Kasper Larsen, CEO, and founder of Evendo tells us about the online events marketplace and the impact of Covid-19.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Kasper Larsen: The pandemic puts a toll on all people around the World. Personally, my family and I are privileged to be able to maintain a reasonably “normal” life. However, the absence of social interactions with friends, family, and colleagues due to lockdowns and travel restrictions is naturally something we feel – as any other. I think we are all looking forward to the days, where we can – once again – socialize with the people we love and care for.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Evendo.
Kasper Larsen: I think I would be described as a serial entrepreneur. Originally in Management Training at the headquarters of A.P. Moller/Maersk, the biggest shipping company globally, my keen interest in IT took me to the industry in the mid-’90s. In 2001 I co-founded the software company Sitecore – a rare, Danish Unicorn – which I took from scratch to a market-leading position in 40+ countries. Sitecore was sold to EQT at EUR 1bn+. After leaving Sitecore, I bought my way into another Danish software company, which later – after significant growth – was sold in a trade sale to a Canadian competitor. Since then, I have been the founder and co-founder of several tech-related companies – including the award-winning bike-share solution Go bike.
I have always been keen on things that could make people’s lives easier and improve their quality of life. In the digital age we live in, it is the moments we share with friends, family, and colleagues that connect us as individuals – and each year, hundreds of millions of smaller events, such as Teambuilding or a Bachelor Party, are being organized, creating memorable moments to share. However, the process of organizing, finding the right products from the right suppliers, booking everything, making sure there are no loose ends is time-consuming and frustrating. With Evendo, we set out to make it as easy and hassle-free as booking a hotel, which most people are familiar with. The result would be an efficient and easy experience, allowing organizers and participants to focus on what it is all about: The social interaction.
We soon learned that the Event market is far less automated than other industries, a.o. because of the nature of the suppliers, who are still operating in an “analogue” way with phone and e-mail being their primary means of communication. So, to achieve our end goal, we first had to come up with a way to automate the interaction between organizers, participants, and suppliers.
Today, Evendo is everything you need to arrange better events and celebrations. Combining the World’s biggest marketplace for Event-related products with a suite of easy-to-use tools allows the user to choose between 100,000’s of bookable activities, experiences, venues, restaurants, transportation, party equipment, and motivational speakers, and entertainers from 50,000+ suppliers across 35 countries. For the Suppliers, Evendo provides an eco-system, which allows them easy access to customers – and even to “test” new products and ideas in front of a wide audience. As everything is automated, we basically allow them to focus on their passion: their business.
How does Evendo innovate?
Kasper Larsen: In its core, Evendo helps smaller providers of great experiences, venues, restaurants, limo-drivers, etc. reach an audience who wants their products – a “matchmaking” which is often hard to do for them individually in a World where Google is the typical entry-point for any action even in the physical world. We provide them an infrastructure to operate their business, reach more customers, and thus focus on their interest: Providing the best possible experiences to their customers – and making as many people as happy as possible. For the customers, Evendo provides an easy portal to a World of such great experiences. Each year, hundreds of millions of smaller events are being organized. Each of these is accompanied by a lot of wasted time and frustrations during the attempts to find and book the right products and experiences to make your event memorable.
With Evendo, this interaction is fully automated for all the parties involved. Suppliers can easily make their products available to a wide audience. Event organizers can simply state what they are looking for, where, when, and for how many – and Evendo displays experiences and products matching these exact criteria. Naturally, booking them is just a single click. If organizers are looking to structure a full-day event, the EvendoPlanner offers a unique efficiency in doing so by allowing them to easily structure the day and populate it with relevant products. We then auto-generate the event programme, keep track of the budget, calculate travel times between locations, etc. – all to help to ensure there are no loose ends.
We even help the participants in an event to a great event experience by removing stress and paperwork. Our EvendoGO app guides the participant through the itinerary, alerts when it is time to move towards the next location (as we automatically calculate transportation time), etc. Fully integrated with the EvendoBEAT universe for suppliers, this provides a seamless and contactless experience throughout the day.
Lately, we have been working closely with some of our suppliers in developing a universe for “virtual experiences.” Our goal in this has been to provide experiences, which will allow people to maintain social relations even during lock-down and isolation periods. It turns out, virtual experiences can be really exciting as well – and we are extremely proud of the virtual escape rooms, virtual cookery classes, and other amazing virtual experiences.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Kasper Larsen: The entry of Covid-19 put an effective hold on anything related to hospitality – and thus also to all kinds of events, which is what Evendo caters for. At the time, we had just launched in the United Kingdom and were on a nice trajectory towards further growth. This, naturally, forced us to re-evaluate all our plans and prognosis, and we were basically left with two options – which can be neatly described by the adage “When there’s a storm, some people build shelters – and others build windmills.”
Like most others, we hope – and expect – the pandemic to end at some point. We are also firm believers that the need and demand for social interactions will increase when the World moves back towards normality. We decided to try and position ourselves to help people achieve and facilitate this “resurrection” of social activities by providing easy access to as many memorable experiences as possible, making it easier for people to focus on what it is all about: Their friendships. Their colleagues. Their family.
In close cooperation with our investors, we developed a plan, which allowed us to “build windmills” rather than just “sit it out.” As a result, Evendo has – during the year of the pandemic – grown from a presence in a few markets to now providing almost 1 million great experiences from 50,000+ suppliers across 35 countries – all ready to book with a few clicks.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Kasper Larsen: The uncertainty about the future, and the sudden stop to all demand for services related to social interactions, forced us to not only revise our growth plans but also have a close look at our expenses. Like many other companies, we had to say goodbye to a small number of good colleagues as part of a cost-cutting exercise – and sadly add “double Covid-19 pressure” to these. However, had we not made these tough decisions, chances are Evendo would not have been here today. So, it has all been a matter of survival for the company – while figuring out how to make the best use of the time during the pandemic.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Kasper Larsen: There are many solutions offering organizers of bigger events, conferences, etc., to manage participants, sign-ups, etc., and even to help the participants through a tight programme of speakers and venues. And many of these solutions are great for that purpose.
However, the smaller events appear to be largely neglected – although the burden for the organizer is often even bigger. It is typically a single person. It could be a PA in a department in a larger company, with no budget for external assistance, no real experience in the field – and with no time allocated for it in the job description. Hundreds of millions of such smaller events are organized every year, both in the professional and private sphere.
As this is largely uncharted territory at this point, we don’t see direct competition. Those who do address the same market, we prefer to regard as partners instead of competitors, as we all share the same goal: To automate the industry and make life easier for suppliers, organizers, and participants – and ultimately, help suppliers grow, and participants have more memorable experiences to share with friends, family, and colleagues.
With our current position, with global coverage, a high level of automation, and the biggest inventory anywhere in the industry, we feel we are well-positioned to also withstand competition as it arises in the future. And there is no doubt it will.
Your final thoughts?
Kasper Larsen: For us with smaller businesses, I think it is all a “survival game.” However, I also feel we are somehow “obligated” to all fight for survival – as we need to provide a reasonably normal world for people to return to once the pandemic is over. If we all fold, the consequences for humanity will be even greater.
Therefore, I would encourage all business owners to not give up and continue to look for ways to get through this. We all know it is not easy – and is not going to be easy at any point. But, if we succeed, the World might be a better place “on the other side”. After all, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”!
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