It’s likely Andi Sie and Edy Sulistyo would agree that necessity is indeed the mother of invention.
eEvent Inc., the Columbus-based technology startup co-founded by Sie and Sulistyo, was created after the former encountered several problems while organizing Asian Festival.
“Since then, after doing a lot of research and hearing a lot of customer feedback, we discovered more and more problems surrounding events,” says Sulistyo. “Many event planners want their event to be more enjoyable for the event attendees, and guests of events weren’t feeling like their needs and wants were being met. We decided that if we can make our attendees happy and satisfied by making the event more enjoyable, the event planner and event sponsor would also be happier and make more money.”
To appease all parties, the duo developed eEvent software, which has enjoyed local and international recognition. (Most recently, it was named one of the Top 50 Apps In Asia.) Read on to learn how Sie and Sulistyo want to revolutionize events “for everyone, everywhere, every time,” the steps they are taking to achieve that goal, and how how soon the public will be able to access their product.
Melanie McIntyre: Your site claims eEvent is “software that uses mindfully integrated web, mobile and QR Code technology to perform many tasks for event planners and guests.” Can you explain that a bit further?
Edy Sulistyo: eEvent uses cutting-edge mobile technology to engage guests and help event planners and sponsors benefit more from events. Our platform has an integrated event search and recommendation engine, plus an event management platform. It includes geo-tagging and funware technology to make recommendations to users based on their interests and habits, including what their friends enjoy.
This doesn’t just work for events, but for products and services, too, which makes it possible for sponsors to target their discounts and benefits to the people who actually want to take advantage of them.
eEvent also provides a reusable, scannable ticket that can be used to check in to events and network with other event attendees. The same QR Code used in ticketing can be put on a business card or a name tag, making it possible to check-in and exchange information without wasting printing and paper; it’s the same code every time, as simple as using your name.
MM: eEvent handles many facets of event planning, collaboration and guest management. Can you give some examples of each?
ES: We allow an event to be managed by multiple people and each organizer can have different access levels, according to need. Event planners can create multi-tiered tickets, unlimited coupons, accept payments online and create custom questionnaires. The events can be hidden from the public, protected with a password, or “invitation only,” so any kind of event can be incorporated, large or small. For commercial events, we have created promotional tools such as email blast with easy contact importing and full integration with Facebook and Twitter.
To make the platform easy to use, guests are not required to sign up for eEvent to register for an event. But creating a profile makes it easier to network before, during, and afterwards. People can check out who is coming at the event by going to the event page and seeing the optional guest list.
One of our main goals in creating eEvent was to make the check-in experience more streamlined. No one likes to stand in line− it’s a pretty universal thing. The live feed and remote registration completely eliminates guests lists and greatly reduces lines. Plus, registered users can see who’s checked in on the live feed.
At the Android Columbus event recently, we put the live feed up on the large screen in the TechColumbus lobby. Every time someone checked in, their name appeared on the screen and their name tag was ready before they walked into the greeting area. The check-ins went very smoothly and there was never a bottleneck. We could see up-to-the-minute reports on attendance and registration in the event management interface− a wonderful validation of all our hard work.
The real-time reports analyze, track, and learn based on the data collected. You can see what time was the busiest check-in time, which check-in station is the most crowded, determine the popular web traffic sources, the reasons why attendees come to events− really just mind-bogglingly useful. You can use the data to focus on your successful efforts and increase loyalty with your friends and clients.
MM: When was eEvent founded?
ES: eEvent was first incubated by eSolutech, an Ohio limited liability company, in November of 2009 in Columbus and was incorporated as of July 12, 2010.
MM: Who is eEvent’s target user?
ES: Our audience is all event attendees, everywhere. Social or professional, there is a way to enhance your event with our platform. We’ve not only made it universal and rewarding, but fun too!
MM: Why is eEvent available by invite only?
ES: During our beta period, we would like to make sure we give our undivided attention to all of our beta users. Nothing is more powerful to market our product than positive testimonies from our beta users.
MM: Do you anticipate it always will be available by invite only?
