RALEIGH — David Kreeger had seen Caleb Thornton at a couple of events when he finally decided to approach him for an introduction. That first conversation turned out to be worth the effort. While bonding over their interest in the entrepreneurial community, Thornton mentioned his idea of a more tailored pitch event, with targeted attendees, meaningful connections, and great food.

Less than a year later Kreeger finds himself with a second helping of a delicious three-tiered cookie sandwich at Seed2Table’s second event. It’s hard to feel like that conversation was anything but a huge success.

A Simple Strategy

Seed2Table co-founder Caleb Thornton (left) chats with Abbatia Labs CEO Thierry Jomini.

The Seed2Table concept is a simple one: bring together innovative startups and industry-specific investors. Facilitate great conversation over dinner and drinks. Repeat.

Thornton, who originated the concept, had talked about his cultivated pitch idea with several folks when he had his conversation with Kreeger last April, but something sparked with him and the third Seed2Table partner, Amanda Powers.

“I think each of us has our own passion for helping to build the entrepreneurial ecosystem here in the Triangle,” Powers told me, “And even a more general passion for helping founders fundraise. So [Thornton] talked to a lot of different people about the business but I think our backgrounds and our passion really resonated with him.”

Thorton also delivers a culinary background to the team, representing their priority of bringing great food and bespoke cocktails into the equation.

“Amanda and I don’t have a culinary background, but we both love great food,” Kreeger confessed. “So it works out.”

The team tried out the concept with an initial event in June of last year featuring pitches for EV boat manufacturer Voltari and a robotic tattoo kiosk developer, iTATU. That event was a success, helping facilitate several major investments for Voltari and introducing iTATU to various fundraising resources. But it also demonstrated there was lots of room to fine-tune the concept.

Seats at the Table

Following the first event the company incorporated in August of last year and got to work.

The initial event demonstrated the importance of having startups with a common industry, attractive to a specific subset of investors. With that in mind, the Seed2Table team is now starting their event planning with the startups, looking for companies in the same industry and – critically – at similar points in the funding process.

“So we’re making sure that we’ve got two really strong investable, interesting startups,” explained Kreeger. “And then it’s a full court press, a lot of networking, a lot of conversations to identify investors who are active in that industry, with companies at that stage, and with investments of that size, who are actively writing checks.”

Boreas Monitoring pitch

Will Baird, CEO of Boreas Monitoring, pitches at Seed2Table’s second event.

And it turns out that “actively writing checks” has a metric. This refers to investors who have put major (let’s call it six-figure) funds into a company in that industry within the last 12-18 months. And even with the volatility in venture funding slowing down investments last year, there are still plenty of contenders. These are the people Seed2Table wants to invite to dinner.

Another important guest is the sponsoring businesses, which Seed2Table calls “strategic vendors.” In fact, these people are the secret sauce at the table. Sponsoring businesses are the current funding model for Seed2Table and a brilliantly obvious addition to the casual conversations these events are designed to facilitate.

“We’ve got a variety of different sponsors that are service providers, to either the types of companies that we’re featuring or to investors or to other sponsors that are going to be attending,” said Kreeger.

Wilmington-based Boreas Monitoring Solutions wins this year’s Big Launch Challenge, $10K check

For the second Seed2Table event, which took place last Thursday night at CarSpace in Raleigh, the event sponsor was Kymanox . With the pitching companies (Boreas Monitoring and Abbatia Labs) and investors in the Life Sciences industry, Kymanox was a perfect strategic vendor, offering consulting and supplemental support for small teams in the industry. CEO Steve Perry and his team were on hand to help introduce the pitches and make meaningful connections over dinner.

“By fostering a funding ecosystem for start-ups, Seed2Table is a key contributor to the growth equation – for Life Science and other compelling industries,” said Perry. “Now is the perfect time to roll out this new model and start supporting our next generation of entrepreneurs.”

More Mingling

All the companies involved in the Seed2Table events have a North Carolina connection, albeit distantly in some cases. Voltari is based out of Canada but has staff living in the area. Abbatia Labs, one of the startups that pitched their product at the second event, is based in Switzerland but has connections to local event sponsor Kymanox. Several investors are from out of town as well, as far away as California, making it a great opportunity to showcase the Triangle start-up community to a dynamic guest list.

While last Thursday was only Seed2Table’s second event, the team can see the light on profitability and is committed to iterative improvements with each event. One area they are working on is more diverse representation. Their first event was – as they will admit – not diverse. Their event last Thursday had a much stronger showing of women, a few of them investors, and several sponsors.

“I think the next tack that we’ll take is, ‘Okay, now let’s really be proactive about going out and finding diverse founders.’ And diverse in ethnicity and in gender,” said Powers.” We’ll continue to support diversity in the investment community as much as we can from the outside.”

Ready to pitch? Deadline to apply for CED’s Venture Connect ’24 is Jan. 5

Later this month the team will head to Venture Connect, the Triangle’s pitch Mecca. It’s the perfect opportunity for them to find valuable investors and startups for future events. But it’s also a somewhat sentimental event for  Thornton, who initially had the inkling of the idea for Seed2Table at a previous Venture Connect, watching startups and VCs approaching each other.

“We tried to bring in our little twist on how we could do it. And so I’m very excited to go back to the same place where it started,” said Thornton.