Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Everfest: Creating The Hub Of All Things Festival
Austin is the capital of the large scale festival, give its fame for SXSW--but festivals are becoming a big business everywhere. However, despite that popularity, getting information on those festivals is still very difficult. Austin-based startup Everfest (www.everfest.com) is hoping to change that. We spoke with co-founder Jay Manickam--a veteran of uShip-- on the reasons for the startup.
What's the idea behind Everfest?
Jay Manickam: Myself and my other founder are all serial entrepreneurs. We had been traveling a lot together, and noticed the massive proliferation of festivals. We saw that both on our travels, as well as living here in Austin. We are also of the mindset that bringing people together through festivals has been a very positive thing in our lives. So, we talked about it for awhile, and tried to think if there were any related business opportunities that hadn't been done yet. We didn't have to think very deeply to see that the main issue, is that while festivals have proliferated across the globe, in every category, from music, to food, to wine and beer, to many cultural and ethnological reasons, the information gathering around festivals and the ability to index and organize that information hasn't kept up with those festivals themselves. We saw a big hole in the market, and decided to put all the festivals under one umbrella. We wanted to create a deep, very personalized service for discovery, and eventually create a community of festivals worldwide. As we did our research, we found that no one had done it successful. We think there has been a cultural movement and that there's an interesting business opportunity to be the authority in a space no one has claimed yet. That was the beginning of the idea for Everfest.
All of your founders had been at other startup companies—what did you learn there that you are applying here?
Jay Manickam: Of the three founders, myself and Brad, were both at uShip. We were cofunders and Brad was EVP of Marketing. That was my first major entrepreneurial effort, and what I learned there at uShip was how to take a very fragmented, long tail industry, with many independent operators, and put them all under one roof, and get marketing scale and offer up online reputation management. That's the same idea of what we are trying to accomplish in the festival pace. Often, there's a very small owner operator of those festivals, and they have limited marketing scale and expertise, and they have a big discovery and awareness problem beyond their local network. It's been instructive to think about what we learned at uShip, and take a similar route of creating a community or marketplace. My other partner also came from a startup, Ticketbud, from the self service, event ticketing space. That was also very instructive for us, when you're talking about festivals.
What's the biggest lesson you learned at uShip?
Jay Manickam: The biggest thing I learned, is you never get time to nail it right the first time. It's more about experimenting, and not being afraid to take lots of small risks. In the course of any project, it's important to learn from them as quickly as possible. Fail fast is the mantra you hear a lot. That's very true when trying to build a company. Very few people get it right in the initial plan, and you need to be able to learn from your customers what works and what doesn't work. A lot of what made uShip successful, and which applies here, is to bring the most value we can to consumers and festival organizers.
What's your geographic strategy around festivals?
Jay Manickam: We've concentrated predominately on North America, but we do have festivals in many countries on every continent around the world. We have thousands of fesetivals already, but the majority of the larger ones, if not all of the large ones, are in North America. So, we've gone deep in certain local markets, getting down to the grassroots local level.We're now starting to get lots of inbound festivals, submitted by consumers in general, as well as festival organizers. That's how we are going to scale, is by moving from outbound to inbound. That said, we're agnostic to the size of festival and type of festival, and the geography. Our goal is to really encompass all of the world's festivals – whether they are large music festivals, or small arts and crafts, or beer festival. We love them all and are they equally valuable as we build out our database..
There are lots of events and ticketing sites out there-how do you compare?
Jay Manickam: There are a lot of local event sites, and a pretty broad swatch of those things. We purposely have drawn the line at festivals, and intend to specialize in festivals, and delivering value for people who want to discover them and for festival organizers. We're not doing happy hours and other local events, we're focused on festivals, and really building a community around festivals. We want consumers to have the ability to find and go to festivals, engage with others, and share with friends, and find new friends, and find festivals in a novel way.
Has living in Austin and South By Southwest helped shape how you approach this market?
Jay Manickam: Actually, because Austin is synonomous with SXSW, and the growth of other festivals have been incredible, it actually caused us to think about if this was just a localized phenomenon. We had to do our research to convince ourselves that, while Austin perhaps the leaders in festivals, there's no difference with any other city in the country. We have found that, in the country in general, there has been a massive rise in the number of festivals in the last fifteen years. I think we're just lucky to live here, and that we have gotten a good glimpse of this in a signficiant way. Austin has allowed us to understand festivals and appreciate how they also work in other places.
Thanks and good luck!