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Josh Fraser – EventVue

Josh Fraser is a software engineer and the co-founder of EventVue, which used to build online communities for conferences in order to improve conference networking.

Here’s his story.



Background

  • at age 10, Josh’s dad bought him a computer and a programming book
  • soon after he fell in love with creating tech and programming; he did it all through high school and was a webmaster for a lot of organizations in his town
  • in college, he didn’t make really good grades because he couldn’t focus due to outside contract work and other projects

Business Idea

  • the idea for EventVue orginally came from some contract work he had done for an event
  • the event organizer wanted to integrate a social networking site around his event
  • Josh built it and all attendees loved it; they were all at the event with photos and profiles of each other printed off the site
  • the had 100% participation because you had to create a profile in order to register for event
  • the project was so much of a success that he and his college roommate, Rob Johnson, decided to make a business out of it and take it nationwide

EventVue (What WAS It & How It Worked)

  • EventVue was basically a social network geared toward events, to let you know who’s attending and let you find out who to network with beforehand
  • you make a profile (with pics, a bio, tags, and messaging) and utilize it until the day of the event

EventVue Joined TechStars

  • TechStars is a summer program for startups that offer seed capital, mentorship, advice, and connections for a small percentage of company
  • each founder received $5,000 each
  • there they received real-time feedback, and got help on refining their idea

TechStars Suggestions

  • TechStars advised EventVue to rewrite the code from scratch because they didn’t own the rights to the code from the previous job because it was contract work
  • they suggested that EventVue take the registration part out of the business plan and focus only on social networking aspect
  • suggested that they build integrations with registration sites, so when users come to EventVue most of their profile was already complete; this resulted in only 42% participation of registrants
  • that they find “the thing” and then measure that
  • also to focus on virality, not monetization; get a million users first, then worry about money

Funding

  • EventVue was the first startup out of TechStars to receive funding
  • 2 rounds of angel investments; around $500,000, more or less
  • 12 investors, $25,000 each, more or less – both rounds
  • being in TechStars made it easy to get funding
  • key initial investors made it easier to get later investors
  • investors brought needed leadership and mentorship
  • investors invested in THEM and not exactly the business; they displayed their ability with portfolio of work

Business Model

  • charge event organizers to use their service
  • $500 setup fee and $1 per attendee

How They Got Event Organizers

  • direct sales
  • co-founder was tenacious on getting event organizers, setting up meetings, cold calling, etc.
  • some previous attendees started demanding organizers to use them
  • had big companies as user: IBM, TechWeb, IDG

Problems

  • business model didn’t work: their expenses (payment to sales departments) exceeded their income/revenue
  • they couldn’t make their business scale
  • they started to become skeptical on what would actually work

Setbacks/Perceived Solutions

  • began creating different features, looking to find one that would work and users would love the most
  • first widget let potential attendees see who they knew that were already attending the event; it didn’t work
  • chatter, second widget: brought in real-time conversation about the event from around the web
  • chatter worked, but they ran out of money before it was allowed to gain good enough traction
  • they were taking on contract work just to keep the business alive
  • they realized they had to shut the business down

In Hindsight (in Josh’s words)

  • they should have made EventVue more of a self-serve product, something organizers could buy and install themselves, then watch to see how they use it
  • should have given more focus to the organizer’s experience, and not focus solely on the attendee’s
  • should have kept focusing on driving in more attendees for the organizers
  • should have tested products before they built them
  • should have broadened their market of events

Advice

  • “Anyone either in a startup or just on the fence, learn from EventVue’s mistakes”
  • “Failure wasn’t that bad.”
  • “Fail early. If it’s not working kill it off early on.”
  • “There’s money to be made in building a product for event organizers.”
  • “Have an ‘open-casket funeral’ because 90% of startups die and an open-casket shows you’ve learned something.”

Side Notes

  • Josh says he’s in a better position now than he was before the startup; he has more connections, he learned a lot, and there are more people willing to invest in him now
  • workers at EventVue pulled all-nighters everyday for 2 weeks straight to build a product to secure a contract

Whats Next?

  • A Break

Connect With Josh

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  1. jackal
    March 30, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    never a failure…

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