Interview conducted by Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine
CEOCFO: Mr. Peeler, what is SpinGo Solutions?
Kreg: SpinGo is an event engine. We aggregate all the best event content in the United States, merge it into a database and then serve that out as a utility to media publishers, app developers and event websites that are interested in displaying local events happening in their area.
CEOCFO: How do you put it all together?
Kreg: First of all, there is a tremendous amount of content that happens every day in the United States. We have come up with the formula, and usually there is a ratio of one event per every 1,000 people happening every month. If you take the United States population of slightly more than 310 million people, that would be 310,000 events happening every month. It is not like a business directory where when a pizza shop or taco shop opens, that business has some shelf life. Event content is very perishable, so you have to gather that content every day. For us, we process over 150,000 events every month, which is what we consider the content that would be in the top three tiers basing with the major events. There is a lot of work to manage that amount of content and continually verify and process and categorize all that information, so we have built tools to do that.
CEOCFO: Give us an idea of what goes into getting the content. What is something people would not realize is a source?
Kreg: First of all, we ingest feeds from trusted ticketing sources, whether it is AEG, Bandsintown, or Ticketfly. We receive these feeds and then we bring them into our system. We have a tool called The Event Engine® that takes all that content and merges the values, so we take the best headlines, descriptions, images, and links to third party websites. We put all those together to comprise the actual event listing, and the other source that we receive an increasing amount of content from is the public. Every one of the 40,000 public submissions are reviewed by our team every month, and those are coming from all these different websites. For example, you might go to the U-T San Diego website, San Francisco Gate or Boston.com, and all those publications have a lot of users that are browsing their entertainment section. If they want to include their own event, they click “add an event,” and then submit the details to the system, where it is seen and reviewed by our team here. We also merge that with existing entries from other sources.
CEOCFO: Are there certain events you would choose not to list?
Kreg: We typically only list events open to the public. We do not have business meetings, family reunions or closed school events. We do not have classes typically. Things that are open to the public could be a class or a workshop at a college, or if it is a business event like a conference that anybody could walk in and join the association if they are interested. Typically it is something that is open to the public and of interest to 100 people or more. As far as the whole range of content, we do have explicit content. We allow the individual publishers to choose how they want to allow that. Some of them can block the content and make it only a family friendly experience. There are other more alternative lifestyle newspapers and magazines that choose to display all kinds of things with the content as well. We actually have everything in our system, so we have a categorization and tagging system that allows them to target and highlight the content that they want for their demographic.
CEOCFO: Are there many services similar to yours?
Kreg: There are a lot of places where you can find event content, but it has been our experience that none of them are comprehensive in nature. For example, you can go to Ticketmaster and see all of the events that are ticketed with Ticketmaster. You can go to another smaller community website that gathers all the local farmers markets, but by most measures none of those systems are comprehensive. We try to be agnostic and really have the widest breadth of content across all the categories and all the different sources. One of the big distinguishing factors is that about 60% of our content is free to attend, whereas if you were to go to a ticketing website, all of their events use their ticketing service. We do not have anybody who we would consider a direct competitor.
CEOCFO: Who is using your service?
Kreg: Collectively, if you look at all the users of all the different partner websites, there are 198 million monthly users of an aggregate of all those event calendars and those entertainment sections of the different websites. As I mentioned, we partner with Boston.com, San Francisco Gate and a total of 1,200 different media websites and app developers. We have partnerships with Yelp where they have apps that display our content as well. We are really like the event utility company in the sense that we provide the content and they figure out what they want to do with it and how they want to use it. It is up to them to determine what is going to create the best user experience for their users.
CEOCFO: What is your business model?
Kreg: We charge a monthly licensing fee to those who want to license the content from us, but we also make the majority of our revenue off of the promoters themselves. With event promoters, let us say, for example, that they are a group that performs across the country. As they perform, they actually pay SpinGo to promote and highlight their event in those app websites so that they get additional interest in their event. About three months ago, we transitioned to the point where the majority of our revenue was coming from the event promoters rather than the licensees, and that has been a very healthy growth in our business. We forecast that that will become 80% to 90% of our revenue. It is actually those who are now wanting to display their events and grow awareness for their upcoming shows who are using this distribution network that we have built.
CEOCFO: What was the tipping point?
