Tech start-up of the week: Get Invited

20 Oct 2014

The Get Invited team: David Turner, CTO and co-founder; Kyle Gawley, CEO and co-founder; Emma Leahy, marketing manager; and Stuart Kennedy, lead designer

Born in Belfast as a university master’s project, Get Invited is an event registration service that leverages the power of social marketing to help event organisers sell more tickets.

The online self-service ticketing market is a competitive one with some major US players such as San Francisco-founded Eventbrite. But Get Invited is not intimidated by big-name competitors and CEO and co-founder Kyle Gawley believes there’s plenty of room in this space for new blood.

“It’s a bit of a David and Goliath situation for us, but with over €39bn of ticket sales every year, the opportunity is immense, and the market is growing at an exponential rate,” said Gawley.

“The self-service market represents a small portion of the overall ticketing market and presents a total addressable market opportunity in itself of €2.2bn earned from commission on ticket sales,” he added.

Disrupting the design of online ticket sales

Design is a key selling point for Get Invited and an aspect that helps it stand out from its chief competitors.

“Our ultimate goals is to disrupt the online self-service ticketing market, which we feel is dominated by poorly designed products that are ugly, difficult to use and deliver a poor user experience. And, of course, to build a billion-dollar company and take over the world,” said Gawley.

The platform’s good looks come from experience. Gawley and his fellow co-founders met on a master’s course in multidisciplinary design two years ago. David Turner, a fellow student, and Christopher Murphy, their lecturer, joined Gawley in putting their strong design talents to good use.

Gawley has seven years’ experience working on web products, including Vizuali, an award-winning scrapbook tool for designers. His knowledge of UX design sees him regularly invited as a guest speaker to the University of Ulster to talk about optimising user experience.

Turner, with 10 years’ commercial experience working on web-based applications as a software developer, was the more technical-minded of the three, and Gawley describes him as “the development powerhouse behind Get Invited.”

Each of them had previously built products on an individual basis, but a shared passion for delivering exceptional user experiences through beautifully designed products sparked a collaboration.

Get Invited - Launch Festival

An example of a Get Invited event page

Serving organisers and attendees, from data to discovery

And so you have Get Invited: a platform from which event organisers can quickly produce well-designed and mobile-friendly webpages to promote and sell tickets online.

The company officially started in October 2013 and, since its formation, Get Invited has secured contracts throughout Britain and Northern Ireland, and as far away as Italy, New York and Tokyo.

For organisers, it couldn’t be simpler as the logistics of processing payments and distributing mobile or self-printed tickets are all taken care of. In the coming weeks, Get Invited will also be able to offer organisers insights about their attendees; including what they’re saying about their events online and whether those comments are good, bad or coasting along in neutral.

“We’re currently working on better ways help organisers develop an understanding of the people who are coming to their events and assist them in building lasting relationships by providing detailed insights on individual attendees,” Gawley explained.

“We’ll be providing a full profile on each attendee that illustrates what they’re saying about the event on their social media channels and measure this for positive or negative sentiment to give organisers real-time feedback.”

Get Invited analytics

Like all of its webpages, the Get Invited analytics dashboard works across all screen sizes

Also on the Get Invited road map is artificial intelligence that will develop an understanding of the characteristics and trends contributing to a successful event – from pricing to promotion and marketing strategies – and providing automated, tailored suggestions to organisers on how to match this success with their own event.

For attendees, Get Invited will also serve as a community platform enabling them to connect with each other and share events, turning their network into an event discovery tool.

Few pretenders in the Irish tech scene

As well as all the usual start-up teething problems, the biggest challenge to getting started as Get Invited was a lack of business experience for first-time entrepreneurs Gawley and Turner.

“This is our first venture, which we started as a student project, and diving head-first into the world of start-ups was incredibly daunting – especially after raising an investment round and hiring our first employees just months after graduating from university,” said Gawley.

This first funding round came from Get Invited’s initial investors, E-Synergy and the University of Ulster. The university’s investment also came with much-valued support and assistance in building the technology, while the team continues to receive mentoring from Tim Brundle, director of research and innovation at the university.

“We’ve also received a lot of help from Invest NI and other established, local entrepreneurs, who have given up their time to help us. We were very fortunate to receive 12 months of mentoring from Darren Craig, a highly successful and established entrepreneur who provided hands-on support and advice on a weekly basis,” said Gawley.

As well as a tremendous amount of support and resources, Gawley also believes the Irish tech scene benefits from the authenticity of its entrepreneurs.

Get Invited ticket QR code

“People are actually doing things rather than simply talking about ideas. There are few pretenders in comparison to some of the other tech cities I’ve visited,” he says.

That said, Gawley doesn’t recommend entrepreneurs fall into the trap of assuming their market will be here in Ireland.

“It’s very important to jump on a plane from time to time and perform customer validation and business development exercises in other markets, especially the United States, where things happen on a very different scale and competition is much tougher,” he advised.

A good team generates great ideas

Proving the power of US connections, Get Invited recently announced its biggest win to date: a partnership with Jason Calacanis, who is using the platform for his 10,000-delegate LAUNCH Festival in San Francisco next March and for his This Week in Startups LIVE TV show events.

“It’s a perfect partnership,” said Gawley.

“We are a relatively young company and the LAUNCH Festival is the best place in the world to present your start-up business, raise money and learn about starting a company.”

As is evident, Get Invited’s vision extends beyond the local, UK and even European market.

“We are expanding further into the US market and are keen to be involved in events of all types and sizes,” said Gawley.

Get Invited’s first year of business has been a whirlwind one.

“We closed a €225,000 seed investment round last November and, since launching in February, we’ve contracted €3.5m of tickets onto the platform from events running across Ireland, the UK, Europe and the United States,” said Gawley.

Gawley believes the secret to overcoming the enormous challenge that is building a start-up as a first-time entrepreneur, is having passion for what you’re building and to surround yourself with great people.

“You don’t need to have all the answers at the beginning, you just need to abandon fear, take the first step and figure things out as you go along. Having talented, positive and experienced people around you will limit your mistakes and give you the confidence and self-belief you need to move forward,” he said.

That team element is particularly crucial when it comes to generating new ideas.

“You also don’t need to have the best idea in the world at the beginning; you just need an idea with a viable market opportunity,” he said.

“The light-bulb moments with the really great ideas occur later on when you’ve built a great team of innovative people around you and give them to freedom to come up with better ideas than you ever could.”

For a young start-up, Get Invited already has the features of a robust and commercially viable platform with a loyal customer base (currently over 4,000). Now, they are raising a second, larger investment round to scale the technology and marketing on a much more widespread, global scale.

And so it looks like Gawley and co will be one step closer to that goal of world domination.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.