a mobile phone than to a toothbrush. 6 billion people worldwide use mobile messaging, so as you can see: it’s kind of a big deal. Oisin quoted The Economist’s take on the situation:

We are now a planet of smart phones populated by homo sapiens.

From 1990 onwards, we saw the The Age of Information take place, and recently, we have seen the dawn of The Age of the Consumer. There are 3 things on the mobile market mind at the moment:

  1. ‘CEx’ – the ability to transform customer experience
  2. Turning Big Data into data insights
  3. Becoming a digital disrupter

The best examples of companies who are leveraging the mobile successfully are those such as Uber, who are proactively serving consumers based on their context. Apple Pay, in addition, is a good example of a completely closed system.

We are tech-rich and time-poor.

We have a personal relationship with our phones and because of this companies are trying different ways to getting through to people through local advertising. For example, Google, promote local suggestions and thereby add value to the home consumer through the crossover between functionality and marketing.
aubaine2Property tech dinner with Eyal Malinger
We were talking about property at dinner on Tuesday night at Aubaine, and we were lucky enough to be joined by CountryWide‘s Eyal Malinger. Eyal is responsible for Countrywide’s growth and venture investments. He spoke a bit about the challenges of getting seen by a big corporate.

It’s hard because these companies are so opaque.

He advised to use websites such as LinkedIn to connect with investors from large corporate companies. People are on these sites, he says, because they want to be responded to! Eyal advised what he callsl ‘the side door method’. Instead of approaching the person right at the top, go sideways. Send a brief email (this should be one screen…don’t forget that people tend to read emails on their phone!) and ask who that person would recommend that you talk to in that company.

Eyal also gave his advice on approaching VCs by talking a bit about his experience on the receiving end from start-ups. For further information on this topic, check out Eyal’s post here.

Our speakers were joined by: Popcorn Kitchen, FarmDrop, Born Social, EarlyBird, CrowdCube, Gozo Deli, iguacu, OpenMarket, BlisMedia, MoveBubble, BillHub, i Am the agent, CarSpring, Bungaloow and Valimpex amongst others.

Special thanks to our speakers, Oisin, Michael, Ben, Oliver and Eyal for all their great advice and tips, and to our partners, Alma CG and FixFlo.

fixfloalmaFor the #AfterDinnerRoundup for the rest of dinners this week, check out our post here.

diana  Earlier this year we hosted the Getting into Glossy dinner, with Sarah Jossel from Glamour magazine, where we had the pleasure of meeting Diana Lee. We caught up with Diana recently, who is the Head of Digital Strategy & Communications at Clotho London, and she talked to us about her company, and how they are revolutionising the way we view sustainability, even in our wardrobes!

What’s the elevator pitch for Clotho?
Every day we are told what to buy, what to wear, and simply, to keep buying new clothing items. We are deeply entrenched a digital lifestyle, one that focuses on immediacy; constantly refreshing and checking your social newsfeeds every hour.

Being bombarded by all these shiny, beautiful things puts a real strain on our wallets, and more importantly, on the world around us. This lifestyle translates into the way we shop; fast fashion is as “mainstream” as it gets. Almost completely divergent from this is slow fashion, the ethical fashion community, and the two rarely mix.

Clotho aims to bridge this gap by providing a sustainable, alternative method of frequent shopping. We want to say,

Yes, sustainability can be stylish and fun, and it’s something you can do right now with these baby steps. It is possible to consciously lower your carbon footprint and stay beautifully glamorous.

We run mainly on an incentive system, where women exchange their clothes for huge discounts on carefully curated vintage and second-hand clothing. The shop is refreshed every Sunday at 9pm, and we are now open to everyone, regardless of whether they take part in the exchange. #ClothoRefreshSunday!

All information on how to take part is on our website.

What were you doing before you joined the startup?
I met the Clotho co-founders, Vivien and Caroline, through the EF/CodeFirst: Girls network – where I teach coding to other young women in university and fresh graduates. They were about 2-3 months into the Entrepreneur First programme and looking to grow their community, starting with university students.

I’m still at UCL, studying mathematics, and am incredibly interested in tech with some background in digital marketing. I’m also a member of the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain and spent a summer training in Acting in LA, at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, prior to pursuing maths at university. If it wasn’t for tech, maths and UCL, I would have applied for drama school.

Having this artistic background and an analytical mindset has proven essential when thinking about growth and digital strategy, which is my favourite part of startup life.

foundersWhat’s your favourite thing about working with Clotho?
Vivien and Caroline are incredibly lovely to work with, and you always have fun when you’re working with them.

They met as lab partners, graduating with MEng Chemistry degrees together from Imperial, and are now best friends. They’re incredibly well-grounded, ambitious yet humble, and have a much better sense of humour than I do – which is always lovely. They’ve also managed to create a startup which has evolved out of their own friendship, with a story that many young women can easily relate to. 

All of this makes it really easy to get things done and to experiment with crazy new ideas. People also get really involved with watching Clotho grow, so they started and still maintain a blog about their startup life – I love it.

