Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I’ve always been fearless, have embraced risk and have understood that life is an adventure to be lived. I left home at sixteen to travel the world. I started in Fiji, then worked in a goldmine in West Australia in my teens saving enough money to backpack through Asia. I studied photography in London and was one of Mario Testino’s first models.
The first time I came to NYC was to attend NYU film school, and I quickly became part of the legendary 1980’s downtown scene – I dined with Andy Warhol, met Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat among others. I am a storyteller and a traveler and I believe in the power of community and communication. I moved back to the US in 2013. On one if my outings I struck up a conversation at the vegetarian bar in Eataly with a fellow diner and discovered the woman had been commuting to work and eating out three nights a week. Completely alone. For five years. That’s when I thought we should be using technology to bring us together not separate us – the idea for Diner was born.
I believe you can reinvent yourself at any stage of your life and in 2015 I entered the MBA program. With Diner in mind and, being a visual learner, I developed it further using the skills I was learning in the program. I graduated in August 2017 from NYU Stern with an MBA and released Diner a month later. I am the founder of a startup called “Diner”, a meal hosting App that allows users to curate, brand, and locate their meal experiences. The events can be made private or public. You can also message/chat with the host.
We at Diner App Co. want to create a movement to gets people back around the table eating and talking to each other again, and Diner is the start of that movement. We want to save the world – from itself. With technological advances it is now easier than ever to be disconnected but what I have learned as I have traveled in and out of very different cultures – is that we all want the same thing – a greater sense of connection and community.
Currently in the US, 62% of Americans eat alone. Technology, while also offering us all kinds of benefits, is also isolating us more and more. We believe that life happens over meals. Real connection happens, trust is built, business deals are sealed and friends are made. We want to help people achieve these outcomes.
We’re in our third month of beta release, we’ve picked up a good number of repeat users, and in that short time, have partnered with a meal kit home delivery company, a leading New York restaurateur, a hotel and a leading NGO. We are now pre-producing our first “Diner Dinner Series” where we hope to use media voices to help create the discourse and ‘show’ how the magic of conversation and food creates understanding and empathy, which at this juncture in history seems to be sadly missing.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company
The idea of the Diner bucket came about when we hired Reuben (21yr old Rutgers philosophy major, stand up comedian, uber eats delivery biker) for a summer internship. He showed a passionate interest in food (had written restaurant reviews) but arrived without a non-functioning 21st Century phone and could not download our app. He is a millennial stuck in the sixties.
The first thing he told me was that he had been looking forward to university and, throwing frisbees on the quad, he was looking forward to all that collegial connection. But, instead, he found that no-one connected on campus. The cafeteria was a sea of heads, each looking down at their phone, no one talking to each other. That’s when he painted the picture of Diner, as he envisioned it, in his own words “Imagine a pizza parlor, 3 people sitting in a row eating their pizza and on their phones… now cut to,” he said, “imagine a table with a bucket and everyone puts their phone in the bucket and talks each other while they eat.” Our first merchandising idea was born.
What makes your business stand out? Can you share a story?
Our business is unique in the market because we are neither too broad nor too niche. Our app can be used for all meals, at all times anywhere. Research shows human evolution developed around meal times. History has been repeatedly created around dinner tables.
We are creating an ethos and Diner is our first product. In the sharing economy, the idea to jump on a table is still undervalued. Everything is moving too fast and the culture of real life conversation is disappearing. Real emotional intimacy and – I don’t mean sex – is undervalued. We want our users to embrace that again.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’ve always been a mentor and I share whatever I can with everyone I can, especially resources, connections and energy. Its takes effort to sit and talk to people, but I know that it makes a difference. I’m committed to helping everyone around me succeed because I know that a rising tide lifts all boats.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I Started my Business” and why.
L+R developed the Visual Identity and Interface Design for the Diner App, and was recently featured on Huffington Post!
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Arianna Huffington and Maria Shriver are two women I’d love to share a meal with. Not only because I’m personally inspired by both of their stories, because of the legacies they are building through their respective platforms, are perfectly in sync with the ethos of Diner.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
I had the pleasure of interviewing Kerry Fulton of Diner App Co. She is a New Zealand entrepreneur living in Brooklyn, NY. She is a mother of two and has had a successful global career as a filmmaker. She recently completed an MBA at NYU.