Startup Diaries from the UK: Kate Jackson, Winner of The NextWomen Pitch Event

Kate Jackson, Founder of Tablecrowd and  winner of The NextWomen Pitch Event tells her story about leaving the legal sector to fulfil her ambition to start her own business with her brother.

KJ: In a past life I was a commercial lawyer, advising clients ranging from startups to multinational corporations on commercial, contract, advertising and IP issues. I enjoyed the work, loved my boss but in terms of my vision for the future, as the months ticked by I found that I never aspired to be a partner in that organisation.

And, if you don’t aspire to be the top dog in the place you work then my view is that you are probably in the wrong place.

I had always wanted to run my own business so, in 2007, I left the suits and legal drafting behind. Together with my brother, I co-founded ClickTonight, a tech and events business that helps people meet quickly. As well as providing an online meeting platform (think Facebook for people you don’t know yet) we hosted big parties in pretty much all of London’s best West End clubs, where up to 600 of our members would get dressed up and drink, dance and flirt the night away together.

It was no mean feat to get ClickTonight off the ground and we realised very quickly that being generally commercial, reasonably intelligent and determined (we thought we were all these things) were no substitute for business experience. 

My brother’s background was trading the financial markets so his past was no more helpful than my legal past to our tech future.

We made some mistakes but we learnt fast - one major lesson being to take advice from the right people – which we did and continue to do regularly. We worked outrageously hard, were relentless and developed ClickTonight into a recognisable London brand.

We had always seen the success of running offline events for our online community with ClickTonight. This is a trend still gaining momentumin the market and it’s a trend that we are capitalizing on with our second tech business, TableCrowd, a real life social network where you can meet people over food at restaurants. TableCrowd brings people together over lunch or dinner for a wide range of interests; from startups to hypnosis, from health to copywriting or from languages to new to town. It’s a way to meet people whilst enjoying a tasty meal. We’re currently in beta and the response to the concept has been amazing. We have a growing community of Startup Women on the site that meet regularly for dinner.

Moving from a structured professional role into the shoes of an entrepreneur was a major shift.

Instead of focused advisory work, under the guidance and management of highly experienced partners, I became fully responsible for myself and dived head first into project management, strategy, product development, contract negotiations, marketing and customer service – to name a few.

And it didn’t stop there. Every step forward brought new challenges. I soon found myself securing PR, recruiting and pitching for fundraising. In fact, I recently won the Best Pitch Award at the NextWomen Pitch Event!

Despite leaving the law, I have never quite left the legal work behind. There is an endless need for Companies House submissions, contract reviews, NDA’s, IP assignments and EIS paperwork. The skills I gained in my former life have saved us thousands of pounds over the years, although they are becoming more and more rusty as the legislators keep changing the laws I was once reasonably familiar with.

Working with a sibling has been interesting. To have the history and trust between you is certainly an asset but there is the unavoidable brother-sister bickering.

It doesn’t matter how long ago you lived under the same roof, it doesn’t go away! Luckily we tend to agree on the important stuff. I am still insanely busy most weeks but the levels of stress are nowhere near as high as they were at the start. I am usually able to switch off if I want to and I just deal with each drama as and when it arises rather than constantly worrying about every thing that has, or could go wrong.

I organise my world based on the principles of David Allen in ‘Getting Things Done’ (worth a read if you have a chance).

This has made a big difference to my state of mind and ensures that I feel in control of my day and maximize the use of my work and (rare) free time.

The future is looking bright for ClickTonight and TableCrowd in 2013 and I’m very excited about the progress we are making day on day. 

Based in London, Kate Jackson is an ex City lawyer who left the suits, books & courtroom behind to launch meeting & parties website, ClickTonight and social dining startup TableCrowd, which is a real life social network where people can meet over food. She lives and breathes all things tech, eating out & cycling. 

Look out for Kate's next article about participating in, and winning, the recent NextWomen Pitch Event! 

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