Even with the rise of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, people still like to conduct business in face-to-face meetings at conferences and events. But, these days, attendees also want to incorporate new whiz-bang online tools to help assist with physical interactions and make conferences all the more worthwhile.
Pathable is trying to sit in the middle of those two worlds. And the Seattle upstart has just scored $500,000 in financing from Sparkbuy founder Dan Shapiro, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney’s Todd Kelly and others.
Founded by former Microsoftie Jordan Schwartz in 2007, Pathable’s technology has been used to power the Web sites of major events such as the New Media Consortium’s summer conference and Meeting Professionals International events.
Pathable creates a one-stop, branded virtual gathering place for attendees and conference organizers, drawing on other social tools such as LinkedIn, Flickr and Facebook. Attendees can set up one-on-one meetings, while sponsors can tout their wares in a virtual tradeshow booth. Interactive maps of the conference also are tied into mobile applications, making it easy for attendees to find their way.
Schwartz tells GeekWire that the company has been profitable for some time, with solid organic growth. Even so, the entrepreneur wanted to raise the cash because of the huge opportunity he sees in social networking technologies for events.
“We have an exceptionally high close rate after we connect with interested, qualified prospects, and a very enviable renewal rate, but for the vast majority of potential customers, not only haven’t they heard of Pathable, but they don’t even realize that an event-centric community solution like ours exists,” he said.
The money will help change that, allowing the company’s growing sales staff to target the estimated 300,000 conferences and trade shows held in the U.S. every year. It also will be used to bolster engineering efforts, with Pathable currently employing just under 10 staffers.
You could say that the $500,000 will allow Pathable to “pour gas on the fire.” But Schwartz doesn’t really like that analogy.
“You pour gas on the fire, it bursts into flame briefly and then dies back,” he says. “We’re looking to create a long-term, interactive engagement with the industry that will sustain the exponential growth we’ve already enjoyed.”
Another upstart with Seattle roots attacking the problem is Unsocial, which also just closed a new round of financing.
Interestingly, the market being addressed by Pathable is one that James Sun of Zoodango tried attacking several years ago. Sun — who just today unveiled his new mobile daily deal site Pirq — told GeekWire this week that he was just too early with Zoodango.
Is the time right for Pathable?