The Byte Club "Let's meet & eat"
I believe that building your network should be enjoyable and productive – not awkward and painful! So for many years, every now and then, I personally host a small dinner for interesting entrepreneurs and executives from my wider connections. I always theme these around a sector, interest or particular role as that enables me to curate a tech group with common connections and helps good conversations flow.
I call it 'The Byte Club' (pun intended). It is not really a club though. No clubhouse. No memberships. No fees. None of that formal nonsense. Nothing more than a group of friends enjoying a dining experience where they can be confident of connecting and engaging with high calibre like minded professionals and founders over an affordable meal.
The rules of Byte Club and it's 'process' keeps everyone's expectations aligned, and means everyone can focus on connecting and not worry about what set of social norms apply or face having to awkwardly divide the bill at the end of the evening.
The Club Style "Where we meet"
Good classic food and drink. The prepaid budget for each dinner is set to be enough for a good main, starter, desert, plus two glasses of wine and 15% tip. Usually this is around £50 which makes it affordable for everyone.
The Rules of Byte Club "What's expected"
A club’s culture is its only truly unique identifier. It is like a finger print. It may be similar to others, but has to be unique, distinct and capture the vibe. Everything else (food, format, attendees, even themes) can be replicated, however the culture, or personality, are what comes to life through the values and norms of the group. And those behaviours are the emotional contract all members of the club make.
1. Have fun and find new friends
2. Bring your smarts and charm
3. Be interesting and be interested
4. Listen at least as much as you speak
5. Focus on giving, instead of getting
6. Show your human side
7. Leave your title and ego at the door
8. No speeches, pitches, selling, deals or promoting
9. What is said at the table, stays at the table
10. Trust the "process", it avoids awkwardness (see below)
The Substance "What we eat"
Good classic food and drink. The prepaid budget for each dinner is set to be enough for a good main, starter, desert, plus two glasses of wine and 15% tip. Usually this is around £50 which makes it affordable for everyone... so if you are looking for Michelin 3 star fine dining you are going to be disappointed.
The 'Process' "How we roll"
Confirm > Prepay > Arrive* > Chat > Order > Chat > Eat > Chat** > Uber
*Starts at 7.
**Finishes at 10 sharp.
Post dinner drinks are optional
Boom. Simple. Perfected and streamlined over the years to work best for everyone. The result: Efficiency & quality is high; Faff & awkwardness is low.
Want more details? Really?? OK, here are the social norms Byte Club follows:
Be committed to your RSVP -- confirm only if you really can confirm you can make it. If you are unsure, no problem, much better to skip and I can fill the space with someone who is free and add you to the next one if there is no space on the original one.
Be personal -- this is a meeting of friends with similar passions, nothing more, nothing less. So please don’t expect me (or anyone else) to buy you dinner. We aren’t buying your company or dating =P.
Be present -- no phone calls, texting, selfies, or even yes… tiktoking
Be respectful of others’ time -- no late shows. 7pm start.
Be committed -- don’t leave half way through. It just makes you look a bit weird.
Be professional -- in your style, speech and follow-up.
Be gone -- dinners will always end at 10pm sharp so there is no awkwardness on leaving then to catch your magic carpet ride home. But feel free to stay for drinks at the bar if you want.
No grandstanding -- this isn't about any single person. There is no after dinner 'speaker'. And I won't be saying anything special.
No money, no honey -- this is a meeting of friends not some corporate boondoggle or charity event, so please prepay for your dinner ahead of time. It will be enough to cover a starter, main and couple of drinks.
No freebie extras -- everything you prepay goes straight to the restaurant for food, drinks and tips. Period. So please respect that and try to order within the budget you have prepaid for. If you really want that extra bottle of Romanee-Conti go for it, but everyone is expected to pay their own extra orders and not by default split with everyone else.
No money back -- so you prepaid £50, but the food and drink you ordered only came to £35, which means you will be leaving a £15 tip. Please don't ask me reduce your effective tip and process a return a few pounds to you. I really can't get into all that complexity, or maybe I can, but in that case maybe I should charge you a £15 handling fee for my time! Trust me it is much easier if you turn up hungry and manage your own meal budget.
No surprise guests -- yes some people turn up with friends and try this one! Its the definition of awkwardness.
No last minute unreasonable cancellations -- it happens, I get it, and that is fine. For fluffy reasons I follow my mum's policy that everyone has only two strikes...
No pitches, speeches, selling, deal-making or promoting -- VCs are not invited to the same dinners as entrepreneurs, and vica versa, because I have never succeed in making this rule work with them both in the same room!
No politics, religion or personal gossip -- there are plenty of places on social media for you to do that and reach a bigger audience.
No jerks -- period.