For those New Yorkers who feel like the city’s coolest rooftops, lofts, galleries and warehouses are out of reach as potential venues for their special events, startup online marketplace Eventup wants to be your new best friend.
The company, which has thus far rolled out the red carpet to more than 1,000 private and commercial venues in Los Angeles and San Francisco, is officially launching in New York City this Tuesday, April 10th. (A soft launch with limited inventory is currently underway.)
Eventup’s early success has been in unlocking a portfolio of previously unavailable, or at least not widely marketed, event locations in three of the nation’s largest and most forward-thinking cities. At the time of its official NYC launch, it will add more than 400 new locations in Gotham City.
The potentially troubling question is whether they will face the same wack-a-mole-like regulatory and customer service issues currently being battled by AirBnB, like hotel taxes (SF), illegal short-term hotel operations (NYC), and trashed properties.
The company’s co-founders (and MySpace alumni) Tony Adam and Colby Palmer say the event space is a supply-driven marketplace ripe for disruption. There are traditionally a finite number of venues and a glut of demand from would be event hosts. At the same time, lesser known venues drown in the noise of more widely marketed, yet generic spaces.
For renters, Eventup is at its best in cases of truly unique or spectacular locations, rather than customary restaurants, hotels, or event centers. Its value is meant to extend beyond discovery into curation and organization of the venue portfolio. Listings currently include high-res images and reviews and can be filtered by city, availability, event type, venue type, price, occupancy and amenities. Plans call for the addition of more subjective criteria, such as ambiance and interior design style.
For property owners, Eventup has the potential to monetize underutilized or illiquid properties. In a simple system, which downplays the administrative wizardry occurring behind the scenes, it offers free listings and instant payment within 24 hours of final booking confirmation.
This market isn’t without its potholes. Every state and local municipality has its own regulations regarding things like noise ordinances, parking, and event permitting, among dozens of other seemingly trivial nuisances. Eventup leaves these issues to the property owner and renter, a situation which is a recipe for drama.
A Los Angeles event planner told me a story about a wedding held at a rented private residence (not booked through Eventup), which was shut down by the police three hours early for lack of a noise permit. Buzzkill!
Eventup has taken steps address these issues. Each listing includes a rules and fees section constructed by the property owner. In the best cases this will be comprehensive and informative. In the rest, look out for surprises lurking around the corner.
Also, venue owners choose whether to mandate renters’ purchase of event insurance or prepayment of cleaning fees. After booking, owners and renters are connected through a built-in chat function enabling direct coordination. The ultimate takeaway seems to be that Eventup is a facilitator and tour guide, but not a chaperon.
The nascent company is incubated within the Santa Monica technology studio Science, under the mentorship of former MySpace CEO Mike Jones. With growing geographic reach and only six team members that lean heavily toward the technology end of the spectrum, the founders are looking to scale their sales and marketing staff while expanding within both current and additional target markets this summer. At the same time, they’re also actively raising seed financing to accelerate this growth.
Beyond adding direct employees, the company has a longer term goal of closely aligning with event planners to create a more full service event platform. This is probably a good community to befriend, considering it has the power to be Eventup’s greatest advocate or, if made to feel challenged, its most vocal opposition.
Eventup appears to address a genuine need. It has proved out the initial concept and laid a technical foundation. Granting that, it’s looking down at a long list of product refinement and business development tasks, the execution of which will say more about the company’s ultimate success than anything accomplished to date.
For every person who knows the hidden doorways and secret passcodes to access New York’s most unique locations, there are thousands on the outside left looking in. If it keeps things simple and can navigate the inevitable regulatory and customer service potholes in the road ahead, Eventup seems to have a legitimate chance of democratizing access to great event venues.