While many new online conferencing sites are striving to move meetings online and obviate the need for travel, SeeUthere.com takes a different tack.
The site does its best to recognize the analog world and include those who may not be plugged in. With this in mind, they hope more people will attend its events and make them more successful.
The company, based in Mountain View, Calif., is seeking a niche between existing product categories. It seeks to streamline events, yet does not qualify as an event planning service. Rather, as founder and CEO Joe Chen explains, it offers the tools that will keep such planning on track.
“Our main focus is to provide an end-to-end event planning tool,” he said. “We provide an enterprise scale application to accomplish this.”
Customers still take responsibility for much of the process. They supply the names to be contacted, and must make the reservations for the physical site themselves. SeeUthere doesn’t hire the caterer, so if the food is horrible you can’t pass the buck. Rather, it makes contact with the target audience, whatever their location, and manages their responses. The company also creates a Web page devoted to the event, accessible in order to handle all the participants’ needs.
While the company is now targeting corporations of all sizes, the idea originated to help the volunteers for service organizations who are stuck with the impossible job of planning an event for which there is no budget to pay the planner.
“You can really burn yourself out doing this,” he said. “Associations have trouble getting people to repeat, and I’ve even seen a couple of groups go under because they couldn’t get anyone to plan their events. I’ve been through this myself, I’ve even gotten diarrhea from licking the envelopes.”
SeeUthere.com will lick your envelopes for 75 cents each. Postcards cost 45 cents, faxes are 20 cents and they will receive RSVPs for 20 cents a minute. They also act as a donation or admission price collection facility, taking $1 plus 4.75 percent as a fee (they collect the funds and then cut you a check after the event occurs).
“I’m glad they decided to stress the corporate market,” said Aberdeen Group analyst Katherine Jones. “There are a lot of companies that will be eager to outsource this kind of activity.” While she likes the company’s business model, she points out that the company must gain significant name recognition in order to stand above the competition. “The key is the ability to rise to the top, so when you think of planning an event their name immediately comes to mind,” she said.
The first round of venture capital, $3.7 million, finished in March from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, AsiaTech Ventures, and Acer Technology Ventures. The company is currently midway into its second round of funding.
Chen calls the fundraising process “interesting,” and admits the timing of the upcoming round may be a little off. “All of the investors are interested,” he said. “But there are a lot of IPOs going on, and this will make the second stage of our funding go a little longer. So there are a lot of people looking for a 100x return instead of the 20x that we offer.”
Soon enough, everyone will be online, But until Internet connections and electronic mail become ubiquitous, it may be necessary to step into the real world in order to get people to come to their events. SeeUthere.com may become a wise option, unless you really like to lick envelopes.
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