What will the rest of 2015 bring?
Here’s essentially what our co-founder Vivien’s response was in a recent interview with Sustainable Bridges:

In response to demand, we have expanded the Clotho shop so customers will be able to buy directly from our store, without the need for credit. Previously, our shop is based on an incentive system- customers who donate clothes receive credit and that credit allows them to shop in the Clotho store. So we are hoping to continue to expand our store so everyone can buy from Clotho, regardless of if they have donated clothes or not (however it would obviously be favourable if customers were to still donate!).

Ultimately, we would love it if everyone was buying clothes in a sustainable way; our goal is to make a difference- there is no doubt that the current state of the clothing industry is unsustainable, therefore, our aim as a business is to be the destination for sustainable fashion.

One piece of advice for someone starting a business in your sector?
Know your target market, and keep getting to know your potential customers. We’re all in sales – Daniel Pink’s book ‘To Sell is Human’ is a must read. By this I mean, you need to talk to at least one or two customers every day; Keep the feedback loop strong.

Screenshot 2015-12-14 14.24.37 copyConvince someone to use your product/service in under 50 words.
Why don’t we use some pictures instead? Check out our Instagram profile and clotholove tag, or watch our Fashion Hackathon video.

What’s your favourite startup in your sector (not including your own)?
Knyttan (https://twitter.com/knyttan) – revolutionary stuff.

What’s your favourite London restaurant?
This is such a tough question because what I love about London is the ability to go to a brilliant restaurant that serves the type of cuisine I’m in the mood for. That being said, I’ll never get sick of the Harvey Nichols Fifth Floor Café – not exactly a restaurant, but it’s my favourite F&B spot in town.

What’s your favourite meal?
Chirashi Sushi, Green tea ice cream, Genmaicha tea – and with Tamari Sauce on the side because I’m wheat-intolerant.

logoFind more of our #BusinessSpotlights here. If you’d like your business featured on our blog, email hello@tablecrowd.com with the subject title: I want to be a #BusinessSpotlight!

singlestep

As October rolls on here at TableCrowd, we’ve got some inspiring speakers to answer all your burning questions about how to get your business off the ground. Next week is all about start-up journeys, from idea to conception to funding, and we’ll be dining with some guests who know exactly how crazy those journeys can be, like Ross Williams, who set up his incredibly successful empire Venntro in a tiny office with next to no funding. And we’ll also be hearing from Andrew Humphries from The Bakery, the world’s first dedicated accelerator for the advertising and marketing industry. Book your seat now and let’s eat!

Startup journeys with The Bakery’s co-founder: from idea & team building, to funding & growth, through to exit
Dine with Andrew Humphries and discuss your startup’s journey. Andrew is co-founder of The Bakery and previously, he co-founded 2 successful technology businesses, raising over $42m in venture funding, and growing both in Europe and the US, before exiting via trade sales. Andrew has a wealth of experience including raising money, spending money, building teams, choosing co-founders, growing overseas and planning for growth/exit. He will be talking about a startup’s journey, which encapsulates all these things.
Dinner is at 6:45pm on Monday 26th October, Lima Floral, Covent Garden

Building a successful business without funding
Ross Williams, founder and CEO of Venntro (with brands including White Label Dating and Just Singles), built his business from the ground up into an empire with 45m consumers on 25,000+ sites with an annualised revenue of £5om. He will be sharing his advice on how to succeed without relying on funding, and will cover his experience and knowledge about the right times and reasons to raise money.
Dinner is at 6:45pm on Wednesday 28th October at Obicà, Poland Street

eToro Traders’ Network dinner
Also at TableCrowd next week, we’re hosting the next instalment of eToro Traders’ Network dinners. After the success of previous eToro meet-ups, next week’s dinner will be a chance for eToro traders, employees and community members to meet up in person. We will also be joined by special guest and Popular Investor, Anna Serafini. Come along to meet the traders!
Dinner is at 6:45pm on Thursday 29th October at Obicà, Poland Street

See the TableCrowd website for more exciting dinners in the pipeline.

P.S. Don’t forget on Tuesday we have our Breakfast for Founder’s at Aubaine in Broadgate Circle, where you can expand your network over croissants and coffee… Strictly founder’s running start-ups only!

pitchingThis week, we were fortunate enough to hear from Priyanka Karunanithi, investment associate at Octopus Ventures about how to approach VCs. If you haven’t already read her advice on ways to contact and connect with VCs, you can read about it here.

So you’ve got a meeting in the diary: how will you write your pitch?

Here is a short guide to writing the crucial presentation:

Your presentation, Priyanka says, should consist of only 5 slides. (as Ken Valledy said back in September, ‘Think 5 slides, not 50!’) These are:

  1. Your product
  2. Competition – why exactly are you better than your competitor
  3. Your team
  4. Your market – make it as specific as possible
  5. Financials

There you have it! You are now 5 slides away from a winning pitch.