We talked to Marcus Newark of BarAdvisor about a platform where you can find bars and nightclubs that suits your mood and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Marcus Newark: Healthy, what is the most important thing in this chaos. Unfortunately, it has been extremely challenging mentally since my family is spread all over the world. My wedding in June was going to bring us all together but had to be canceled due to Covid. Our rescheduled wedding turned out to be just as stressful as a week before the event 95% of guests got put into lockdown. In general, I am extremely grateful because things could be a lot worse.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded BarAdvisor.
Marcus Newark: I have been working in sales and marketing since I was 14. I wrote my first business plan when I was 18 and started an attempt to raise $2m in the capital. My goals were a bit too big for an 18-year-old, so I stepped back and started looking for more attainable businesses.
In 2009, I closed down my reasonably successful online shop and decided it was time to live a little and travel the world. After two eventful years and over 200 cities visited, I noticed it was hard to find places for going out. Yes, there are 100s of directories, but most are quite useless or based on other people’s opinions. I found some of the best nights started from places that had terrible reviews and were hard to find online.
I started to think about the information I was after. I wanted real info about bars and clubs, such as happy hours, bands playing, and if they are going to suit my current mood.
Further, I began searching for domains, and the perfect one was still available- BarAdvisor.com & BarAdviser.com, so I snapped them up and tried to find a way to be different.
How does BarAdvisor innovate?
Marcus Newark: We want to change the way people find places to go out. At the moment people rely on other people’s opinions to find a place to go. We understand sometimes it is good to know what your neighbor thinks of the bar, but most of the time you want to find a place that suits you and your mood.
So, we created categories like Drink, Dance, Relax. These are the 3 main moods to choose from when you are going out. Plus, we focus on getting as much info about the bars and their events, so you can tell if the place has your vibe. Plus, we have some confidential features we will be adding later to help users even more.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Marcus Newark: Our target market has been badly affected because of COVID-19. Unfortunately, over the last 9 months, I have seen daily closures of bars and clubs. On the 1st of March 2020, we were meant to launch our BarAdvisor APP, but with the growing COVID-19 problem we thought we might hold off. We did not expect it to be 12 months, and we did not anticipate that 1000’s of our listings would not be around by the end of the year.
Now, with all the lockdowns, countries banning bars and nightclubs our target market is closed and lots are not going to re-open. We are watching bars close down every day, and it is absolutely heartbreaking to see all these people lose everything.
We are trying to do our best and help out as much as we can by promoting happy hours, events, and new bars. Keep hope that this year will be better for all of us.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Marcus Newark: Short answer is Yes!
By not launching the APP at the time, I knew it was going to create problems, and not having people searching for bars, clubs or happy hours meant our website traffic dropped by 80%.
Luckily, I have been able to work other jobs while this has been going on. Until there is a certainty with the industry, it is quite hard to make plans. The lesson learnt is to just take it day by day and concentrate on locations that are dealing better with the virus-like Australia.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and BarAdvisor in the future?
Marcus Newark: The thing that is stressing me out mainly is not knowing what tomorrow brings. If there is going to be another lockdown or if the bar we are reviewing today is going to be around tomorrow. The best way to deal with stress for me is going for a walk, it helps me to clear my head and find solutions.
I do believe BarAdvisor will excel in the future and be the best guide for planning your night out. It might take a bit longer than expected, but this is still the end goal!
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Marcus Newark: My competition varies from small, local directories to big guys. Everyone has been hit hard, especially the big guys, mainly due to the fact they spend millions on infrastructure and staffing. In a way, this is a great opportunity for BarAdvisor to excel since we do not have many overheads.
But, it is still a challenge to find funding because of the billion-dollar market being closed with no date to reopen.
Your final thoughts?
Marcus Newark: 2020 has shown us how important it is to have a rainy day fund. Seeing how quickly life can change we should all be more prepared for uncertain times and challenges. BarAdvisor has and will always have a good rainy day fund to keep us going. We have not grown in this time, but we have used our funds wisely and used the time to make improvements for once life gets back to normal.
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