Life Happens over Meals – Building Diner at Stern #eattalkbepresent

Kerry Fulton is the founder of Diner, a startup in the social dining space that launched in August 2017. Kerry has experience in product development, team management, film financing and marketing across four continents. She has an undergraduate degree from NYU Tisch in Film/TV and an MBA from NYU Stern School of Business. This post outlines her story of developing her first tech startup while a student at Stern.

There is a burning need for real connection. Memorable moments with family, friends, and colleagues happen over meals. It’s the one opportunity in our busy lives to unplug, enjoy food, and conversation. Diner was built to help you create more of these experiences.  Diner allows you to plan and brand your event, curate your guest list, rsvp and chat to the host while retaining all the information in one place. We believe the experience of a meal is different than any other and we want to make having more of them easy. Diner’s unique differentiator is its private/public option. We want to be the Airbnb of meals.

The idea for Diner was first conceived at Eataly at a counter as I ‘shared’ a meal with a stranger. The woman had been coming to New York City for several years on business and ate dinner alone most of the time. I started to think about building a simple tool to facilitate and legitimize ‘sharing a meal’ especially as today’s most valuable currency is social capital and it seemed a wasted opportunity.

My first semester at Stern I participated in the NYU $300K Entrepreneurs Challenge boot camps and learned that I should focus on a specific problem that needs to be solved. During the early customer discovery stage I focused in on the problem – technology is isolating us and we are poorer for it. Americans are eating alone (or with their phones) 62% of the time. Millennials noted that they found it hard to connect in a real way with other people as they had become addicted to their phones. I wanted to facilitate getting people talking again.

Diner-appI found a mentor through NYU who supported my efforts and I used the clinics for legal and technical advice. Early on I realized I needed to ‘show’ people something. At this point, an angel offered a small investment which allowed me to work with App Partner, a NY app development company and develop a prototype. This changed everything.

The leverage I got from the prototype included recruiting a great team and I have been happily conducting team meetings at the NYU Leslie Lab ever since. Maria Nieto has experience creating events for brands and NGO’s. Alex Levin is a UX strategic designer at L+R, and App Partner has been a terrific technology partner.

We tabulated feedback from the prototype and shifted the focus to B2B, as customer acquisition was quantifiable in this sector. As we progressed we raised a family and friends round of funding, which has allowed us to build out the MVP. We launched on the App Store in August with a strategy to partner with event managers.  We now have some traction with 200 users and our first partnership. I am now looking to raise the next round to fulfill our next set of milestones.

Use Diner any time, any day, anywhere to create your own meal experience.