Kreg: We hit critical mass. In about November, we had enough media partnerships that we were able to garner the interest of major event promoters. In November we started reaching out more aggressively to those who were adding events to our system for free and letting them know that they could pay for additional exposure. We also started reaching out to a lot of ad agencies, music festivals, themed runs and groups that were interested in that type of promotion. They started spending more money with us.
CEOCFO: How are you reaching these various parties?
Kreg: Social media has been a success for us. We do a lot with Twitter, Facebook, and email messaging, and we have lists of people who we want to reach. The main source of the leads for event promoters has been those who come to us directly. Because we have built relationships with these trusted news authorities, the event promoters will come in to the Boston.com website and they will add their event because they want to be on Boston.com. What they do not realize is that as a side effect, they also get included in our entire network. They are part of the entire SpinGo distribution platform. We have more than 40,000 leads that come to us every month asking us to get promotions because they are basically adding their event for free, and they are highly interested in building awareness for their event or for their cause.
CEOCFO: What is your geographic reach today?
Kreg: We have all 50 states covered. We have at least four partners in every state, and it is a total network of 1,200 different partnerships. We have 60 or 70 in California, and 40 or 50 in New York. Partnerships across the country will continue to grow, and we have a lot of demand for us to expand to Canada and Europe, and we look to do that in the next 18 months.
CEOCFO: How do you incorporate non-traditional events?
Kreg: It is a continual challenge for us. We actually go out and gather tier one and tier two content, which are the major sporting events, the major music festivals and concerts, theater shows and similar groups. We will go out, gather and curate that, because that is content that we consider important. A lot of the other stuff comes to us by public submissions. One of the things that is challenging is we might say no on an event, but some of our immediate partners actually say they want the acupuncture classes on there, so they can actually approve it for their website. It goes back to those categories and tags. Each partner can display what they want. For example, we have a partner in Boulder, Colorado, that is exclusively music events. They only have the local bands and concerts that come through their city. There is another publication that is general interest, and the want everything in there. They want to be a community bulletin board of everything happening in their community, so they let everything through. You will really see those two extremes. If you are on SpinGo.com, you actually see everything as well. It is basically the master repository, but you will see a different subset of content if you were to go to one of our partner sites.
CEOCFO: Are there tools or guidelines you are able to help users with or is it much more self-service?
Kreg: We can give them some guidance. When we form a new partnership, we spend quite a bit of time going through the process especially with larger partners. We will talk to them about their demographic, what they want to be known as, what their identity is as a brand, and we will have one of our account executives work through that with them and make recommendations. All of our content is categorized with more than 400 different tags, so we will explain how that logic is mapped or routed, and they can allocate that in a way that makes sense for their audience. Ultimately they do have control to go in and change it after we make those recommendations, and we can always make adjustments and refinements to their categorization. That is something that is an ongoing process, and a lot of them are changing every month how they want to highlight certain content or focus on different things.
CEOCFO: What have you learned since you started? How is SpinGo better today?
Kreg: One thing is that it is always an evolution. Nothing is ever done, and the best way to get started is to just jump in and start trying things. Start talking to potential customers and end users and figure out what they want and then make adjustments and go back and talk to them again. I found by most measures people are excited to work with somebody who brings new ideas to the table. As long as you keep bringing new ideas, even if they may not be the perfect ideas, people are still interested in talking with you. We have learned not to get discouraged but to keep adapting and refining what makes things a good product for all the parties, whether it is a publisher, end user or event promoter. We have learned how to give them tools and products that make them excited to use it.
CEOCFO: Are you funded for your next steps? Are you seeking investment?
Kreg: We are seeking new investment, but we raised a $4 million series A in September, and we are now pursuing a $15 million series B.
CEOCFO: How would you like to utilize the funds?
Kreg: We are building up the sales team. One thing we have not really done is focus on a large sales effort, so we are recruiting a sales executive now who has a lot of experience building very capable sales teams. We are also doing a lot more PR, marketing, and thought leadership. We are spending more time at conferences and letting people know that our product is intended to be a platform and a resource for them to build awareness in the communities, whether it is a publisher or an event evangelist who really wants to build publicly for their cause or event. We are generally going to be more active in the community and spend more time really understanding what our customers’ needs are.
CEOCFO: Put it all together for our readers. Why pay attention to SpinGo today?
Kreg: We believe events should be experienced and that there are a lot of great things happening in our communities that we have missed. SpinGo wants to be known as the facilitator that helps people have great experiences in their life.