It’s no secret that most people in the startup world aren’t expected to dress in business casual anymore. T-shirts and sneakers are the new normal — but what if the normal was settling into your desk and seeing a clown working to your right and a giant panda to your left?
That’s what’s normal at Everfest, an Austin-based startup that just emerged from stealth mode Friday, announcing a $1.5M investment with its official launch. Founder Paul Cross likens the platform to a hybrid of Tripadvisor and IMDB for festivals across the globe.
Cross is no stranger to tech — he sold his event ticketing startup TicketBud in 2012 and headed out to do some traveling. As he experienced different festivals across Europe, he saw the need to digitally bring people together for these offline experiences. As a poet, he had an interest in the arts he’d never lost after years in mobile development and tech.
He connected with Jay Manickan (founder of uShip) and Brad Dixon (a longtime uShip exec) and the three set out to fill the void — and have a lot of fun doing it.
Back to that clown and that giant panda
The three founders have made culture a top priority, one that for them means hiring an in-house costume seamstress so their employees can have fun with their office attire. At SXSW, the team even ordered a custom bunny suit, which would become a mascot of sorts named Sunny.
“You’ll walk in [to the office] and you’ll see a clown or a giant panda, just on an average Monday,” Cross said, who himself tends to go with a wizard-themed outfit. “We’ve got to return the world to that, to the fun.”
While the world trends more digitally every day, their mission is to never lose the offline experience. As Cross saw festivals becoming more and more of a trend across the globe, he understood why this service could be helpful to communities and people everywhere. “You and I are becoming more and more digital over time and we need these celebrations of physical connectedness with each other," he said. "If we don’t have them we become more and more virtual.”
The online calendar and search engine is currently in its first phase, aggregating thousands of festivals into one place, focusing this year primarily on North America. The second phase, Cross said, will roll out in the next two months and will focus much more on what they call “revelers.” Revelers are those that attend the festivals, and they should look forward to discounts, benefits and perks from being part of the Everfest community.
Festivals are categorized into 12 types, though Cross said music, film and food & wine are the most popular (in that order). Festivals are uploaded by their automated system, and festival organizers can upload information as well.
They closed their angel round at $1.5 million with help from uShip’s founders, ATX Seed Ventures and Google angels, as well as Bob Kagle of Benchmark Capital, who was an original uShip backer. They plan to raise a larger Series A in 2016.
For now, they’re focused on the next phase of the platform and growing their company in the incredibly unique way they think works. Cross wants the company to be his legacy company, and said doing something he truly cares about should make that possible.
“Make sure that whatever it is that you’re constructing, it’s something that you’re really passionate about, as cliche as that is,” Cross said. “If you step back and look at what you would do, if you would do it for free, that’s what you should be working on in your life.”
By year-end they hope to grow their 16 person team to around 25 employees, focusing largely on mobile engineers and marketing. They’re currently located in the heart of downtown Austin, but will likely move in Q4 to a larger space to accommodate rapid growth.
“Culture is a big part of what we do,” Cross said. “No one founder can get there without a team.”
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