Finding people to talk to during a conference or convention is easy. You’re all in one room, you’re there with the same goals and intentions and meeting new people is one of the main reasons to attend. But, what about after? Do you go down to the hotel bar and hope to run into someone to have a drink or dinner with? Or do you go back your room and order room service? Alone.
Gathrd proposes another option. They urge conference and convention goers to use their app to connect with other attendees before, during and after the main event.
The Problem Being Solved
Gathrd wants to help users discover and create gatherings of people with similar interests while attending conferences, conventions, and other networking events. They are also trying to help local bars and restaurants reach people from out of town, and help sponsors and exhibitors reach more conference attendees by allowing them to sponsor gatherings.
According to Erik, “Professional networking is one of those things that some people do exceptionally well, and others fail at.” Current conference apps may help people find information, but when it comes to helping people network, he says they don’t offer much. “Networking is something that most everyone looks for while attending a conference, and it’s almost impossible for organizers to facilitate when it comes to thousands of attendees. I think there are a lot of opportunities in this space, but no one has been able to crack them yet.”
[Tweet “Networking is something most everyone looks for while attending a conference @gathrd via @startuplansing”]
Where the Idea Came From
Erik had the idea for Gathrd while attending Giant UX, a conference down in Charleston, South Carolina and was looking to grab a beer with a few fellow conference goers. “It took me over 2 hours, using several different services to find a place and get people to show up. At that point I knew there had to be a better way.”
He met Gathrd’s co-founders during a Startup Weekend Detroit event in November of 2014. After pitching the idea, completing an incredibly productive weekend and taking second place, they decided to stick with it.
Gathrd caters to three different users-
- People looking to network at conferences and conventions
- Bars and Restaurants looking to draw in customers from conferences and conventions
- Exhibitors trying to reach conference attendees
“While we’re focusing on three different customers, we’re actively pursuing attendees first in order to build our user base,” says Erik.
Erik says their biggest challenge is Traction. “Because we’re a social networking service that requires people who create and consume content, populating our system with content is the largest hurdle.”
To get past this problem, they’ve decided to seed the system with content from other services and will be rolling out this change to targeted locations (specifically Lansing and Detroit) early next year. “We’re hoping to be the place people go to look for a comprehensive list of tech and startup gatherings.”
When they first started, Erik says they hoped to solve a problem for one or two user groups, but, “we’ve done dozens of interviews with conference attendees, exhibitors, and venue owners, and all of them have said they’ve had a difficult time connecting. The fact that our proposed solution has resonated with everyone is really encouraging.”
Gathrd hasn’t raised any money to date because they’ve had a team that’s been able to execute in every department.
A year from now, Gathrd hopes to have enough paying customers to support a small, full-time team. “Because of our model,” says Erik, “scaling will be difficult to figure out, but in 3 years we really hope our service will be used nationwide.”
In five years, Erik is simply looking to sustain healthy growth.
Erik advises against going to straight to technology to start a successful business. “A low tech, non-scalable solution to prove the market and prove user acquisition is often the way to go. Often, successful companies like Product Hunt don’t start as a service, but as a mailing list or a simple website offering a simple product. You don’t need a scalable service built on AWS to get started. Figuring out product-market fit and ways to acquire customers should always come first.”