Monday, April 13, 2015
Events.com: Creating A New Events Management Software Giant, with Gregg Parise
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Is the world ready for another event management software provider? San Diego's Events.com (www.events.com) thinks so, saying it is prepared to create a new platform—built in the social and mobile age—designed to help manage all kinds of events, in a way which has been completely overlooked by the incumbent event registration and management providers. Gregg Parise, the CEO of the company, sat down to talk to us about the company's launch. Gregg also spoke to us about how the move of Active Network out of San Diego—-a huge dislocation for the local high tech community—actually benefited Events.com, by allowed it to quickly ramp up its employee base and offerings, particularly since one Event.com's Chairman was a co-founder of Active.
What is Events.com all about?
Gregg Parise What we are doing, is we are going into the event management software space, and doing it through a platform technology. Essentially, what we are doing is creating a two sided marketplace. We have different competitors, from Cvent to Active network to Eventbrite, and each one is very good at some functional part of the software solution. However, what we are doing is far more focused on the broad events space, and we have all the same solutions those folks have, but with a critical difference, in that our platform is a two way platform. We're all about communications, outreach, and consumer facing products, in addition to those core business solutions built around the enterprise.
You point out that there's a lot of folks in this market, why jump in with a new service?
Gregg Parise: From the visionary point of view, one of the things that is most important, is the world is changing, particularly with the rise of the Millenials. I'm in my mid 40's, and if you look at my parent's generation, it's all about collecting things. If you had disposable income, you would buy a second or third house, and you might have three cars. The world today is not about that. It's about creating experiences and memories. People are spending their capital in a social manner, engaging with others. Our philosophy I around that social principal, that people are now more experiential. It is taking in the reality of what is happening in this industry. Ticketing and registration are starting to collide, and all those monopolistic players—the Ticketmasters, Cvents, and Eventbrites—were all created 20 years ago. I think the youngest is probably Eventbrite, which was created in 2006. There's a big opportunity to change things with technology, to create technology solutions built in the social world.
Also, there have been some big things that have happened in the marketplace, which really enabled us to get into the place where we could fill the void in this industry. The biggest dislocation, was Active going private, and becoming a really messy conglomerate. As you know, that company grew through lots of acquisitions, so they had a lot of technology debt. Because of that dislocation, we were able to quickly assemble a team of domain experts to put our flag into the ground. We knew we could solve the endurance vertical, because we had lots of domain expertise there. The founder of Events.com was a co-founder of Active, and Active obviously was very successful for a great period of time there, going from just a startup to billions of dollars. The idea here was to build on that expertise and domain knowledge, and offer up a much broader solution set to a larger marketplace. One of the philosophies I really believe in comes from Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn. If you've every heard him speak, he's really wonderful. He has a quote, if you are not on LinkedIn, you're not a professional. We want to bring that to Events.com, where if you are an event, but you are not on Events.com, you are not an event. That's the vision.
It sounds like you've taken advantage of a lot of expertise from Active Network and the turmoil there?
Gregg Parise: That has been a great opportunity. We had already begun this process, when that dislocation occurred, which enabled us to assemble a team that not only came from engineering and architecture, but also sales. We were able to hire Mike Riley, the voice of Iron Man, who had been the global head of sales for Active. He's truly the Derek Jeter of the endurance space. If you look up Mike Reilly, he's one of the founders of TVI, of Running USA, and really is the best known celebrity in the endurance space. We brought him on, and a team of sales professionals who had worked with him at Active, and brought on some great engineering talent. We were able to handpick and cherry pick the people we wanted from Active. It is important, however, to note that we're not another Active. We are completely, completely divergent from that direction, both in terms of where we'll play, and our growth trajectory.
Where is your solution now, and where are you going?
Gregg Parise: Where we are now, is we've just released our national platform. We're really just version 1.0 of our MVP, a simple registration tool. We have three feature releases planned, every six weeks over the next eighteen weeks. You will see each of those release adding additional functionality, adding additional capabilities, and not only from the enterprise side, but also from the consumer engagement area, and merchandising opportunities for event organizers. Our focus for the next eighteen weeks is to enrich the feature set for the organizers using the platform.
You have quite a large team—it looks like 70 people—how were you able to ramp so fast?
Gregg Parise: As you know, we had started in the BUMP days, and had a couple of existing businesses, which had turned into best of breed products. We started with the purchase of a company for a book of business, and our second company was in a different vertical. We ended up with 12 people in San Diego at the beginning of 2014, and now we have 42. Most of those folks are in the engineering and product area, and we most recently started augmenting the sales team, as we get ready to go to market and go live.
What is it most you want to be known for?
Gregg Praise: We want to be known as the solution provider at the center of the ecosystem for the event space. It's that big of a task that we're undertaking. That's the reason we have such an amazing headcount. It's not often that a company just coming out of the gate is able to be acutely focused on three large competitors in three different verticals. In the self service, long tail market, Eventbrite will be a big competitor, and we think they clearly know who we are. If you look at Active's business, from the perspective of the endurance vertical, I think it's pretty clear we're coming out and making real waves. We're the presenting sponsor with Running USA for their upcoming Mud Obstacle Industry Convention in Chicago. We were features at Running USA in February, and did our soft launch demo, and there has been some real excitement about that. It's clear, in endurance specifically, that the world is looking for a new solution. Endurance is looking for a new solution, we're that company.
How are you funding all of this?
Gregg Parise: Over the last two and a half years, we've raised approximately $10M in equity, and most recently did a bridge financing to get us ready for our Series C round, a little bit of venture debt. We currently are about to hit the marketplace for our C round, and are doing a convertible raise into that C round. We are super excited about this opportunity, and have offering that is different than anything out there. We're undertaking a huge opportunity and challenge in this marketplace.