San Diego’s Eventful Looks to Put Consumers in Charge, with Backward Glance at eBay
[Corrected 8/8/11, 11:35 am. See below.] Eventful CEO Jordan Glazier likes to describe the San Diego Web-based startup as an “eBay for local events and entertainment,” and there are more than a few similarities.
One of them is Glazier himself. Before joining Eventful in 2006, he spent five years as a general manager at the San Jose, CA-based giant. Glazier refers to his time at eBay as a five-year study in the economics of marketplaces, supply, and demand, and he was deeply involved there in developing and managing three of eBay’s biggest business units: consumer electronics; computers; and business & industrial. His predecessor, Eventful founder Brian Dear, also had worked at eBay (as well as San Diego’s MP3.com), and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s Omidyar Network is among Eventful’s prominent investors.
Eventful, which began in 2004 simply as EVDB (as in Events and Venues Database), also has long since evolved into an eBay-like online exchange that is both global and local. The company’s Web-based platform hosts roughly 5 million local events at any given time for some 20 million users worldwide. Eventful users can search the website by category, performer, or venue to find events in their local markets. Concerts and shows are the big draw, of course, but the site also tracks sports, political rallies, and other activities. A comprehensive movie section features local movie show times, trailers, reviews, and links to buy tickets.
“It’s the best way to get the word out about local events,” Glazier says. “Every month, 20 million people rely on Eventful’s local markets, which includes 80,000 people in San Diego who are using Eventful monthly to answer the question, ‘Honey, what do you want to do this weekend?’”
[Corrected 8/8/11, 11:30 am to show company raised $20 million, not $30 million.] Today the seven-year-old company has 60 employees—up from seven employees just five years ago—and has tripled its revenue each year for the past two consecutive years. The company has raised a total of $20 million in three rounds (the most recent was in October 2008), and it is not currently looking to raise additional capital. Aside from Omidyar, Eventful’s investors include Twitter co-founder Evan Williams; Zynga founder Mark Pincus; entrepreneur and digital media guru Esther Dyson; telecommunications giant Telefónica; and the venture firms Draper, Fisher, Jurvetson and Bay Partners.
Since Glazier stepped in as CEO, Eventful has expanded its capabilities, beginning with technologies that monitor users’ interests and offer them new choices in concerts and other events based on their past preferences. At roughly the same time, Eventful moved to a multi-platform strategy that has enabled the company to distribute its content through e-mail reminders, online calendars, widgets, mobile apps, and social networking sites. Eventful spokesman Chris Lehman says users can sign up for e-mail alerts when their favorite performers are coming to town and create a personal watch list of events they are interested in. They can also share events with friends, and they can add their own events for free.
More than 3,000 partners also license Eventful’s content and platform to power local entertainment content across their own online, mobile, email and digital signage platforms, according to Lehman. The company’s content is used in digital signage by local television websites throughout the country, as well as Tully’s Coffee, Einstein Bros. Bagels, and other retailers.
During the 2008 election campaigns, Eventful’s Web tools enabled candidates to enhance their local outreach online and integrate event widgets into their Web strategies. The company also unveiled Eventful Demand, a free online service that let campaign supporters lobby for political figures to make local appearances. Candidates using the service also could track the demand and adjust their whistle stops accordingly.
As the service evolved, Lehman says, “We realized that it was becoming a direct representation of why people are on the Web to begin with. They want to influence and impact the world around them. As a company, if you can fulfill this expectation you can win the hearts and minds of consumers—any type of consumer.”
More recently, Eventful has been extending what it now calls its “Demand it!” (patent pending) throughout the entertainment industry, enabling artists and bands to determine the local markets where they are in highest demand.
Glazier contends that digital technology has forever changed the recorded music industry, making it infinitely easier to find new music and to create personal playlists with thousands of songs. With this great leveling of recorded music, Grazier says these are the glory days for live music.
“In the past, radio producers curated songs for consumers,” Glazier says. “Now the fire hose is 1,000 miles wide and you can get direct or indirect access to the entire warehouse of music archives.” With Demand it, Glazier says Eventful is offering a way to democratize the process that Joni Mitchell once described as “stoking the star maker machinery behind the popular song.”
“Demand it empowers consumers to be able to influence the location and—or—content of entertainment and events,” Glazier says. “From a consumer’s perspective, you’re able to demand the content you want. And from the point of view of 100,000 musicians, filmmakers, exhibitors, politicians, authors, comedians, performers, you can use Demand it to gather data about where they should perform. In other words, it helps artists sell tickets.”
Unlike social marketing agencies that look outward, Eventful’s Lehman writes in an e-mail, “We’re tapping fans in our own community…People are waiting to hear from us so they can participate.”
For example, Lehman says Eventful’s approach helped more than 1.5 million consumers influence the distribution strategy of a motion picture for the first time after Paramount Pictures acquired rights to the 2007 independent film “Paranormal Activity.” The ’70s rock band KISS used Eventful’s Demand it feature to determine a nostalgia tour, based purely on the 50 cities with the highest consumer demand. In a second tour, KISS announced plans to play in 22 markets, and used Demand it to let fans in each market determine which local band would open the show.
“Fifteen years ago, the Internet was the information superhighway, but it was one way,” Glazier says. It’s become more and more interactive, and there’s now a generation of 18- to 30-year-olds who have grown up with the Internet. There is not just an expectation, but almost a sense of entitlement that the Web is not just there to inform and entertain them, but to help them impact the world around them.”
It is a continuation of the kind of interactivity that eBay ignited 16 years ago. As Glazier puts it, “eBay is part of my digital DNA. They had a marketing slogan, ‘Shop Victoriously.’ You weren’t just buying something. You won! And Demand it conveys a similar sense of empowerment.”