As it expands its services and footprint, a local party-planning startup is beefing up its coffers for the second time this year.
OccasionGenius is working to close a fundraising round for up to $250,000 through a private placement. The effort follows a $500,000 round it completed in May in the form of convertible notes, all from local investors. It raised $150,000 in an initial round in 2016.
Founded in 2015 as PartyRVA, OccasionGenius is an online platform connecting event venues with businesses and event planners.
Founder and CEO Nate Marcus said the company plans to expand its offerings to more than just businesses. Last month it launched a “Stuff To Do” feature to help individuals find events.
“I don’t love calling it a pivot, but it’s kind of a strategy pivot … Date night is now the number one entry point for the site, meaning it’s what people are searching for online that leads to our site,” Marcus said.
“We learned people don’t like calendars for finding things to do. They said, ‘I want you to recommend things to me,’ similar to how Amazon or Netflix makes recommendations,” he said.
He said the firm is using a Facebook tool to aggregate events in a given area for users.
Browsing and posting events is free for users, and OccasionGenius earns revenue by charging vendors and venues to list their services on the site. It still offers directories for private events and corporate team building.
Marcus said the company is exploring a new revenue stream: licensing event info to dating apps. He said while dating apps help people find each other, OccasionGenius’ data will help couples find events.
“The problem (dating apps) solve is, ‘Who’s the love of my life, or who’s my love for tonight?’” Marcus said. “But the question remains, ‘What am I going to do with them?’ So (OccasionGenius) finds things that are likely for both to like.”
It likely will begin licensing to apps in a few months, he said.
OccasionGenius is operational in Richmond, Charlotte, Raleigh and Nashville, with plans to operate in Austin, Washington, D.C., and Orlando in the next three months. The new feature for individual events is only live in Richmond.
The startup has eight employees, six of which are based in Richmond at the Boulders office park. Marcus said he added to his staff sooner than expected, which in part prompted the new fundraising.
“The $250,000 will allow us to maintain the original runway (from the $500,000 round),” he said.
OccasionGenius was headed toward the black before closing the second raise.
“We were on track to become profitable before the raise, but when we raised we ended up spending a lot of money,” Marcus said.
After starting as a niche platform for Richmonders, Marcus said he’s embracing how the company has been in flux since launching.
“Starting out, we didn’t really know what we were taking on. The goal’s always been the place you go for any occasion, and that’s big, there are a lot of things,” he said.
“I didn’t think that our investors would have the enthusiasm they had to focus more on user traction and scale as opposed to revenue. I think we’d have to move slower and focus on revenue.”
Correction/clarification: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Occasion Genius charges businesses to list events. Posting events is free and the company makes money from vendors and venues paying to list their services. The company is also considering licensing event information to dating apps. It is not planning to license individual user information, as was initially reported.