Our start-up of the week is Glistrr, an event software that allows event organisers to identify and engage influencers within their customer base.
“Glistrr allows event organisers to identify and engage influencers within their customer base, to boost event attendances and ultimately increase revenues,” explained Matthew Large, CEO of Glistrr.
Glistrr has just completed the inaugural StartPlanetNI accelerator, which is the only equity-backed accelerator programme currently available in Northern Ireland. The company was voted the ‘Most Investible Company’ at the recent Demo Day in Hillsborough Castle, Co Down by the assembled investor audience from across the island of Ireland, UK and further afield.
The successful teams emerged from a highly-competitive application process where more than 300 companies from across Northern Ireland and 44 international countries vied for the places and have since used the intensive three-month programme to fast-track their technology-based ideas for global markets.
‘The market for concert and event promotion in the US is in excess of $25 billion. Glistrr intersects these two spaces’
– MATTHEW LARGE, GLISTRR
The accelerator has facilitated funding, advised and guided the progress of these companies with the support of a network of internationally renowned and successful entrepreneurs and mentors led by start-up stalwart and founder Bill Liao, SOSV European Venture Partner (also co-founder of CoderDojo and founder of WeForest.org). The programme is delivered by StartPlanet and local start-up experts Xcell Partners.
During the programme, all companies were based in 112 Donegall Street in Belfast, a purpose-designed accelerator and co-working space in the heart of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. This space is part of a global network of SOSv Revolution co-working spaces from San Francisco, New York to Cork and further afield to Shenzhen and Shanghai.
“Glistrr was founded after years of experience in the events industry; from nightlife to live music and professional sports,” said Large.
Initially, the product was built to service clients in the nightlife space, but over time the feature set has grown to meet the needs of customers across the wider events market.
“At present, the business works with event spaces, hotels, nightlife venues, outdoor events and live music venues. These will continue to be the target market moving forward; sporting events and conferences are also areas that the business has looked at and will pursue in the future.”
‘Glistrr provides a method of engaging with the right people at the right time, solving a huge problem that organisers across the event industry face’
– MATTHEW LARGE, GLISTRR
According to Large, the events space in the US alone is worth in excess of $160bn, with $4bn of this being in the ticketing and registrations space, with continuing growth annually.
“The market for concert and event promotion in the US is in excess of $25bn. Glistrr intersects these two spaces.”
Large graduated in December 2014 with a degree in maths and computer science from Queen’s University Belfast. He was also awarded Young Entrepreneur of the Year for 2014 by Enterprise Northern Ireland.
“I have been involved in the events industry for the past 10 years, with events ranging from under-18 discos, to live music, nightlife and professional sports.
“This events experience, combined with a drive for efficiency was the perfect combination in developing Glistrr.
Richard Stewart (CTO) became Large’s first follower when he was convinced to leave his job at Schrader Electronics to join Glistrr.
“Rich has a master in electronic engineering from Queen’s University Belfast and has spent most of his professional career in application development. He has also had a No 1 best-selling app on the Apple App Store.”
As Large explains it, event organisers globally are finding it increasingly difficult to market their events through current channels and are forced to use blanket marketing, which is both inefficient and costly.
“With traditional advertising channels less effective than ever and social media becoming increasingly saturated, Glistrr provides a method of engaging with the right people at the right time, solving a huge problem that organisers across the event industry face.”
Currently, Glistrr offers a platform that provides functionality for event organisers to sell tickets and manage guest list registrations, but as Large points out, scaling within the events space is difficult given the large number of reputable brands like Ticketmaster, Eventbrite and Ticketfly, some of which have existing relationships and contracts with venues.
“As such, Glistrr has started to develop the system to enable integration with these platforms, further benefiting the organiser and the platform, while also providing a route to larger, high-value clients.
“Unlike competitors, Glistrr seamlessly integrates with Facebook, allowing automated capture of data that is extremely valuable to clients. The Glistrr platform has been built with both the organiser and customer in mind, offering checkout times of less than 20 seconds, decreasing dropped baskets.”
Large says that the ultimate goal for Glistrr is to remove the complexities and inefficiencies in marketing events and helping customers maximise their return.
“We’ve experienced successes and failures in marketing events to millennial consumers, and for most event organisers failures are due to a lack of customer intelligence. Glistrr enables event organisers to access simple, actionable intelligence which delivers bums on seats quite literally.”
Glistrr currently has 50 clients, operating in more than 120 venues across the UK, Ireland and US.
The company processed its millionth guest in February 2016 just before it completed the StartPlanetNI accelerator and picked up the ‘Most Investible Company’ recognition.
“Glistrr is currently working on integration of our data analysis and influence identification software with key players in the market, effectively removing the greatest barrier to entry into the wider market.
“Moving forward, the business will focus on forming relationships with larger, incumbent firms in the market, expanding the potential client base,” Large said.
Glistrr has also had discussions with companies in the wider entertainment industry, including William Morris Agency, Sony Music and Diageo.
“They have highlighted the value of the consumer intelligence that Glistrr is able to process. This leads to a bigger opportunity in the longer term.
“Current sales are a combination of direct sales through website leads and contacts in the event industry and sales through agents with significant networks of event organisers. At present, the business has three agents – one based in Ireland, one based in London and a new agent in the US.”
After bootstrapping to its first million guests, Glistrr is currently raising a round of seed equity investment to enable the company to rapidly scale its already profitable model.
Standing out from the crowd
As Large points out, the main challenge Glistrr has faced is being labelled “another damn ticketing system”.
He says: “We allow users to sell tickets within Glistrr, as a method to identify their influential customers. However, as we move to beta with Eventbrite integration in April, this will enable event organisers to link their Eventbrite account to Glistrr and take advantage of Glistrr’s core features, without the need to move ticket platforms.
‘Get up, get on a plane and get the hell out of Ireland’
– MATTHEW LARGE, GLISTRR
“Feedback is also a huge issue, in getting good, honest feedback at home, rather than ‘a thumbs up’ and pat on the back. Feedback can be difficult to listen to, as someone rips your product apart, but it’s important to overcome the urge to switch off and understand their point of view.”
Large believes the Irish start-up scene has come along greatly over the past few years, especially in Belfast with the development of the Invest NI Propel programme and more recently the accelerator programme – StartPlanetNI – which had been a missing piece of the start-up jigsaw.
“Programmes like this have helped companies like us to validate, tweak and prepare to scale their business models for global markets.”
His advice to other tech self-starters in Ireland is: “Get up, get on a plane and get the hell out of Ireland! Not for good, of course, but the world is so much bigger than Ireland and the feedback that can be found elsewhere has been phenomenally helpful to get us on the right path and to accelerate our growth.
“People at home tend not to point out the bad stuff and generally give a thumbs-up and say, ‘yeah, that’s great, good work’!”
Disclosure: SOSV is an investor in Silicon Republic