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Innovator’s dilemma leaves online event space ripe for disruption


Story Summary

Kweekweek's Mehdi Nayebi highlights the challenges that market leaders face in the absence of innovation, and the secret power of the startups that is toppling the titans.


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It happens to every giant. Sooner or later, the plucky startup that once challenged the old order and rose to great heights faces its own crossroads. Wedded to their existing market success, they decline the opportunity to innovate further, instead resting on their laurels.

This is the very situation that Eventbrite is close to finding itself in. Founded nearly a decade ago, the company revolutionised business for event organisers. Suddenly, they could create a web page through which to sell tickets to their gig, conference or rally, taking online payment easily where, previously, it had been a headache.

After reaching this point, very little about Eventbrite’s business model changed – only recently has the company outlined its plans to make it easier for users to discover events that will be of interest to them.

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But since Eventbrite booted up in 2006, the world has changed plenty. By continuing to function purely as a platform for individual, siloed ticketing pages – these last stops on a journey – Eventbrite has left event organisers buried under the ongoing marketing machinery now required to mobilise online footfall.

Every day, thousands of organisers across the world use blogs, Twitter, Facebook, flyers, word of mouth and ever more platforms to snag ticket buyers.

A new online marketplace

When Amazon and eBay asked themselves how they could help their busy sellers, they hit on the concept of the “marketplace”. Nowadays online, many of the most appealing retail businesses welcome in their customers wholeheartedly, providing search, discovery and rating features that don’t just power a final transaction – they introduce customers to products in the first place.

The B&B arena has Airbnb. Fashion has ASOS Marketplace. And the car industry has Auto Trader. Each of these has become a leader in its own field, by offering tradespeople not just a page on which to facilitate an end transaction but also a means of driving attention to that page and a way for reputable users to demonstrate their legitimacy. So why is there still no such service catering to event organisers?

The ongoing absence of an online events marketplace is hurting event organisers. They expend enormous energy promoting their event and by denying them the tools to promote, as well as sell out, their events, our industry is depriving them of pulling the extra visitors they could net.

Standing out in the crowd

Experienced, repeat event organisers need to differentiate themselves from the hordes of event organising virgins who can use Eventbrite with impunity whilst failing to fill a room, or even whilst throwing a sub-standard event. Think about why eBay is a success – because it seamlessly marries discovery, sales and reputation.

This is what we are setting out to build with KweekWeek. London is the best place in the world for us to build an event platform – here, you could attend a fascinating or fun event every hour of every day.

Our platform is a direct response to event organisers that have told us what current software is lacking. Others such as YPlan are also beginning to understand the opportunity here, though it has needed to significantly change its business model, making redundancies in the process.

But like us, YPlan is reacting to the incumbents’ lack of movement which has left a door open for someone to come and give event planners what they need today – and we hope to prove it so successfully that, one day, a new upstart vies to knock us off our perch, too.

Mehdi Nayebi is cofounder and CEO of KweekWeek. A former banking professional, he previously headed equity derivatives sales for Bank Of America and Deutsche Bank in Middle East and North Africa.

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