Startup Eventster, itself a pivot of San Jose-based social network Tackable, is launching today with a brand new iPad and iPhone app looking to be a social recommendation engine for events in specific cities. That’s a tune we’ve heard before, from startups like RAVN, which pivoted away from that model after only 100 days of testing it out. So why would Eventster try where others have found the market inhospitable? Because, according to co-founder Luke Stangel, events are far and away the things users find most interesting when checking out a locale or neighborhood.
Eventster’s team found that out in pursuing a previous startup, which layered all kinds of information about locales on top of online maps, and made those filters easily switched on and off. Users overwhelmingly turned off all layers, including local news, place-related information and lots more, and left on only an events layer, which detailed what was happening around them in terms of concerts, parties, performances and more.
“We produced this location-aware digital newspaper for the iPad called tapIn,” Stangel, a former journalist himself, told BetaKit about Eventster’s origins. “What we did was, we geo-located all of the content inside of the newspaper, so we took the newspaper, cut it up into a thousand little pieces, and organized those pieces on a map. What we learned from that project is that people don’t care about anything except for events: they would consistently turn off every single piece of information except for events.”
Hence, the company’s decision to refocus. But Eventster isn’t exactly moving into virgin territory here, as mentioned. There have been a number of startups who’ve attempted to make social event discovery their main business. Eventster is billing itself as “Pandora for Events,” in fact, which is exactly how RAVN was described when it initially launched. There’s also Thrillcall, which is aimed primarily at concerts, and event planning app Meetup sends a weekly digesting of suggested happenings in a user’s area. And it’s also worth pointing out that Facebook debuted its own suggested events feature back in December 2011, something TechCrunch’s John Constine said at the time “could reduce the need [for] third-party event discovery apps.”
Still, Stangel thinks that Eventster’s approach is different enough to give it a strong chance of catching on with users. Specifically, he points out that its integration with events listing service Zvents provides it with a wealth of available listings right out of the gate – there’s no need to depend on users to build a library. Also, unlike RAVN, Eventster looks to the community to sort out which events are good and which aren’t. Users can up or down vote events, much like on Reddit, Stangel notes, which is designed to replace expensive and time-consuming professional local editors (which RAVN used), who would manually select the best events for a given area.
Eventster also gains a lot of insight on its users by tracking which events they’re interested in, and, maybe more importantly, which ones they explicitly dislike. “For example, here in the Bay area, 5K [races] are up voted all the time,” Stangel said. “I hate 5Ks, I’m never going to go to a 5K. My recommendations are going to be different, since I’m interested in a demolition derby and no one else is. If Eventster can show me the a demolition derby, and not show me the 5Ks, I’m going to have a better experience.”
By filtering out the noise and tailoring content to a user’s individual tastes, but also tapping the wisdom of the crowd to highlight popular activities, Eventster could not only serve customers better, but also help brands and event planners better target individuals, which is where Eventster’s (which is free) long-term revenue plans lie.
The company faces a number of challenges, not the least of which is demonstrating that there’s an appetite for this kind of service that isn’t handled by free daily local newspapers, existing online event planning startups or social tools like Facebook with event discovery built in. But Eventster is the natural evolution of a few years of existing experience and development, so at least it’s starting from a place where the team has seen demonstrated demand.