REVL: An event discovery utility created by serial entreprenuers
Husband and wife team Jennifer Roebuck and Brandon Stephens have been together for over 18 years. Both veterans of Silicon Valley, each worked in a handful of startups in the 90’s. Once in the UK, they started the successful Mexican restaurant chain Tortilla. For this pair, starting businesses is not only a profession, but also a hobby. “There is always an idea brewing,” said Roebuck. “If there were 100 hours in a day (and money grew on trees), we would probably pursue 20 things.”
“Finding information was a task”
Based in London, the two were collectively frustrated by a lack of available information on what events were happening that aligned with their neighborhood and specific interests. “How you spend your leisure time is important,” said Roebuck. “Finding information was a task. It should be simple.”
Their research showed that while a few apps provided such a service for music, there was a gap when it came to the rest of the cultural scene. She and Stevens approached previous start-up collaborator, experienced entrepreneur, and friend Aryn Hurst-Clark, as well as a handful of “Webby award winning digital gurus” to build a prototype for a event discovery platform. In tandem, they approached brands to test if the concept had traction, eventually signing up over 500 of the UK’s top brands to help bring the vision to life. As the product developed, they began raising funds, garnering investment from people in the hospitality industry and others in their network.
“Solving one problem at a time”
As they built the prototype, Roebuck said it soon became apparent why a project such as this hadn’t been done before. “The data complexity is beyond challenging,” she said. “There is a reason Google does not index and display event data in a way that is easily digested and why so many apps take the manual approach to curating what is going on in a particular city. But we achieved our goal by solving one problem at a time.”
A one-stop event discovery utility
The team sought to create one-stop “event discovery utility” for consumers and a promotion platform for brands in entertainment and hospitality. The platform – called REVL – is now live and growing fast, with over 18,000 events listed. “We are a utility – not a publication, editorial app, ticketing platform or a UGC driven platform,” explained Roebuck. “We’re a step above a quick search on Google – Google’s data is temporal, often disappears before it can rank, and isn’t published. The cool stuff people really want to go to sits on boards outside venues, on flyers and sometimes on very old websites that rarely get updated.”
TechPitch 4.5 – supportive, helpful, and positive
REVL won TechPitch 4.5 Music, Media & Entertainment last month, an experience that Roebuck said was “supportive, helpful and positive,” particularly because of the event’s vertical focus.
“It was interesting for us to be involved in an event that is more entertainment focused,” she said. “We met some great people that night, and reconnected with a few – overall, time well spent.”
As veterans of the start-up ecosystem in the UK, how does Roebuck view the landscape now, especially in lieu of Brexit?
“The start-up ecosystem is great in the UK, especially London,” she said. “When you are just starting out, there are several groups, meetups and forums available. Even the global Slack communities are a great place to ask for help.”
However, she feels that funding – and attitudes towards it – is an area that could use improvement. “Coming from the US, we feel the UK funding community is more risk adverse,” she said. “They prefer smaller businesses that show profit within a brief period of “trading”. That all makes sense, but building for scale is often ignored, and we feel that is important.”
Roebuck also has a positive view of the future after Article 50. “Brexit has had an impact in terms of mood,” she said, but I think that has passed and everyone is just getting on with it.”
In addition, she believes that the European community is strong and wants to collaborate; since its launch Roebuck has been contacted by many EU companies who want to work with REVL. “Also, the UK entrepreneurial tax scheme is impressive,” she said. “As long as that is in place, angels will continue to consider investments in tech.”
Advice for start-ups
As founder of a handful of start-ups, what advice would Roebuck offer to someone wanting to start their own business?
“Work on something you are passionate about,” she said. “You will hit bumps in the road along the way and if you are not passionate about your space you will not have the drive to stick with it.”
She recommends recruiting people who truly love the start-up environment and to start a company with a partner. “Being a solo founder is tough,” she admitted.
In addition, she encourages start-up founders to talk to as many people as possible. “You never know where the next PR idea, collaboration or investor intro is going to come from.”
Find out more about REVL here.