How do you cut out all of the effort required to discover, find, and book venues for your event, wedding, or conference? That's what Santa Monica-based EventUp (www.eventup.com), one of the first companies to emerge out of Santa Monica-based Science Inc., is trying to figure out. The firm just announced its seed funding round, from the founders of Groupon as other last week, and has launched into Chicago as its latest market. We spoke with Tony Adam, the firm's CEO, about the company's new funding round.
As a reminder to our readers who haven't used EventUp, what is the site all about?
Tony Adam: EventUp is an online marketplace for locations and venues. It's really about making it very simple and easy for people to discovery locations they're looking for. At the end of the day, we're looking to change the way people book events. Right now, that's extremely painful, takes weeks on end of going to different websites, and having to call every venue even for juts one wedding. Instead, we make it super simple to look for venues, so that with just a few mouse clicks and a few second, you get quotes from all of those venues in just a day or two. It's a very simple online method, which hasn't been done before. On top of that, it's not just having a list of a location of places like banquet halls and art galleries, it's about having a really comprehensive marketplace. We not only lists those banquet halls, we also have the nontraditional locations like art galleries, lofts, penthouses, and estates. It's a very comprehensive resource for consumers.
Tell us a bit about this seed funding?
Tony Adam: We're really excited about the round. We raised $1.8M, and our lead investor was Lightbank. We also received funding from Crosscut Ventures, NEA, and New World Ventures. Crosscut is another LA partner to help us out, and we're also excited to have New World on board. New World is the investment firm of the Pritzker family, and they really have an understanding of this business. It's very exciting. Lightbank is super exciting, because of their knowledge of local, and we hope we can leverage some of their experience from Groupon.
Can you talk about your growth strategy, and your expansion into Chicago?
Tony Adam: Our growth strategy is launching into a new, major metro area every month. We're starting to do smaller cities like Scottsdale and Austin, as well, to help us understand those kinds of locations and how it might apply to our business. Our growth strategy is to be nationwide with major metros by the end of the year, and by the end of the year in 2013, focus on bringing different types of vendors like caters, photographers, DJs, and others into the system.
You're tackling the local market model, which we hear can be quite challenging. How are you handling that?
Tony Adam: Local is difficult. We started in Los Angeles, and spent time in LA understanding how venues get signed up, how to cater to their needs, and how to get people signed up. From there, we devised a sales strategy to help venues sign up and make it simple for them to sign up, and we think we're in a very good position as we scale out. Once we learned that in LA, we moved on to San Francisco, New York, and are now moving on to Chicago. We think that doing venue acquisition is now super simple. We're now looking at how we get demand in and generating more and more bookings monthly, starting in LA, and once we understand that, will go to reduce friction from the location and consumer end, and make it simple not only to discover venues, but also book at the same time.
How far into the process are you planning on automating?
Tony Adam: Right now, it's a very manual process for booking a venue. We would love to get to the point that we could automate the entire thing. I really think you shouldn't have to call a hundred people, and keep on calling back and forth. I think it could be as simple as an email to let them know when people have booked, negotiations within that, and book it online. The one thing we can't do online, is when people want to visit a location, and we can't automate that. But, we'll try to automate the processes around that.
What's the biggest thing you've learned so far in launching the company?
Tony Adam: I think the biggest thing is learning a bout the industry. One thing I've learned is how much this industry is focused on relationship. I knew about some of the difficulties here before, from planning dinners and doing little events here and there for companies. I also had the chance to do a conference, and had knowledge of that. But, I didn't realize how much pain there way, and how ineffective and long the process is. It's been interesting to learn more and more about how companies are booking events. To be honest, the biggest surprise, is we though that weddings and corporate events would be the largest source of bookings, but instead, which is funny, most of the bookings have been for smaller events, like social events, like a birthday or anniversary party, for example.