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How SpinGo is Building a Dynamic Events Engine Powered by Local Communities and Human-Verified…

It’s more than event calendars, it’s more than just things to do, it’s more than just helping an event promoter promote. It’s about mapping the when of local.

Researching the number of startups trying to tackle the event space can be pretty overwhelming. (Just check out this Pinterest board.) There seems to be no shortage of companies attempting to become the next Eventbrite, with the hopes of revolutionizing the way events are discovered and promoted. After recently raising $2 million in a Series A investment round led by Prelude, a private investor conduit for investors closely related to Mercato Partners, SpinGo seems to have as good of a chance as anybody to usher in the new era of event promotion.

The Draper-based startup has already partnered with more than 1,000 media companies across the nation, which has allowed it to power the calendars of some of the biggest news organizations in the country. The Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, and countless others have turned their event calendars over to SpinGo.

“We provide the interface and we power it,” said Tyler Dixon, SpinGo’s Director of Marketing, in an interview with Beehive Startups at the company’s headquarters in Draper. “What that means is we’ll go out and find all of the content, and make sure the content is up-to-date, fresh, and accurate. All of our content is touched by a human at one time, so it’s verified to make sure that it’s accurate information.”

SpinGo believes its focus on human-verified, accurate content sets the company apart from its competitors.

“I would say our main differentiator, number one, is that we have human-verified content,” said Dixon. “There are others out there that scrape the internet for content and you’ll find all kinds of bad information.”

To this point, SpinGo isn’t directly competing with companies like Eventbrite and Meetup because it has focused most of its efforts on working with and building meaningful relationships with promoters to help them market events to local communities, rather than providing a ticketing service.

The Guy To Know

SpinGo Founder and CEO Kreg Peeler

While pursuing a degree in sound design at BYU, SpinGo CEO and founder Kreg Peeler somehow found himself in charge of all of the support for on-campus events. This gave him access to event and sound equipment, a board with information on every event happening on campus on any given week, and keys to any building on campus. Basically, he was the guy to know.

“I would go back to my apartment and my roommates would be sitting on the couch just channel surfing, and I’d say, ‘What are you guys doing?’ They’d say, ‘There’s nothing going on tonight, Provo sucks.’ And I was like, ‘I just set up eight awesome shows between sporting events, theatre shows, comedy shows, concerts, battle of the bands, how is there nothing going on tonight?’ They go, ‘Where would we know about that stuff?’ There really wasn’t a good place,” said Peeler.

Peeler has been trying to help people better understand what local events are happening in their area for a long time. Prior to founding SpinGo, and before YouTube was a thing, Peeler owned a media production and event support company that produced and distributed a DVD containing an event calendar guide and videos promoting local companies and restaurants. The DVD was distributed to 20,000 BYU students living on campus, and, because the typical dorm room housed four people, had an estimated reach of more than 80,000 students.

One of the most popular features on the DVD was something called Spin-A-Date.

“You could push a button and it would come up with a random combination of a place to go for a date, then a restaurant to go to for dinner, maybe something to do afterwards, and they were all found on the disc,” said Peeler.

The When of Local

With SpinGo, Peeler is trying to solve more than just ideas for date night.

“It’s more than event calendars, it’s more than just things to do, it’s more than just helping an event promoter promote,” said Peeler. “All those things are really important, they’re part of the mission, but really it’s about mapping the when of local.

“If you were to talk about SpinGo in terms of the tech space, you know, define what Google Maps does. They map the where of local, they map the where of everything, basically. What is eBay’s mission? Well, they’re the marketplace of stuff, right? And so you need to find these really abstract lame descriptions of what things are, and this is our lame description. The when of local. Everything that’s happening has a location, and it has a who and a why, but nobody is really mapping the when, and the when is extremely critical because if you’re doing a location-based ad at the wrong time of day it’s totally irrelevant. Maybe I’m in New York and you’re sending me deals for the sandwich shop down the street in Draper. Totally irrelevant. So you need to know where I am and what I’m doing at that moment, so that is what our mission is.”

Lame or not, “the when of local” isn’t the worst startup tagline in the world. Digging deeper, Peeler said SpinGo’s mission will be to support — not create — local communities by providing event calendars tailored to their interests and unique geographical area.

“The calendars all come with a built-in audience,” said Peeler. “They’re already there: bike lovers, animal lovers, whatever, they’re already there, you’re not going to form new communities, you’re just giving them the tools to actually communicate. They’re already part of a community.”

In his book What Would Google Do?, author Jeff Jarvis writes about attending Davos in 2007 when the head of a powerful news organization asked a young Mark Zuckerberg how his company could create a community similar to Facebook. Here’s an excerpt:

I sat, dumbfounded, in an audience of executives at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum International Media Council in Davos, Switzerland, as the head of a powerful news organization begged young Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, for his secret. Please, the publisher beseeched him, how can my publication start a community like yours? We should own a community, shouldn’t we? Tell us how.

Zuckerberg, 22 at the time, is a geek of few words. Some assume his laconicism is a sign of arrogance — that and his habit of wearing sandals at big business conferences. But it’s not. He’s shy. He’s direct. He’s a geek, and this is how geeks are. Better get used to it. When the geeks take over the world — and they will — a few blunt words and then a silent stare will become a societal norm. But Zuckerberg is brilliant and accomplished, and so his few words are worth waiting for.

After this publishing titan pleaded for advice about how to build his own community, Zuckerberg’s reply was, in full: “You can’t.”

Full stop. Hard stare.

He later offered more advice. He told the assembled media moguls that they were asking the wrong question. You don’t start communities, he said. Communities already exist. They’re already doing what they want to do. The question you should ask is how you can help them do that better.

His prescription: Bring them “elegant organization.”

Let that sip of rhetorical cabernet roll around on the palate for a minute. Elegant organization. When you think about it, that is precisely what Zuckerberg brought to Harvard — then other universities, then the rest of the world — with his social platform. Harvard’s community had been doing what it wanted to do for more than three centuries before Zuckerberg came along. He just helped them do it better. Facebook enabled people to organize their social networks — the social graph, he calls it: who they are, what they do, who they know, and, not unimportantly, what they look like. It was an instant hit because it met a need. It organized social life at Harvard.

Empowering communities to communicate, engage, and grow has made a lot of internet entrepreneurs gobs of money. By focusing on human-verified content, rather than taking the easy way out and scraping the internet for random local events, SpinGo has the potential to turn Peeler into one of those aforementioned entrepreneurs.

“I believe any time you scrape, no matter how smart you are about scraping, you’re too late,” said Peeler. “The fact is somebody already published it to the internet, the question is why didn’t they publish it to you? If we are the definitive event source, why are they publishing it to some other site? And so we’re actively working on some ideas where we’re actually providing the tools to the venues, the promoters themselves, so they don’t even think about adding it anywhere else. If they want to add it to their blog or to their website, to talk about their upcoming show, when they add it, it’s automatically in SpinGo’s system because we provide that part of the system as well. And so over time we’re really building more of a Wikipedia of event content where everyone is contributing directly to the source as opposed to us having to go out and gather content.”

Published 6/4/2014