Hanging out with a Crowd for Dinner

TableCrowd is dinner-based networking

By Jeffrey Peel

Last week I attended my first TableCrowd event.

TableCrowd is social networking meets real-world networking. The idea is this: people register for the site and can choose from a series of dinner (or breakfast) events where they can meet people interested in similar subjects or after-dinner speakers. Diners pay to attend so, by definition, are interested in the topics.

Prior to the dinner, diners can connect with each other, comment on their ‘tables’ and profile themselves. At the dinner they meet real live people. And after the dinner they can reconnect with people they have met or follow fellow diners to future dinners.

At my first dinner event last week we congregated and mingled and chatted over a glass of wine at a restaurant in Soho, London (most of the dinners are in London).  Then we had 2 courses: main course (with a glass of wine) and dessert. Everything is included in the price – £37 including VAT.

We were seated according to a table plan. Then, after the first course, roughly half of us were asked to move places to encourage networking. Despite this, I probably only got to chat with around half of my fellow diners. We were all asked to give a one minute overview to the assembled group as well – but with nearly 30 people attending it was a case of ‘in one ear and out the other’.

At the end of the meal we had an after dinner presentation and Q&A with the headline guest for the evening, Reshma Sohoni of Seedcamp. This was eagerly anticipated by many of the diners (who were early stage company founders).  Reshma gave a very competent overview of the London VC market – although her insistence that getting money in the current market should be relatively easy (given the availability of funding) was treated with some degree of scepticism from the assembled guests.

She went on to qualify this, however, by providing an overview of the qualification process adopted by Seedcamp.  In short, she didn’t like Photo Sharing or solo-founder opportunities very much. She liked insurance and cyber-security.  Oh and businesses with $50m rapid revenue potential and $500m+ potential exit valuations.

I didn’t sense there were many such companies in the room.

TableCrowd is definitely worthwhile if you have a spare evening and fancy meeting some business people who may (or may not) be like-minded. The format isn’t perfect but serendipity is a funny thing. You might just meet somebody that makes you laugh and opens some business doors. But treat the evening as more of a social event than a networking event and you might get more from it.

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