ES: We are scheduled to launch in January, at which time anyone will be able to use eEvent. We will have all of our features refined and easy to use by then, based on the reviews and suggestions of our beta users.
MM: How many existing beta users do you have?
ES: Our current beta users are Asian Festival, TedxColumbus, SCORE, Android Columbus, Asian Tech, the Small Business Association, Hilliard Martial Arts Center, and, soon to join the boat, IT Martini.
MM: When you decided to launch eEvent, what were some of the first steps you took?
ES: When we decided to launch eEvent, the first step we took is to actually gather our friends and families that are working in the event industry and listen to the problems they described.
For everything that we do, we always refer to our three-step lean iteration processes: learn, measure, build.
Listen to our customer, figure out what the problem is. Create a mockup/prototype and see if our solution is actually solving the customer problem. Only after the ideas and solutions are validated, we will start building the product.
MM: What resources did you utilize to get up and running?
ES: We hired one of the best user experience designers with experience working in Silicon Valley to help us design the flow and maximizing the user experience. As a result, we have received a lot of praises that our user interface is very clean and easy to use. Also we hired and trained interns from [The Ohio State University] to help us with accounting and marketing.
MM: Did you have any local advisers, role models, or mentors you relied on for advice and input?
ES: We do. ShinyDoor Founder Angela Siefer has been sitting in our board of advisors to help us provide feedback from the event planner standpoint. Unofficially, we have asked for a lot of feedback and advice from many people, including our beta testers, investor, and seasoned event planners that served in many different boards, such as Asian Festival and Columbus Zoo.
MM: What were you doing professionally before launching eEvent?
ES: I was full-time senior architect at eSolutech LLC, responsible for all eSolutech product development. Over the past year, I have led a diverse development team to deliver a number of web products, including Katolik.com, iConvert.com, Kamus.net, and OpenStub.com. Several of the applications are in production today, with over 100,000 unique visitors every day. Before that, I was senior software engineer and technical lead at Nationwide Financial and successfully delivered many high profile projects.
MM: How has that work experience influenced the way you do business?
ES: I’m very fortunate to have experience in both corporate and startup environment. There are pros and cons in both worlds. In startup, everything is very flexible, changes can be embraced very quickly, and turn-around time for everything is very fast. On the other hand, in the corporate world everything from budget, performance measure, goal, and rules are pretty much well defined. Combined, I helped create a very strong team that benefited from both worlds.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?
ES: Being an entrepreneur is about being different and breaking the mold. I faced a lot of rejections and being rejected by someone, especially someone you know, is really difficult. One thing to remember is that there is no way what we provide can please everyone, but at least when we believe in our product and keep a positive attitude, we can overcome rejection and turn it into valuable feedback.
MM: What advice do you have for others who are thinking of starting their own businesses?
ES: Being an entrepreneur is not for everyone. First, you need to evaluate what your passion is and what you really want to do in life. As an entrepreneur, passion is very important because your business is always up and down. Therefore, if you’re in it just because of the money, when your business is in the down period you will give it up easily and you will not fight hard enough to bounce back.
You have to be smart enough to manage the risk, brave enough to take the risk, and positive enough to see risk as opportunity. When you fail, make sure you fail fast so that you have time to bounce back.
MM: What are your short-term goals for eEvent?
ES: Our short-term goal is to release phase 1 of eEvent −the event management platform− to the public. This will serve as our foundation to our next release −recommendation engine and advertising platform− in 2011.
MM: What are your long-term goals for eEvent?
ES: Our mission is to make the world’s events more accessible, attractive, and desirable to the relevant audience. We want to make more enjoyable, fun, and productive events for everyone, everywhere, every time!
MM: How many employees does the company have?
ES: In Ohio, we have seven employees. In Germany, we have one employee. In Indonesia, we have five employees. In India, we have one employee. Total, we have 14 employees and contractors.
MM: Where are you headquartered?
ES: We are very proud to be headquartered in the heart of Central Ohio. Our office is located near [the OSU] campus: 2649 North High Street, Suite B.