What a great week of dinners we’ve had. The dinner with Ari Helgason, an Early Stage Tech Investor at Dawn Capital on Monday started the ball rolling, and his successful dinner was quickly followed by a double whammy Tuesday with the founder of SaVse Smoothies dining with food and beverage startups, and Tim Jackson from Lean Investments talking money. Dinner with Mikey Howe, Founding Partner of Escape the City, finished up the dinners for this week leaving our diners truly inspired about their future aspirations. Job well done to all – here’s a quick look at what went on:
Joining the dark side
Diners at Aubaine on Monday, had the pleasure of hearing from Ari Helgason about the step-by-step process of looking for funding, how to apply for it, as well as what his company looks for when they invest. Originally coming from the entrepreneurial side of things, Ari provided an overview of his startups before he moved over to the “dark side of capital funding”. Providing everyone with tips on what you should and shouldn’t do when meeting a VC, including:
Be prepared; do your research on the investors before you meet them.
All in all, the charming Ari provided a wonderfully insightful speech, covering a plethora of in-depth questions with incredible detail and knowledge.
Push, stalk and pester buyers
Starting with a background in sales, Guka Tavberidze, spoke passionately about the beginnings of his business, from taking inspiration from his Mum by making drinks like she always did, to being determined to make his smoothies cold-pressed. Interestingly, companies like innocent and Naked pasteurise their drinks which strips the fruit and veg of their nutrients. After being told cold-pressed drinks were impossible to produce many times, he finally found the right people to help him achieve his idea.
With getting products stocked being high on the agenda of many diners at this dinner, Guka spoke about how he decided to go high end straight away, targeting Harvey Nichols and Selfridges. His top tip for getting stocked in stores was, ultimately:
You have to push, stalk and pester buyers until they try your product.
Speaking regularly and highly of his team, Guka stressed the importance of hiring the right people to ensure their level of commitment and passion for the brand mirrors your own. He is a major advocate for always doing the hiring for your business yourself.
It’s hard to talk
Next up was Tim Jackson’s hugely anticipated dinner talking all things money, investment and fundraising. To set the scene, Pescatori did a fantastic job of creating a beautiful ambiance with pretty fairy lights and candles decorating the room. Tim began his speech by regaling a story about his trip to Tokyo, and how there’s a saying that,
If you go to Tokyo for a day, you come back and write a book;
If you go for a month, you write a small novel;
If you go for a year, you write an article, and
If you go for five years you won’t write anything.
Tim explained that talking about fundraising is very similar, in that, the longer you are in the business and have experience in fundraising, the harder it is to talk about it.
His speech included a summary of his past experience in startups and being a VC – so he has experiences on both sides of the industry – although he followed this up with saying, “I don’t claim to have great expertise, in fact, the longer I do this job, the more I realise I don’t have any!”
However, what he has done along the way is observe mistakes that have been made, and that was the key driver for Tuesday night’s speech. Tim covered the six key questions to ask:
- Why raise capital?
- What’s on offer?
- How much to raise?
- What’s the valuation?
- Who from?
As an example, Tim spoke about the company 37 Signals and how founder Jason Freed never got outside funding; 100% of the business belongs to him.
When you raise money, your company is a cake and you are giving away a slice of your cake. You very rarely get that slice back.
Essentially, Tim summed up fundraising with this point and explained, that you should be careful of how much you are asking for, what you’re giving up, and check first – do you really need that funding?
Jumping through hoops
A lot of us know the story already, getting stuck in a corporate job after going through all the ‘right routes’ of good grades, university, and jumping through the expected hoops only to end up in job that you didn’t really want in the first place! Mikey’s talk at last night’s dinner covered exactly this well-known narrative, as not only the beginnings of Escape the City, but also the backdrop for many of the members joining their community.
Covering the story of how Escape the City came to be, included hearing how much Mikey hated his job and spent countless hours hiding in the toilets reading about new entrepreneurs on his iPhone, as well as the original light bulb moment. It can all be traced back to a single interaction between Mikey’s business partners’ Dom and Rob, when Dom whispered to Rob, “This is pretty shit, isn’t it?” Cue blogs, mailing lists, a huge fanbase and going global! A book deal followed shortly after, and thanks to crowdfunding from their members the team built their company into what it is today; a place for people to find exciting career opportunities and network with like-minded people.
Diners this week included: Shine Holistic, Verb Brands, Maintaino, Inspired Escapes, Lima, PixelPin, Network Locum, Streethub, UnderTheDoormat, Popcorn Kitchen, BananaBerry, CHO Gazpacho, Cinnamon Bridge, NRJ Drinks, Urban Food Fest, Virtue Ice Tea, Cocomojo, SocioApps, Much Better Adventures, PM EVO, MapSit, 1ROOF, USPAAH, The Friction, MyGravity, WishWant as well as others.
Big thanks goes out to our speakers Ari Helgason, Tim Jackson, Guka Tavberidze and Mikey Howe, as well as our partners Alma CG and Taylor Wessing.
Take a look at all of our upcoming dinners here.