In-person events are back, and people want to make up for lost time. In the UK, a ticketing platform said it had seen people spending 172% more on events compared with pre-pandemic — and there are about a million people set to get married after postponing weddings during lockdown.
Off the back of that resurgence, investor confidence in backing events tech businesses is returning. Feast It, an events platform based in the UK, has just raised a €5m round, led by Fuel Ventures and supported by Best Nights VC, the investment arm of Jägermeister.
It’s not the only startup to benefit from VCs’ renewed confidence in backing in-person events.
Last week OTA Insights, a British startup providing data tools to hospitality businesses, raised an $80m round. Earlier this month, Düsseldorf-based startup Vivenu, which runs an event ticketing platform, raised $50m.
“There’s a thirty-year mega trend in terms of consumers spending more on experiences versus material possessions, and those experiences are always going to be physical,” says Digby Vollrath, cofounder of Feast It.
“Do I think people are going to carry on getting married over Zoom? No. And I don't have any interest in watching a live-stream gig when I could go to a festival.”
Feast It, which was founded in 2017, uses an algorithm to match customers planning events to a series of providers for things like food, music or photography. They’ve been used to organise everything from two-person date nights to London Pride and music festivals.
When the first lockdown hit in March last year, Vollrath says the company saw a 98% drop in sales in 24 hours and it stayed flat for nine months.
“Within a week of the pandemic hitting, we sat down with investors and did a bridge round which meant we secured our runway pretty early on and were in a privileged position because of that,” he says.
Do I think people are going to carry on getting married over Zoom? No. And I don't have any interest in watching a live-stream gig when I could go to a festival.
During the pandemic, investors piled money into startups working on virtual events tech.
One of the biggest successes was virtual events platform Hopin, also from the UK, which became the fastest-growing European tech startup of all time after hitting a $5bn valuation a year and nine months after launch.
Reacting to the uptick in in-person events, Hopin has started to build its offline events offering recently too. In June it acquired US company Boomset, which supports in-person events with things like check-in kiosks and name badge printing.
What’s next for events?
The industry is due for a shake up, Vollrath says. For people looking to organise an event, the incumbent companies are either event planners with a “small black book of people they’ve always worked with” or companies offering a set package for each type of event.
“With that, you're kind of getting a carbon copy, a cut out of what your experience looks like. Then the other option was basically to do it yourself,” he says.
Within a week of the pandemic hitting, we sat down with investors and did a bridge round
Feast It’s next plan, as well as continuing to digitise the booking process, is to become an “end-to-end platform for every part of an event,” says Vollrath, by adding things like budgeting and event planning tools to the platform.
It also has an eye on expansion. “Our North Star in terms of funds was to find a German or Dutch investor because we knew we wanted to go to continental Europe in the next 12 to 18 months,” says Vollrath — and by bringing Jägermeister’s investment arm on board, they’ve done just that.