Thursday, January 5, 2012
Interview with Sam Altman, PartyEarth
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Last month, just before the holidays, Los Angeles-based PartyEarth (www.partyearth.com) raised $4.0M in capital for its online service for connecting people with nightlife venues. We caught up with Sam Altman, the firm's CEO, to hear more about the company, and how we went from working in private equity to heading up a company all about finding nightlife.
What is PartyEarth?
Sam Altman: PartyEarth is a global media and entertainment company. We're focused on offering personalized reviews and listings of local venues, events, and other social experiences around the world. We currently have content in nineteen cities across the globe, including thirteen cities in Europe. That includes all of the big cities you would envision, including London, Paris, and so forth. Now, we also have six cities within the U.S., including Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Washington DC, Chicago, and San Francisco.
How long has your site been available?
Sam Altman: We launched in November of 2009. The vision of the company was, and still is, to become a resource that people can turn to on a global scale, to determine where to go, when to go, and who to go with. As we evaluated the market, we saw a real hole in the ability for people to accomplish that goal. To do that, we are providing what we believe are high quality, rich, local reviews and personalized experiences. We do an extensive amount of research, in order to be accurate and meaningful to the user. We only provide the "best of" in our cities, so we have a pretty substantial amount of content. We now have coverage in nineteen cities across the globe, covering everything from bars, clubs, music festivals, happy hours, shopping, to cool daytime things like parks, beaches, and so forth. Now that we've really locked in on that content, we are starting to expand on the community side of the business---more of the who-to-do-what-with. That includes adding a variety of social features for our users, interaction on the site, sharing of experiences, checkins at venues, creating calendars, and things of that nature.
What's your background, and how did you start the company?
Sam Altman: I was not born and bred in Southern California. I was originally from Baltimore, and went to my undergrad at Amherst in Massachusetts. I spent a number of years in New York, primarily in the private equity space, and had a substantial amount of exposure to a variety of businesses, from both the financial perspective, but more importantly from the operational perspective. That piqued my desire to run a business. From there, I moved out west to go to business school at Stanford. When I finished school at Stanford, I knew I wanted to run my own company, but ended up moving to Los Angeles to join with a large private equity firm. Finally, I made the leap to do this full time several years ago. We launched in November of 2009, an dit's been an amazing experience to date.
How did you make the leap form private equity to nightlight?Sam Altman: I've always had a deep interest in the content space, and specifically in travel. I have been fortunate enough to travel to a variety of countries, and always felt that htis product was missing. This product caters to both locals and travelers, and it's something I'm very passionate about.
It's interesting to see how much content you have in Europe--how did you manage to build all of that up despite being located here?
Sam Altman: We have a pretty compelling offering as a way for us to generate content. What we use is the get paid to party concept. We hire locals in the know, who get paid to party. It's a pretty good recruiting and marketing tool for us. We have folks on the ground working for us on a part time basis in all of our cities. We made a number of connections throughout the U.S. and Europe, which enabled us to build out that content.
Can you talk about your recent funding round?
Sam Altman: We recently closed on $4M, Series A round. It was from a group of angel investors, and the funding is really to both support the continued build out of our content platform, but also to really expand our digital platform. As I said before, we want to build a variety of social features, to build a community around our entertainment content. We're also focused on building a mobile platform, where we feel we can take advantage of our content to provide our user base with the ability to find nearby venues, get very highly targeted offers and specials, and things like that.
We run into lots of local guides. How do you stand out among so many?
Sam Altman: I think we're combining a lot of the features of various competitors, but one of the ways we distinguish ourselves is through the quality of our content. I think we have high quality, rich content, and a personalized experience we are providing to our user base. We've created a unique ratings and review system that allows our users to find what's best for them, irrespective of who they are. Based on their personality, their mood, and who they hang out with, and what time of night/day it is, we can provide them with a personalized experience.
Finally, what's the next big thing on your horizon?
Sam Altman: From the content perspective, it's continuing to maintain the quality of the content. We're also expanding into more editorial content and entering the user generated content space. In addition, we're really building out the community and social platform, in addition to the mobile platform. Finally, we're really starting to expand our partnership base, so we can provide our user base with deals form venues, event recommendations, and specials.
Thanks, and good luck!