Tablecrowd turns to the crowd

When it comes to networking, you can’t beat the kind that’s face to face. Add food to the mix and you have a winning combination. That’s the thinking behind London-based Tablecrowd. This week it launches a £400,000 crowdfunding raise. Founder Kate Jackson explains.

kate jacksonTableCrowd is a real-life business network that brings people together over food and drink. By hosting private dining experiences with attentive hosts, we aim to turn building a powerful network into an enjoyable and convenient activity.

We invite the speakers you usually see on stage – from Facebook, Google, Monzo, Graze, Deliveroo and more – to join our dinners. This gives our members – a combination of business owners, professionals and entrepreneurs – a chance to meet them informally, as well as to break bread with their peers.

The relaxed format encourages meaningful conversations, promotes sharing and provides the right environment to build relationships.

Having experienced first-hand the impact that good advice and a strong network can have on success – both at work and in life generally – I wanted to build an open and accessible concept that gave people a way to both give and receive support. And importantly, it had to be in a way they enjoyed.

Most people find networking awkward, painful and an ineffective use of time – and that’s what we set out to change. But everyone enjoys going for dinner and everyone enjoys meeting people who are relevant to their lives. For us, that has been a winning combination.

I’m exceptionally proud of what we’ve built. From across the dinner table, partnerships have been formed, new clients have been engaged, teams have been grown and new business opportunities have been discovered.

Each week, our members take the time to tell us about the impact of the introduction we made for them, the investment or press coverage they secured or the key deal they have done following a dinner. But I think the successes we hear about are just the tip of the iceberg.

Our dinners are usually hosted in private dining rooms in restaurants and we welcome anywhere between 12 and 35 guests. Short introductions and seat moves ensure our members get maximum value from the evening. Guests pay to join each dinner and we’ll soon be introducing a subscription option.

We’re proud to have partnered with high-profile sponsors like NatWest and Rackspace, who want to align with certain sectors of our community.

Topics and industries have ranged from clean tech and social impact with speakers including Pavegen, ClearlySo and Impact Ventures.

We’ve also covered fashion, finance, food, travel and ecommerce, as well as topics that support personal development in leadership, public speaking or big life changes including career shifts.

I love spotting a surge of new companies in an emerging or niche sector and being one the first organisations to bring them together. The value they get from this goes way beyond their experience on the night.

Having run TableCrowd and other businesses for several years, I have a deep and empathetic understanding of what people need at different stages and the network we have built allows us to invite the right speakers and experts to deliver for them.

Personal favourite dinners for me (though it’s hard to choose) have included “pet tech” with Medic Animal, Paperless post talking about overseas expansion and a glossy mag journalist sharing tips on securing coverage.

We’ve hosted thousands of dinners with thousands of diners and have created over 300,000 opportunities for people to meet. Our membership is made up of some of the world’s most exciting tech companies, listed businesses, through to government ministers and Olympians.

We have been by the sides of our members from the first spark of an idea, through to an exit. And those members who start as diners looking for support, later give back by speaking regularly at our dinners to share their experiences. As a business eco-system, it just works.

After many years of focussing on the success of the businesses we support, we are now focussing on our own business goals. We want more people to experience effective and enjoyable networking, so the next step is to take the concept to key cities internationally.

We already have members from all around the world and each month we get requests from people wanting us to bring TableCrowd to their city.

This year, we’re building another part to our proposition. We’re working on an app that gives people access to our dinners and offers a quick and convenient way to secure a one-to-one meeting with our members. It will add control and purpose back into building your network – something that we believe is lacking.

Our focus is, and always has been, to build a truly offline business network.

We believe that all the good stuff happens face to face. The people in your network that you call on for help and advice and who also call on you, are always the people you have first connected with in person.

We want to create as many opportunities as possible for our members to meet relevant people face to face, firstly through our dinners and secondly through the app.

To do this, we’re raising £400,000 investment on Crowdcube. And we’re in good company. Other companies that have funded on Crowdcube include Podpoint, Pavegen and WITT.

Crowdfunding helps us to invite our members and the wider community to support us. For investments from £10 and upwards, people will receive shares in the company and, depending on the level of investment, other benefits, including special dinner invites and early access to the app. Importantly, they will be part of our journey and helping us to support thousands of businesses to succeed.

As online networking continues to grow, so too does the importance of what TableCrowd does – turning those online connections into real life relationships.