I often get asked why I started Eventility. Mainly because I faced the problem of friends saying we should meet up and it never happening, so I decided to start running a monthly get-together where we’d all grab some food and a beer and catch-up with what was going on in our lives.
Very quickly, it became really difficult to manage and I realised why we hadn’t managed to meet up! I had to send emails to more than fifty friends, three, sometimes four times a month, to say where and when we were meeting, manage all the RSVPs, and then keep reminding them. That alone was a major task and it occupied many a train journey home. Finding somewhere to go in the first place was also a huge effort.
My experience in technology as a Director of Digital meant I knew there was a better and easier way to do this. I looked around (back in 2007) but nothing really fitted the bill so I started developing a solution – automated email reminders came first, RSVP tracking next, then the guys said “we want text reminders!” so that came next. I built and tested everything on the successful and demanding London thirty-something friends and they didn’t hold back on their constructive criticism! They still don’t, and that criticism and feedback was, and still is vital.
Pretty soon I realised that what I’d created was an answer to a genuine problem millions of organisers faced – how to simply and easily organise a group.
I found a few ways I thought it would work financially, told a friend, my co-founder Barrie (who thought it was a great idea), I came up with a name, Eventility, from Event + Utility to describe it and then started investing time and money and taking it seriously.
Around this time Bebo was peaking and everyone was talking about Facebook, and in a way this was scary but I knew our platform would be different – less network, more social – it’s about groups of people taking co-ordinated face-to-face action together. It’s true that Facebook has become a global phenomenon of social interaction but in the words of the social and technology evangelist, Clay Shirky, “it’s still not very good at dealing with the group pattern” – I think Eventility is!
We now live in a world where a variety of web sites have done an incredible job of connecting people together in virtual space. However, their interactions in that space tend to be fleeting, impersonal and trivial. I wanted to create a web utility which was a means to a deeper end – of people actually meeting in the real world and doing activities together, making the web a tool to enable people to have more vibrant and social ‘real’ lives.
We also realised early on that venues want to attract organisers as they bring in the business. Whether it’s someone organising a birthday party, the football club captain organising post-game beers or someone hosting a major event, the venue wants to attract them because they bring others. That’s an opportunity to connect two groups together create value for everyone!
To prove our model and concepts to ourselves, we doubled down on one sector – pubs. In hindsight, this could have been a mistake as the pub sector in the UK had suffered a difficult few years. But now as we look at a business that has pivoted from purely digital to digital and print and with revenues and traffic growing, it’s both proven we’re not barking mad but also that we have the experience of building a good solid business.
The challenges I’ve faced getting to where we are, have been interesting to say the least – Recruiting a team who share the vision, financing the business, building a technology platform people want to use and that can scale globally, keeping up with the fast pace of change in technology.
And despite all this, one thing hasn’t changed, the desire to build the best platform for organising and promoting groups, events and venues and at the same time, providing everyone with an amazing database of things to do and places to go. I still look around and think that’s a wide-open space waiting to be captured.