Entrepreneurship is a tricky thing. Finding a gap in the marketplace then offering a solution to a target audience–a solution they’re willing to pay money for–isn’t easy. Turning it into a sustainable business? Well, let’s just say it’s not for the timid.
But what do you do when you see a market that’s saturated with service offerings built upon antiquated–seemingly prehistoric–systems? Systems that are quite literally facing extinction thanks to consumers’ consumption habits being driven by handheld mobile devices and technology steadily advancing at the speed of light.
Gregg Parise, USC MBA class of 2011 and CEO of Events.com, says that was the reality he faced when Events.com was born. The idea came out of an incubator in March of 2014, then went to market with MVP (minimum viable product) in April 2015. In the past nine months, the event registration software company has brought on over 200 customers and acquired almost $20 million in total contract value. New hires have spiked 10 times over from five to right about the 60 mark and the company was recently included on Entrepreneur magazine’s Top Company Cultures list . Topping it all off, the company has raised close to $15 million in funding support.
FROM HEDGE FUNDS TO HEAD OF A SAAS COMPANY
Parise–a finance guy by background–grew his professional career at Hambrecht & Quist as an institutional equity trader before founding and starting three hedge funds. It was when he was semi-retired from the last hedge fund that he decided to pursue an MBA degree at USC’s Marshall School.
“It was a lot of fun to do it a bit later in life because I was super excited to learn and because I had a chance to branch out in other areas. Areas such as market strategy and Porter’s Five Forces. In my previous life, it was all about numbers, balance sheets, income per share.”
“Now I’m running a company acutely focused in a specific vertical. It’s one thing to come in and run a company. It’s another when you’re talking about different capital sources as you grow. I’m always thinking about and analyzing market conditions.”
‘WE KEEP WINNING IN THE MARKETPLACE’
So says Parise who is a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie. “Events.com is in a huge, successful market; a proven market. But the others have older, non-attractive solutions. There are advantages we reap by coming in and being disruptive.”
The “others” Parise is referring to are some of the well-known event management SaaS products like Eventbrite, CVent, and others.
“Many of the existing events organizer platforms were built somewhere in the range of 1999-2002. This is pre social media, pre open API times,” Parise says. “We saw different needs.”
The needs he and Events.com Founder & Chairman Mitch Thrower saw were what they call the “tech debt” other companies had accumulated by not innovating. “Other platforms such as Active.com are much more antiquated. The same for Eventbrite in certain areas, and CVent.”
Thrower should know. The Events.com founder was also a co-founder of Active which is one of the leading events management software services in the participatory sports space. Thrower left the company before it went public, feeling as though it was too narrowly focused and lacked the technological upgrades needed for a SaaS event management platform to survive in today’s market.