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VenueScanner, the digital marketplace with the largest choice of venues in the UK, has raised £800k in its opening round of seed funding, doubling its £400k target.
The ambitious start-up is on a mission to re-write the event-organising rulebook by creating a simpler, more transparent and affordable venue hire experience for both event organisers and venue owners.
Its vision is backed by investors across a range of sectors including Angel CoFund (funded by British Business Bank), Tom Singh (founder of New Look) and Phil Burks (founder of Big Yellow Storage).
The funds will be used to develop the site’s design and user experience as well as trialling new, innovative features with its ‘PA Members Club’ – a select group of its Personal and Executive Assistant customers whom help shape the company roadmap.
The investment will also be used to further support its nationwide roll out as it expands into one new major UK city each month.
Unlike competitors, VenueScanner was designed by two co-founders with deep experience in digital marketing and e-commerce and was built around one simple vision – to make venue discovery, search and booking as easy as Amazon makes shopping.
Rather than building a middle man or agency model, VenueScanner is developing a true marketplace for organisers as it offers a simple and affordable way to find and book venues. For venue owners, it provides a free digital marketing platform to drive their bookings, as well as real-time data to help them unlock the hidden value in their spaces.
Being automation and data-led, VenueScanner employs only a small team allowing it to pass savings on to customers in the form of the lowest commission fees per booking on the market. As the company grows, it will retain its modest, efficient team, and automated business model, enabling it to pass on its savings to its customers.
Founders Benjy Meyer and Rebecca Kelly have over 18 years’ experience in e-commerce and digital marketing respectively at major UK retailers. This has been integral in creating VenueScanner’s unique customer acquisition engine, one of the key factors in enabling it to acquire 10,000 venues in its first year.
The story so far…
The VenueScanner story began in 2015 when Rebecca and Benjy became frustrated by the inefficient and expensive venue booking systems they regularly encountered when trying to book office Christmas parties, team away days and workshops.
They found that the majority of the UK’s most interesting, unique and affordable spaces were hidden and barely discoverable, let alone bookable online. They set out to solve this with a focus on creating a self-serve platform, enabling direct interaction between event organisers and hosts.
By June 2016 VenueScanner was live. Using digital marketing and data automation expertise, Benjy and Rebecca were able to quickly grow their user base. Within four months VenueScanner had signed up over 3,000 spaces – a feat that many of its competitors took 2-3 years to achieve.
The site now boasts a choice of more venues than any other platform in the UK, which range from universities, museums, school halls, pubs, community buildings, hotels and many more. It has also received enquiries from the likes of Facebook, Sainsbury’s, Uber and Airbnb.
Rebecca Kelly, VenueScanner co-founder and former Head of Digital Growth at Majestic/Naked Wines said: “Digital marketing in the venue and events industry is still in its infancy, leaving a hugely exciting opportunity.
“We often see individual venues paying >£3 per click on google, with no guarantee of a booking. We’re here to help venue hosts reach high value audiences and connect with event organisers at low cost.
“With funding in place, we’re now able to fully potentialise our digital marketing expertise, rollout to venues nationwide and deliver an effortless online venue discovery experience for event organisers.”
Tom Singh, New Look founder and investor in VenueScanner said: “Rebecca and Benjy are enabling communication between organisers and hosts in a way that hasn’t been done before.
“They’re innovating the venue booking industry much like Skyscanner innovated the flight booking industry. I believe that in the not too distant future you won’t be able to have a meeting, event or celebration without checking VenueScanner first.”
Tim Mills, Investment Director at the Angel CoFund, a £100m investment fund, backed by the British Business Bank, said: “The challenge of navigating the marketplace for meeting spaces and events venues is a familiar one to many people and offers a great opportunity for a business that can ease friction for all of us when planning those important and special occasions.
“With VenueScanner the team’s vision of a simple, easy to use and comprehensive shopfront for thousands of places and spaces has really begun to take shape and is set to scale across the UK. At the Angel CoFund we always seek to invest in and support innovative UK businesses that have clear vision and the skills to take industries to the next level.
“As such we have been particularly impressed by the experience and drive of the VenueScanner team and look forward to them delivering the next stage of growth.”