Startup Diaries: TableCrowd goes to NYC

Last month, TableCrowd was accepted to join Chinwag’s 2013 Digital Mission to NYC, so as well as the great schedule of events arranged by the Chinwag team, I set up a number of other meetings for fundraising and partnership purposes to maximize the benefit from the trip. So here is a little insight into two of the most hectic weeks of my life…!

Monday. From the comfort of my downtown Airbnb digs, I read up on the other companies that were on the Mission and I realized that I was going to be in grand company. Got acquainted with most of the other missions companies over informal drinks in Manhattan.

Tuesday. First up, we had a legal master class from attorneys at Venable LLP on how foreign companies can operate / raise money in the US, including structural, tax and immigration issues. Next up was the “Patricia Show” starring Patricia Bayley of NYC Economic Development Corp and Patricia Young of UKTI, who talked about the support available for UK companies looking to expand to the US, which ranged from making introductions to financial grants.

Our trip coincided with Social Media Week (#smwnyc), which is a global event exploring the social, cultural and economic impact of social media. Took in my first session, which was a roundtable discussion from published social media authors. Bang on trend, there were prizes for the most prolific tweeters, the winner knocking out around 1 every 2 minutes for the hour session #inanotherleague.

Spent the evening at the Social Media Week opening party for food, drink, music and networking.

Wednesday. Very excited about a morning visit to Google’s office on 9th Street, which they bought for the bargain price of $1.7bn. The space is both the second biggest office in New York and Google’s second largest space. 

So what goes down at Google? Well the space is so extensive that there are scooters to whizz around on and our employee tour guide said even after 3 years at the company, he still risks getting lost when venturing to an unfamiliar floor. There are fire escapes (ladders from ceiling to floor) connecting some of the floors to save time when navigating. Each floor has multiple micro kitchens, which are stocked with complimentary goodies to refuel staff. There are also bigger fully serviced restaurants where staff can sample top-notch grub knocked up by guest chefs looking to showcase their dishes. Each floor also has a tech stop, which is effectively an engineer drop in site, where staff can get tech issues fixed.

The whole place was a spacious hub of creativity with themed break out areas, workspaces and cubbyholes. Something to suit all tastes; download a book, have a jam, enjoy a massage, get a sweat on with a gym work out or a challenge a colleague to a round of ping pong. And if graffiti is your thing, you can pretty much write on every wall, so you’d fit right in!

We had Q&A session with an employee from Creative Labs. THE dream job for anyone in the digital or creative industries where teams of four people work in concentrated two week blocks to develop ideas, often from specs direct from Google’s Larry Page. After the initial development phase, around half are scrapped and half progressed. No clients. No limit on creativity. No tight budgets. She introduced Google Glass. The website went live at 3am the previous day so was literally hot off the press. The intro video had me mesmerised. Although how Google normalizes this and removes its robotic feel must be a problem to solve.

I dived back into Social Media Week for the BuzzFeed evening session. They used an entertaining analogy of going to a party to explain how to best use social media and to decide how/when/what to post.  In short, you won’t be a particularly popular party guest if you constantly talk about yourself, interrupt people, beg people to like you or say what you said at the last party! I can see the transferable messages when using Twitter.

Thursday. We had a breakfast round table at the British Consulate where we had time in small groups with UKTI, real estate and branding experts to help answer our questions on operating in the US on a more intimate level. I gathered some interesting information regarding grants available for market research and trade shows which could be applicable to TableCrowd.

We had a visit and Q&A session at Spark Lab, a really cool space near Union Square where a number of startups operate from. Vivek Boray (startup attorney) facilitated a really informative discussion on the fund raising process with the help of Adam Lewis of InnovateCV who had been through the process. Very interesting that many of his experiences already replicated our own as we embark on that same fundraising journey.

In the evening, Chinwag hosted the Great British Pub Quiz at Ogilvy & Mather where teams battled it out with Chinwag’s Sam Michel up on stage as quiz master extraordinaire. The evening was topped off with an after hours tour of the offices and their spectacular rooftop garden.

Friday. Headed over to Brooklyn on the Manhattan bridge (yes, this was a navigational error) to visit Huge Inc, which was … huge (sorry, couldn’t resist).

They grew from a small team of 7 to over 600 people since launch. The name was meant to be ironic, but they have certainly now grown into it. It is a great space, which matches their client list. Interesting to hear that bagging a big client in New York is likely to mean $2.5-5m yearly revenues, versus the $500k revenues for a comparable client win in the UK. Found the Brooklyn Bridge for the stroll back to Manhattan.

Finished the week with one final Social Media Week session, “you said you like me, but we never do anything together” which discussed the best ways to interact with fans.

The Social Media Week closing party was held in a converted synagogue and was a cracking end to a action packed week.

– Kate

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