They say that all of the fun happens after the planning ends. However, that shouldn’t be the case. Gather is here to add the fun back into event planning by putting your venue’s event calendar — and every detail that comes with it — all under one roof.
Founded in 2013 by Nicholas Miller, Alex Lassiter, and Tom Merrihew, Gather’s content relationship management (CRM) platform offers an easier way for businesses to manage their event reservations, catering, employees, and prospective leads. Even better, their newly released app helps event planners keep up with leads and manage their calendars on the go so you don’t miss a beat.
After growing organically for a few years, Gather received a $2.5 million round of Series A funding in January. Led by Storm Ventures, the funds will be used to grow its current user base, improve its product, and add some top secret projects to its roster.
Miller, co-founder and CEO, talks about growing Gather beyond organic reach, lessons he learned in the beginning, and his favorite feature of the new Gather app.
What is Gather’s main focus?
At a super high level, we focus on simplifying event planning for mid-market venues, so think restaurant, event menus, wineries, breweries, and their customers. The way that we do that right now is by providing an event management platform for restaurants and venues. It’s their one stop shop for everything they need to do to run a successful events program. Collecting leads all the way through sending out contracts, getting those signed, creating proposals, collecting payments.
How many employees do you have right now?
As of today, we’re at 37. (and hiring many more!)
Where did the idea come from?
It’s a long, winding story. Alex and I were, before this, consultants at a firm in Buckhead, right out of college. We were the lowest guys on the totem pole on our respective teams, and so we got asked to do a lot of random tasks. One of those tasks that kept coming up was, “Hey, can you plan this client dinner for 10?” Or, “Can you plan a business dinner for 20? A team event? Can you plan a mini conference?” We understood the pain points and how frustrating it is, especially if you’re in a new city, to go out and find options for a private dinner, collect information, venue, pricing, availability, privacy, all that good stuff.
We realized that there wasn’t a good solution for managing it on the venue side. We also knew that if we wanted to eventually build something that was customer facing, we’d have to get buy-in, and then a lot of just rich information like availability, for example, from the venue side to build exactly what we wanted.
What’s a lesson you learned early on when building Gather?
We made the mistake of building things before getting true feedback on what we were going to build. With Gather, we actually reversed that process. We knew our target market was going to be primarily event coordinators, director of sales, owners, and local businesses that held events. We had a group of five to 10 businesses and we showed them how it would work and helped them visualize exactly what that would be before we actually built any software. We pre-sold them the software and that was the right kind of validation we needed to assume we had some small level of product market fit.
You just received a round of $2.5 million, Series A funding in January. What are your plans for it as you expand?
We’ve already started using it, we started this year with 22 people and we have 37 today. We were in a really good spot financially in the last year. We were cash flow break even, and then we had some discussions around whether we want to grow organically or we wanted to actually take on some additional funding to grow faster than we could organically. We decided to do that, and so we’re just putting the money to use primarily just doing what we do well now at a larger scale.
You’re growing faster now, how are you maintaining company culture and making sure everybody is happy?
Culture is definitely something we actively talk about, especially as a leadership team. We keep a pulse on everything and keep a lot of the practices that we started early on, like we did a team lunch when we were a team of six. We just had lunch together every Friday. We do that now, just as a large team. We do an all-hands meeting every Friday, lunch is served, and then every department talks about what they’re working on.
We kept some of the fun, quirky practices that we had when we were smaller. We give out a trophy to people for the best meme of the week. A meme has been sent around on Slack. I think we’re trying to formalize some things around culture. Sara, who was our first employee and currently manages our CX team, is moving into a people operations role, so she’s really just going to focus on HR, recruiting, and then retention and culture.
What problem are you solving with Gather, and what do you think it’s going to be as you grow, the market impact of that?
If you come down to our core belief, we believe that planning life’s special events should be a seamless, fun process for everybody involved. That’s the problem we’re tackling today. It was very clear from the experience that Alex and I had, and then what we learned from event coordinators that we met locally in Atlanta, that on both sides of the equation, it was a difficult process to manage. From our perspective, we’re providing some simple, easy to use tools that make that process seamless, and then kind of fun, because events are fun.
Tell me about your recently launched site and app — how do they integrate back into Gather and its customers?
We just launched a new marketing site, which is exciting. We probably hadn’t refreshed that for almost two years. Super excited about that. We’ve taken a lot of what we learned over the last couple years and invested it there. I think with Caroline and Libby and Rachel, and our marketing team, we’ve been able to put out a lot of great content that prospects and customers will really enjoy. Then the mobile app is, to our best knowledge, the first time that an event coordinator at our venue set can actually manage their business on the go from a mobile phone. Obviously, we feel like it’s important for us to maintain a focus on being innovative in the industry, and mobile is a great place to do that.
What are the coolest features in the app that are helping out venues?
One of the big ones, and something we preach all the time, is get back to folks who inquire about booking with you as soon as possible. The app is really just designed around that. When a lead comes in, you can immediately check availability with a quick pop-up calendar and see if you can accommodate them for the night or whenever they requested. Then, you can use one of our e-mail templates and respond right then, making it super easy to respond back to folks. It’s really impactful in terms of winning that business, just getting back to people quickly.
How does Atlanta weave into Gather’s story so far?
Atlanta is great, it’s got an up and coming startup community, which I think is really nice. I like being a part of things that are up and coming. It’s got a much lower cost of living, which means that if you want to build a more organically-driven business, it’s typically much easier to do it here versus somewhere like New York or San Francisco where the cost of hiring and the cost of just supporting a team is much higher as a baseline. I think there’s a lot of great untapped talent in Atlanta. A lot of folks who work at bigger companies that are just now coming around to the idea that working in a smaller company, working at a growing company would be a lot of fun and an interesting experience.