Startup networking always works better when there is food on the table, and an MC to facilitate introductions and get tongues wagging.
This has long been the philosophy at London-based startup TableCrowd, who host business and networking dinners where they help entrepreneurs forge connections with people who can help them grow their businesses.
This week, TableCrowd have launched a Crowdcube campaign to raise £400,000 at a £3.3 million pre-money valuation – and the startup has already raised 21% of its total – £85k – from more than 50 investors.
Founded by Kate Jackson, an ex-solicitor and serial entrepreneur who also founded online dating and events site ClickTonight, and SilkFred, a fashion platform that also funded on Crowdcube, TableCrowd has hosted over 1,000 networking dinners involving celebrated speakers, usually to be found speaking at events where direct access and a chance to pitch ideas are scarce.
Senior executives at major tech companies or fast-growth startups including Google, Facebook, and Deliveroo have attended and spoken at TableCrowd events, as well as VCs, government ministers – even an Olympian athlete or two.
Event sponsors have included Natwest, the Institute of Directors, and Rackspace, and coverage of dinners have found their way into publications including The Telegraph, The Next Web, and Reuters…and Haggerston Times!
Besides Kate Jackson, Claire Jenkins, a community building specialist who worked at Tesco and BT, where she managed 700 staff across 2 continents, and UK Charity Grow Movement, leading a global team of 2,000, acts as TableCrowd’s Chief Operating Officer.
TableCrowd events are known for being intimate and friendly and doing away with the awkwardness and nerves that usually dog even the best attempts at exclusive networking get-togethers.
The company has 2 main revenue streams – members pay to attend dinners, and dinners are often sponsored by companies keen to align themselves with specific sectors of the startup community, but hope to add 2 further streams.
The first will derive from a new app that will allow members to subscribe via a new app to unlock data and match directly with speakers and fellow attendees, and the second will be affiliate commissions and fees for business referrals.
TableCrowd say that they hope to become operational in 5 cities, build a 70k strong membership base, and achieve £372,030 in revenues for year-end 2017 – a six-fold year-on-year increase.
The funds will be divided between Tech & IP development (37%), marketing (18%), team building (28%) and maintaining overheads (17%).
TableCrowd intend to pursue an exit strategy based on a trade sale, and cite the recent acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft as evidence of the potential of the networking economy. The company have also secured Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) advance assurance, which means that high net worth investors can offset any investment against income tax – EIS was designed to make investing in early stage startups, which can be risky, a more attractive proposition.
Investors can expect to hold ordinary shares and will also benefit from any dividends paid by the company.
TableCrowd has established itself as something of a startup ecosystem institution in recent years, driven by an enthusiastic founder and team and sourcing venues from downstairs at Google Campus to some of London’s most glamorous eating and drinking venues.
Dinners are hosted either by TableCrowd, or by one or more of its members. Each dinner is based around a specific industry and usually features a Q&A with an industry subject matter expert or successful company founder.
The company pledge to try and go the “extra mile” ensures that diners do not just leave with a handful of business cards, but a set of new relationships and a connection strong enough to ensure that picking up the phone to a someone you met over dinner feels as natural as tucking into a 3-course meal.