Eventbrite looks like it was designed in a basement circa 2005. It works great, but gives a boring first impression. Splash, meanwhile, wants you to feel like you’re at the party from the moment you’re invited. That’s made it the new darling of event marketing teams at Nike, Anheuser-Busch, the NBA, Google and Spotify.
While I’m used to a SXSW flood of Eventbrites and Facebook Events, this year, I RSVP’d for quite a few soirées through Splash, and they came off way classier. But Splash doesn’t just want to be a pretty event platform. Co-founder and CEO Ben Hindman tells me its goal is to be a full-blown “experiential CRM” tool, complete with tools for tracking attendee behavior and social media mentions.
So to build out these new event analytics features, it’s just raised a $6 million Series A led by Spark Capital.
Splash is still tiny, having managed just over 200,000 events, and it isn’t trying to steal Eventbrite’s bread and butter — big conferences with high ticket prices where it gets a healthy cut. Still, there’s a sizable market in free corporate and social events where organizers don’t just want people to register, they want to make a Splash.
Hindman learned that well by running events for Thrillist and the coveted invite-only Summit Series. Brands were starting to catch onto event marketing. Simultaneously, Instagram’s rise made them painfully aware of how they communicate visually.
Splash entered the scene in 2012, going on to raise $1.5 million through a few seed rounds from BoxGroup, Maveron, Lerer Ventures, Great Oaks, and angels like Thrillist’s Jody Rones, and ex-Facebooker Kevin Colleran.
Without any code, you could design a slick and beautiful event page that excites attendees. Background, fonts, color schemes, and functional modules could all be customized. During and after the shindig, admins could collect content and social media onto the event page to make people want to come back. Splash let people send invites and sell tickets for free, while charging little fees for vanity URLs, white labeling, and sending emails.
But Hindman had his sights set on becoming and experiential marketing software-as-a-service selling year-long subscriptions to the Fortune 500. These are companies that throw promotional events year round. With that much money moving around, everything has to show a return on investment. It only matters if people have a good time if the value created can be quantified. To develop those event analytics, Splash needed cash.
Now thanks to Spark Capital, and Great Oaks it has $6 million. That’s fueled big hires like new VP of Product and Strategy Naoise Irwin who was at Hailo and Zynga. But it’s really to build out an event platform worth of stiff enterprise customers.
Along with CRM and email tools for tracking and reconnecting with attendees, there’ll be a stylish content management system worthy of professional designers so they can tweak everything until their event looks perfect. Hindman wants to rival website builders like Squarespace and Wix. The enterprise system starts at $1,000 per month and scales up for bigger CRM databases, and integrations with Salesforce, Marketo and Hubspot.
Don’t get it twisted, though. Splash is a fraction of the size of Eventbrite, which handled 2.9 million events in 2013 compared to Splash’s 200,000 total since 2012. Splash’s technology isn’t particularly defensible, and it remains within striking distance of small startups.
Still, when asked if they were competitors, Hindman said sometimes, but cited his product’s specialty, saying, “If your role is to build community, or to recruit a team, or to market a product there is NO WAY we’re a competitor to Eventbrite. We fulfill a need that is way beyond ticketing.” But there’s always the threat that Eventbrite could finally make design a priority.
On Splash it’s not about how big an event is or how much the ticket costs because that’s not how it makes its money. It’s about leaving you with a moment worth remembering.
Materialism is fading as we shift toward an experiential culture where what you’ve done, not what you own, matters. We’ve got the Internet to help us discover events, devices to capture them, and social networks to share our photos and videos. Marketing with cheapo corporate trinkets doesn’t excite people much anymore. We want memories.