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10 Tech Entrepreneurs Disrupting The Event Industry

By Julius Solaris
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This article looks at the top tech entrepreneurs changing the way we attend and plan events for good.

It is no secret I love startups. The proliferation of startups in a particular industry can only be a positive sign.

More startups usually mean more innovation, more capitals and more tech friendly audience. This is quite a powerful combination.

I cover new event startups quite regularly on the blog, I've also collected approximately 860 startups on this Pinterest board.

I am also glad to announce that you can submit your startup for editorial consideration using our specific event startup submission form.

Event Startup Gotha

Despite the growing numbers of players only a few managed to disrupt the industry. Not all founders managed to grow to a successful business, attract investment and become household names.

While everyone who launches a startup in the event industry and manages to keep it commercially sound deserves credit, only a few become inspiration for others.

This is why you will find only a few names in the following list.

Let me also add a disclaimer, some of the people listed I know in person, some I never met. Some advertised with the blog in the past, some don't even know what Event Manager Blog is. In essence this list is unsolicited in any way and the result of spending the last few years closely monitoring event startups.

Funding data is from Crunchbase.

Ready? In no particular order…

Reggie Aggarwal

Reggie def

If there is a 100% startup story it is definitely Cvent's. They pretty much went under all the frustrations and successes entrepreneurs expect when embarking in starting a tech business.

I've listened to Reggie speaking at Cvent Corporate Meeting Summit. He told the story of how he almost shut down everything after the dot-com bubble and then resurrect the business to become one of the strongest event tech players.

Cvent received funding for $136M in 2011, then acquired CrowdCompass in 2012 and filed for $100M IPO last June and ended up its first week of trading up $30.99 from initial listing at $21.

That sounds like success to me.

Kevin and Julia Hartz

Kevin julia eventbrite

Kevin and Julia Hartz have been among the first event tech pioneers to actually define the existence of a long tail for the event industry.

Eventbrite has been incredibly successful. They raised two rounds of funding for a total of $80M $140M.

IPO has been rumoured for a while now and also acquisition from household names such as Facebook and Google.

Jayesh Parmar

Jay picatic

I am a fan of Jayesh and how he provokes the event industry. His company Picatic has been among the first to launch crowdsourcing for events - one of the hot trends for this year - and recently announced a 'pay what you want' model for events.

The latter announcement being quite shocking for some. Allowing attendees to pay what they feel is surely a big bold step.

I don't know yet whether it is going to be a successful move but Jay has the guts to adventure in areas avoided by the masses and that means being an entrepreneur to me.

Dan Berger

Dan def

I admire those that approach the industry solving different problems than creating a me-too product that serves overcrowded markets.

This is Dan's case with Social Tables.

They were capable to attract 3 rounds of seed, private equity and debt funding for a few $M. Quite remarkable.

Garth Koyle and Seth Shoultes

EvenEspresso 1

I share a lot of my tech vision with Seth and Garth. They created a WordPress plugin to manage registration called EventEspresso.

They disrupted the ticketing environment by giving full control back to event professionals. They grew the company to be sustainable and succesful.

In the small yet vibrant ecosystem of event tech for WordPress, they are a model for a lot of players.

Simon Willison | Natalie Downe

Lanyrd def

I remember the attention Lanyrd attracted when it was launched a few years ago. I love the approach these guys keep having, very tech driven and super open to integration.

This strategy has surely paid off as in 2011 Lanyrd attracted $1.4M in seed funding, surviving the battle with rival Plancast (which ended up being sold).

Kate Kendall

Kate kendall2

Kate surely knows a lot about publishing but she displayed great understanding of how event discovery works.

The Fetch has a human based approach to events that prefers curation over algorithms. While her business has not attracted investment yet, she managed to catalyse a lot of interest and impressive growth numbers.

Keep an eye on Kate.

Scott Heiferman

Scott Heiferman

If there is a service that revolutionised events for good, this is Meetup.

Scott managed to create a platform that puts in touch event organisers with their relevant audience. Most of all he managed to build a profitable business out of it.

The company received more than $17M in funding, managing to survive the social media revolution.

Patrick Payne and Jim Udall

Quickmobile def

Patrick and Jim are among the pioneers of mobile event apps and surely this paid off. They created Quickmobile in 2006.

The business reached 8.8M in funding in 2011 and managed to keep impressing the industry with an evolving service and highly competitive offering.

Lawrence Coburn

Lawrence coburn  1

Doubledutch is another very successful business who managed to secure funding in a very crowded market.

Over the past couple of years, DoubleDutch secured more than $7M in funding and an impressive client portfolio.

In Conclusion

This post looks at common traits of successful event tech entrepreneurs.

Being different, persistent, pioneering, innovative and lateral thinking has helped these tough leaders to create thriving businesses who investors like.

A common trait is that at no stage they pursued something others were trying to do - a big lesson if you are thinking to offer a tech solution to the event industry.

Photo Credits: techcrunch | jdlasica

about the author

Julius Solaris
Julius Solaris is the editor of EventManagerBlog.com, he is an international speaker, author and consultant.
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  • Nice list – looking forward to learning more about these people. Very interesting to see anything event related attracting venture funding. Sign of the times?

    • While there are a few hospitality-centric venture capital firms (e.g. Thayer Ventures), most capital toward event technology ventures does not seem to come from event-focused investors. The capital usually comes from technology funds that want to diversify their investments across industries.

      That being said, considering the tremendous growth the hospitality and travel industry is seeing, it would be wise for any early stage tech investor to jump in 🙂

      • Thanks for taking the time to answer Dan and congrats on making the list!

        I suspected that these would be tech investors since the only direct event agency investment I am familiar with has come from the likes of Saatchi, IPG and Publicis.

        A tech VC would recognize the size of the global market and like the scalability a software solution provides.

  • Thank you very much Julius. What an honor. Definitely great company to be with!

  • Brandt Krueger

    I’d be curious to know more about what specifically you think each on the list is doing to be “disruptive” in the event space, and I hope you get some time to expand on this topic.

    For now, the majority of the comments seem to pertain to the amount of money they’ve raised from VC, which has very little in and of itself to do with disruption. It may point to a certain level of success, or perhaps be an indicator of who we’ll see sponsoring a lot of events or promoted tweets 😉

    I’m not saying the companies listed here don’t deserve to be on the list- I have followed the success of many of them and agree. I’d just like to know a little more about why you think they do!

    • Agreed – not a lot of content here about these companies…

      • Funnily enough just today Eventbrite acquired Lanyrd which kind of proves the above point I made

    • good point Brandt,

      Investing is definitely social proof that makes or made these brands household names but I guess I summed up my selection criteria based on the last stametement on the post:

      “Being different, persistent, pioneering, innovative and lateral thinking has helped these tough leaders to create thriving businesses who investors like.”

      I believe we all agree those qualities are not common and definitely something to look to for other startups – In all cases they have created products that have caputured thousands if not millions of users, revolutionised paradigms or chose different approaches.

      As every list – it is just a point of view and of course highly subjective