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Behind the Community: The DM Dinner Club

May 26, 2023
Josh Dzielak
Co-Founder & CTO
Behind the Community: The DM Dinner Club
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Here’s the story of the DM Dinner Club in Paris. Created in 2022, the community brings together entrepreneurs, operators, and VCs who share a passion for something more refined and creative than the traditional pizza-and-powerpoint meetup scene.

I’m happy to say that this is a community I’ve personally been a part of, having met Kyle back in 2022 for an interview on his podcast. I’m also happy to say (and disclaim) that Orbit is a partner of the community and sponsors events.

This community is already gaining a lot of awareness in the Paris tech ecosystem, so let’s jump in and look at the people, methods, and tools behind the community. Allons-y!

Who’s behind it

The DM Dinner Club is run by Kyle O’Brien and Saish Rane. Kyle is a nascent deeptech investor who also writes the Startup ROI newsletter where he explores European tech as an American outsider (turned insider). Kyle spent his early career development at Salesforce and has since worked at four different startups (2 in the US and 2 in Europe), he now leads venture investments for Europe’s most active deep tech angel investor. Saish runs communications and community at Elaia, a leading European fund who is also involved in deeptech. He’s also run the community for baby vc and co-founded Start Me Up France. Suffice it to say, between the two there’s an impressive amount of community building experience.

DM Dinner Club April 23 with Roxanne Varza of Station F

Origin story

In April 2022, Kyle sent Saish a DM with an idea to start a “dinner club” for community managers and content creators. Seeds of one of the community’s distinctive characteristics were already present in the DM, with Kyle already having a connection to a great chef or restaurant to provide a premium experience. Saish responded with the 🙌 and the first event took place a few months after.

It began in the DMs

Key rituals

At the moment, the community hosts one intimate dinner a month and a separate, after-work experience available to all members & guests. The main communication channel for the community is a Whatsapp group.

Intimate Dinners

The intimate dinner is capped around 12 people and features a special guest. The special guest is chosen to be someone that community members would love to meet and might not have the chance otherwise. Special guests so far include Sarah Drinkwater of Common Magic, Roxanne Varza of Station F, and Jean de la Rochebrochard of Kima Ventures.

At the moment the community is more than 50 people, so who decides who gets to come to the dinners? This is a question Kyle and Saish wrestled with and came up with an intriguing solution.

Once a featured guest is announced, existing members can nominate someone outside the community who’d be a good fit for the dinner. Once the nominations are in, the featured guest chooses from the list of nominees. If a nominee is chosen, they go to the dinner along with the community member who nominated them.

Every event gets its own colorful flyer

This solution has several benefits:

  • The dinner stays small, no compromising on intimacy or quality of the experience
  • Existing community members are motivated to think of great new dinner companions
  • The featured guest gets a say in who comes to the table
  • The community grows with each featured guest and nominee
  • Kyle and Saish aren’t confronted with the awkward challenge of choosing the dinner guests themselves

After-work events

The drawback is that only a part of the community can come to each dinner. To balance the dinner with an inclusive experience for everyone, the Dinner Club has started to have all-hands monthly after-work events. These events provide a way for everyone to get together, including the new dinner attendees, and keep building and reinforcing connections. They also provide another avenue for growth, as existing members are invited to bring others who they feel would be a good fit.

Special sauce

Every community has a special sauce and the DM Dinner Club is no exception. These are my personal opinions on what the special sauce is, having gotten to know Kyle and Saish and having been part of a handful of events. These are by no means an expert opinion :)

  • Premium. Kyle and Saish put a lot of care into each event, giving them a premium feeling. This can come in the form of unique venues, unique chefs and menus, and of course the featured guests. Attendees can be confident that it’s not just beer-and-pizza in an office with fluorescent lights.
  • Social. The emphasis is on people and having a good time together. Although members share a common background in tech, they don’t come for business development but to build genuine relationships and enjoy some time away from the screen.
  • International. DM Dinner Club events have felt very diverse and international, and many expats (including myself) have found that comforting. It’s not always easy in the Paris tech scene to find quality events in English or that don’t feel too dry or enterprise-oriented.
Serious marché vibes

What’s next?

I asked Kyle and Saish what’s next for the DM Dinner Club. They foresee steady but sustainable growth in 2023, with new dinners and after-work events being added to the calendar every month, each in a new and interesting location.

At a recent dinner Kyle posed the question to everyone: “What is your favorite and least favorite part of the French tech scene?” For the favorite side, the most common answer was around how supportive people are of each other compared to the largest ecosystems like San Francisco. For the least favorite side, the most common answer was a lack of quality meetups and other small & large gatherings that are ubiquitous in cities like SF, London, and Berlin. Kyle and Saish aim to make a dent in that with the DM Dinner Club and I’m sure they’ll inspire others to follow in their footsteps.

Have a community I should profile? Send a note to [email protected] and let’s chat!

Photos taken by Augusta Sagnelli 👌

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