Startup Spotlight: eVenues takes the headache out of finding event space

Planning and organizing events can be extremely difficult.  There are so many details, from tickets to food to location.  eVenues is here to help by matching up a perfect venue for your needs.  They provide a simple online directory and marketplace where you can browse different venues, sort by different categories (price, location, capacity), and reserve it.

Sound familiar? Well, you may recall that we recently featured another Seattle area upstart, PlaceFull, that’s tackling the same problem.

We caught up with eVenues founder and CEO David Jennings, a former Microsoft employee, for this edition of Startup Spotlight:

Founder an CEO, Dave Jennings

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: ”We run a website that helps any consumer, small business person, or even corporate admin find and directly book an affordable, short-term meeting or event space. We provide a self-service booking model, but we also offer a concierge service staffed of experienced meeting planners that can help recommend and negotiate the best price and venue. Any type of venue or space can list on eVenues for free.”

Inspiration hit us when: ”I was working for a Seattle-based education company called DiscoverU. When expanding the idea into other cities, we realized the need for a database of local and regional venues for hosting classes and meet-ups.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We are currently angel funded by former executives with Facebook, Yahoo, and Earthlink, along with Dave McClure & 500 Startups, but operate as though we are bootstrapped. We are currently using our money to optimize our business model, refine our service, and innovate for the future roadmap. We are planning another raise early next year”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: ”Listening to customers! eVenues probably wouldn’t exist today without sitting down with venue owners and customers to learn just what they needed. Oftentimes the solutions needed to accommodate customers were less than easy to implement, but implement we did. This has definitely paid off in the long run.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: ”Adjust our business model to support a lead-gen. We still support the direct book model, but some venues are not ready for that. We’re now innovating a new approach to lead handling for the hospitality industry, which hasn’t been fully recognized.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: ”Spending money on tradeshows & PR. The biggest waste of time and money on this Earth!”

Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: ”Well, the guy closest to ecommerce and hospitality is probably Bezos, but I like qualities of others like Gates (for platform software) and Zuckerberg (for social). We’ve learned a lot by watching Amazon define great ecommerce experiences and have suppliers follow.”

The group that went on eVenues’ recent venue tour

Our world domination strategy starts when: ”We sign a deal with a hotel chain and get their meeting spaces listed on our site. We just signed Regus to list their office spaces on our site, so we’re optimistic.”

Rivals should fear us because: ”Our experience in the hospitality and online travel agency (OTA) industry. A lot of startups look to disrupt industries they don’t know anything about. This experience gives us a serious competitive advantage.”

We are truly unique because: ”We’ve been around longer than most startups and have spent less money than most startups. By keeping it lean, we’ve had the freedom to experiment to find what works and what doesn’t before we spending tons of money on customer acquisition.”

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: ”Raising our seed round.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: ”Don’t spend a dime until you have a prototype that you take to a potential customer who states he would either buy or subscribe to a monthly charge to use it. Now get it out and begin collecting data that can help you adjust.”

Startup Spotlight is an occasional look at a Seattle area startup company. Have an interesting new venture you want spotlighted in GeekWire? Fill out the questions above, send  photos of the founder(s) and company logo to tips@geekwire.com. Past profiles can be found here.