What: eVenues.com, Mercer Island
Who: Nic Peterson, 27, co-founder
Mission: Connect people who want short-term, inexpensive meeting space with suitable venues for their event.
Employees: 3 full time, 4 contractors
Financials: The angel-funded company takes 13 percent of each transaction, and "has an advertising model we haven't activated yet," Peterson said. He predicts it could be profitable in two to three years.
Planned hookup: The on-the-fly format provides a midpoint between the isolating freelance experience and the often intrusive corporate setting. Matching unused space to people looking for a meeting place benefits everyone, according to Peterson. People looking for a place to work save money and hook up in more interesting places than an antiseptic hotel-conference room. People who need to establish a satellite office for occasional use are better off paying $35 a day for a comfortable desk in a downtown office building than leasing an entire office.
Frank assessment: Both sides must follow certain safety rules. In lieu of a deposit, renters leave a credit card to ensure against damage. Prospective landlords need to be on site to help clients gain access when they arrive. There are also certain standards. "We check the properties out," Peterson said. "We don't help the average Joe rent out his garage."
Room to move: "It's good to have flexibility in a meeting space," Peterson said. "There are a lot of available places that have historical significance, and people have no idea they exist. There are a lot of small common spaces that are affordable and pleasant, and their owners can earn extra money that can help them with expenses."
By Mitchell York, About.com Guide
The Internet has enabled countless business models, one of the most useful and popular being the online marketplace in which potential buyers of a product or service are matched with sellers who have inventory. Think of priceline.com for hotel rooms, LendingTree.com for mortgages, or elance.com for freelance and project management help, among many others.
A new entrant into the exchange market is Seattle-based eVenues.com, which provides a clearinghouse for available meeting, event and even desk space, inexpensively and on short notice. Like the other exchanges on the Web, eVenues solves a problem on both sides of the transaction, providing value for buyers and sellers.
"With the economy the way it is and more home-based businesses and freelance professionals entering the workforce, we know that people are seeking to break out of the traditional long-term lease obligations. Consumers are seeking attractive and affordable pricing in a changing environment, but until now there has not been a destination site where you can find such a thing," said eVenues co-founder Nic Peterson.
"From a venue provider level, we provide the tools necessary for any space owner to manage, market and rent their space efficiently and effectively," he noted. eVenues gets paid 13% of the value of the rental transaction. The company had originally rolled out its product nationally, but now is focusing more on the Seattle area before embarking on national aspirations. They want to enroll all kinds of "perishable" spaces like small yoga studios, boardrooms of law firms, and other spaces that can be turned into quick cash for their lessees and owners.
Peterson founded eVenues in 2008 with David Jennings, a long-time Microsoft executive. The two met at another Seattle company, DiscoverU. The business model at that firm was adult education classes held in various venues, like community colleges, that had capacity at various times of the day. From that experience, the two realized there was market potential to fill under-utilized space.
Peterson said the company is also looking into "white label" solutions in which it would create Internet storefronts for businesses to sell their perishable meeting and work space. For example, convention and visitors bureaus could brand their own site and use the service to fill excess meeting space inventory among their member hotels and other meeting venues. It also has plans to add a negotiation feature so that buyers and sellers can go below the published price of a meeting or work space.
eVenues, like many of its customers, is a lean and small startup. "We're an industry disruptor. So our biggest challenge is getting venues to see our vision." So far eVenues represents about 200 venues in 35 cities.
The company is bootstrapping its early development but is looking to raise outside capital to finance growth.