Our Start-up of the Week is TurnedSee, a business platform for corporate marketing managers who require unique spaces around Europe for conferences, gala dinners, incentives and other events.
Rather than directing event professionals to standard, nondescript hotel conference rooms or forgettable restaurant spaces, TurnedSee has built a directory of remarkable locations for conferences and events of all sizes.
Founder Pauline Kwasniak put it simply: “TurnedSee users care much more about branding and special experiences than standard meeting rooms.”
TurnedSee lists a varying range of venues that includes hotels, castles, theatres and museums. At present, its website is highlighting a rooftop restaurant in Athens overlooking the Zeus Temple and the Acropolis; a historic amphitheatre in Georgia; and a 35th-floor meeting space in Poland that offers a spectacular view of the Baltic Sea.
TurnedSee’s primary goal is to offer each client an impressive, high-quality and memorable venue to host their business events in.
For the last 10 years, Kwasniak has been working in event management and with tour operating companies. In 2015, she decided to start her own venue-sourcing and events-hosting company, which she called Hotel4meetings. Here, she provided services and advice to McDonald’s, Saudi Arabian oil company Saudi Aramco and communication software company Broadsoft, among others.
Kwasniak was still determined to find a gap in the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and events) market, believed to represent 50pc of all business travel activity worldwide and be globally worth about $1.2trn.
It became clear to her that there were plenty of people seeking something extra from their event spaces, but very few places in which they could find a comprehensive list or database of these locations.
Last year, in an interview with The Mice Blog, Kwasniak explained exactly why no such database existed: “There is no automated and personalised solution that relieves planners from the pain of researching and comparing unique venues. On the other side, hotels and venues lack an online solution for personalised marketing and engagement of high-value corporate clients within the MICE industry. Venue-sourcing agencies are more interested in higher-value commissions, rather than supplying unique ideas to their clients.”
Adding some more appeal to the TurnedSee service, Kwasniak said it offers unique information. She elaborated: “We have developed our own discovery processes to extract the most valuable information from our members’ venues. That way, the information and content found on our platform cannot be accessed anywhere else online. Corporate planners would have to search and call various venues for days to find out the specifics, which we provide in a few seconds. This helps our corporate clients use the events spaces fully.”
When asked about the biggest challenge she has faced to date, Kwasniak said it is probably the fact that she is a female founder. “I do think women still have to work twice as hard to receive the same industry trust and recognition,” she admitted.
Despite that, TurnedSee is doing exceptionally well. It has 120 corporate users (including Fortune 100 companies) and, if all goes to plan, the company will have 800 venues by the end of 2019.
Kwasniak said the company is not in a position where it needs to spend time actively seeking investors. “We already have paying clients and a great industry position. We have developed strong marketing channels and have more than 3,000 contacts with whom we communicate weekly. We have an in-house technology team.”
That said, she’s not completely averse to accepting funding. “We are open to offers from investors who have specific industry experience and understand our vision. It would have to be someone special who is passionate about the industry and the luxury service.”
One of the most important tools Kwasniak’s business uses is Mbooked. “As we organise and advertise a lot of events, I wanted a tool that would help me to easily sell event tickets. However, at the same time I wanted to use the newest digital marketing tools – such as affiliate marketing, LinkedIn Insight Tag and Google Analytics – to help me. I was delighted to find Mbooked.com, which does all of the above and is also connected to Stripe.”
Kwasniak views the Irish start-up scene as a brilliant place to cultivate her vision. “Ireland is a fantastic country for start-ups, with many great professionals always happy to advise you. I, for one, have been getting great help and support from the travel technology community via Travel Massive Dublin.”
Travel Massive Dublin may be a good starting point for people entering this industry, but Kwasniak’s most important bit of advice for anyone starting a business in Ireland, or even in Europe, is to become a digital marketer.
She said: “In this world, you cannot just be a founder. You cannot just provide a product or technology. You have to become a media company in your specific industry. This is a fantastic opportunity, but it’s also a challenge.”
Want stories like this and more direct to your inbox? Sign up for Tech Trends, Silicon Republic’s weekly digest of need-to-know tech news.