Imagine a scene where tech entrepreneurs come together to network and discuss innovation and disruption in a charming Victorian building adorned with vibrant, mismatched furniture, artistic wallpaper, and hand-painted lifts. Picture ping pong tables transformed into meeting tables and various living areas thoughtfully arranged to create a welcoming and comfortable environment. This captivating setting is not just a figment of imagination but a reality in London, particularly at the Home Grown Club.
Located in the heart of Marylebone, Home Grown is an exclusive club designed for entrepreneurs, scaleups, and investors to socialise and connect. It serves as a hub where like-minded individuals gather to exchange ideas, foster relationships, and explore collaborative opportunities. Home Grown goes beyond being a mere networking space. It provides a range of tailored events and top-notch facilities specifically curated to assist start-ups in their growth journey. Additionally, the club offers amenities typically associated with exclusive members’ clubs, including a well-stocked bar and fine dining options.
The sister club of the historic Home House – Home Grown understands that entrepreneurship knows no borders. Therefore, it also features boutique rooms that cater to entrepreneurs traveling from distant locations. These cosy accommodations provide a comfortable and convenient stay for individuals seeking both business and leisure experiences.
In essence, Home Grown offers a unique blend of entrepreneurial support and luxurious amenities within a picturesque Victorian setting. It epitomises the spirit of innovation and community that thrives in London, making it the go-to destination for ambitious entrepreneurs looking to make meaningful connections and drive their ventures forward.
During the London Tech Week, the private member’s club hosted a debate panel exploring London’s position as Europe’s premier tech hub, its ability to attract prominent founders and investors, and its role in nurturing the next generation of unicorns. The panel was moderated by Mike Butcher, editor of TechCrunch and founder of The Europas, and it digged into various topics, including the state of London’s tech ecosystem, funding opportunities, its comparison to other startup hubs, and the challenges and opportunities faced by founders in raising funds, particularly in uncertain times. Esteemed tech experts such as, Jeffrey Faustin, CIO at Jenson Funding, Ian Merricks, Partner at White Horse Capital, Tobie Morgan Hitchcock, CEO at SurrealDB, Charlotte Goggin, Venture Debt & Growth Capital at CIBC, Margaret Zablocka, Founder at Onaco, and Michael Nathan, Global Managing Partner at
Meritage.Group, also shared their insights into this engaging discussion.
On the occasion, TFN also got the opportunity to speak with Joost de Kruiff, the General Manager of Home Grown, to find out more about his journey to
Bringing hospitality to the start-up world
De Kruiff comes from a hospitality background. With over 25 years’ experience in the trade, he has travelled most of the world working for and with hotels. Living and working in his native in the Netherland, then US, and China, even meeting his wife while working in New Orleans. However, most recently he has been working in the UK, where he has been using his experience. “I build and develop and rebrand hotels,” he explained. “I come in, and help a team optimising their performance, or develop the hotel.” It was through this that he met the team behind Home House and Home Grown.
De Kruiff notes that members’ clubs are not really an international phenomenon. “I believe that members’ clubs are a very English thing,” he says. “There is a culture, but every club has its own purpose, and if it doesn’t, it won’t be successful.” And that’s the potential he saw with Home Grown. “I believe that by creating an entrepreneurial club, that then taps into the investment community and the advisory community, we really hit a niche within between London.”
A hospitality expert, de Kruiff admits that it took him some time to get to grips with the club’s purpose. “It actually took me six months to get my head around the infrastructure and language of the growth and investment journey, he said. However, it’s that side of the club also provides some of his purpose, “it’s super exciting because the people who are in the club have so much energy.”
Creating a club that works for everyone
One of the trickier problems has been getting the membership balance right. “In the beginning, we were a bit too weighted towards the startup phase,” de Kruiff said. “But they were so busy, sitting behind laptops, focusing on the day-to-day and not interacting. Then, as soon as an investor was in the room, they were jumped on!”
To help address that, de Kruiff has started a regular series of events catering for the needs of the members. They are currently running around 25 events a month for members. Some are straightforward networking events, creating a social atmosphere to help build address books. But others are more focused. “Our Rockstar events feature a one-to-one interview with an entrepreneur about their journey, the last was Michael Tobin.” They also have pitch events, where five startups can pitch to a room of over 100 potential partners and investors. And they provide events that are more akin to training, for example, smaller sessions focused on things like polishing pitch decks or handling finance or infrastructure growth.
However, as a hotelier, de Kruiff is also keen to highlight the hospitality offer. Home Grown offers 35 boutique rooms, used by members from further afield who need to be in London. And, of course, they have a bar and restaurant. “We’re really good at the food and drink experience,” de Kruiff tells us. “We do a Million Pounds Menu, which is a tasting menu of seven to eight courses; however, you sit with an investor who talks about their investments and answers questions.” It provides members with a unique opportunity to learn more about how investors think about pitches.
Strengthening businesses, and Home Grown, through membership
However, unlike some of the more traditional members’ clubs, Home Grown has a relaxed application procedure. “This is not a club where somebody has to go through a twenty-person committee,” de Kruiff says. “We have a conversation with an individual to see whether we can support them with their growth. And it’s actually a lot of fun to do because you don’t focus on who they know, or where they come from; you focus on what they are doing and their focus on growing the business.” The club offers both full memberships for those that are based in London, and memberships for those that will only use the club occasionally. They already have several overseas members who use the club as their base when in London.
However, even with nearly 2,000 members, they are still looking for more. “We’re still growing our community and finding the right members,” says de Kruiff. “It’s a beautiful product, but every new member who joins can benefit themselves and contribute to the members who are already here.”
Interview by Akansha Dimri during London Tech Week 2023
Original article published in Tech Funding News can be found here
If you’re interested in enriching your entrepreneurial experience and finding a strong community of entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders then contact our membership team at Home Grown.