Ben Hindman doesn’t consider Splash, his event planning software, a competitor to Eventbrite.
To the end user, it certainly feels like one. Both companies power email invites, ticketing, and RSVP lists for all manner of events. But to the customer—the people throwing events and sending the invites—the platforms are different. Where Eventbrite, which has raised $200 million in venture funding and processed more than $3 billion in gross sales, is positioned as a ticketing platform, the much-smaller Splash positions itself as a marketing platform for brands. “I would rather we were lumped with [marketing software company] Hubspot than Eventbrite,” says Splash CEO and co-founder Ben Hindman. He believes there is a difference between ticketed events, which begin and end with the event, and marketing events, which have larger goals like social awareness or community-building.
“Marketers get it,” Hindman says. “Eventbrite emails come from Eventbrite. That’s not cool if I’m a marketer.” Splash’s invites are customizable down to the font. Brands like Oakley and L’Oreal use Splash to create online “experiences” that mirror the care and branding that goes into the real-life events they represent. Afterwards, the Splash pages contain social content to keep the party alive. Hindman notes that marketers have sophisticated tools to manage things like social media and email. Splash provides tools for experiential marketing, which is in fact a thing. Advertising Age defines it as “messaging you can touch, feel or view in a physical space,” noting that ad budgets for this sort of thing are creeping upwards.
To spread the word about his platform, Hindman has raised a round of funding worth $6 million, led by Spark Capital. The company previously raised $1.7 million in funding. Splash recently hired Melissa Wallace as its vice president of marketing. Previously, Wallace helped build social media marketing platform Buddy Media, which sold to Salesforce.com (CRM) in 2012 for $689 million.
In its first three years, Splash grew by word-of-mouth adoption. Last month, Splash powered 20,000 events, a 144% increase over the prior February. Further, the company processed $1.3 million worth of ticket sales last month, a 121% year-over-year increase. The company has hosted more than 350,000 total events on its platform over the last three years. In 2014, Splash had north of $10 million in total revenue.
Splash makes money by charging a subscription fee to brands that regularly use its event-planning software. Anheuser-Busch (ABI) will use Splash for 80,000 events this year, Hindman says. Spotify will use it for hundreds of events. At this week’s South by Southwest festival in Austin, Splash will power 200 events. Pricing is based on the size of the brand’s community, and Splash has more than 100 subscription contracts with brands. As noted above, the company also makes money on ticket sales.
Hindman is no stranger to a good event. He previously the director of events at Thrillist, the New York-based media operation. He’s brought that vibe to his startup, which now has a team of 32. Splash’s internal content management system is hooked up to the office’s lighting system so that every time the company makes a sale, the lights turn green.