Eventbrite is a different beast than most event management companies out there since it also acts as a ticketing marketplace for consumers. This doesn't mean that the wider event space won't benefit from the increased awareness of event technology as a growing and profitable sector.
Now that Eventbrite’s long-awaited initial public offering is here, with the 12-year-old company emerging as a newly-minted Unicorn, the spotlight is shining on the overall event technology sector.
The company’s stock rose nearly 60 percent post-IPO, from $23 to close at $36.45 Thursday on an up day for the market, although its stock price declined slightly on Friday.
It seems like a big win for the visibility of the event technology sector among investors. The only other big-ticket IPO of note for the sector was Cvent in 2013; in 2016, though, the company was taken private by a private equity group after a few stagnant years.
“It’s still early days for the Eventbrite stock but the fact that the stock price has risen 60 percent in 24 hours is not something to gloss over,” said Dan Berger, founder and CEO of Social Tables, a platform for venue sourcing and event management. “This is the first event management software company to go public since Cvent (as most major liquidity events happen through mergers and acquisitions) so it’s great to see a sleeping giant industry like ours getting Wall Street recognition.”
Could this mean sustained interest from investors and venture capitalists in the highly-fragmented event technology space? Well, it’s complicated, according to top executives across the event tech sector.
While Eventbrite nominally fits into the event technology sector, it is really more of a ticketing company than a business-to-business technology or software-as-a-service provider. It went after Live Nation and Ticketmaster, not Cvent. Sure, it provides planning and marketing tools to customers, but it lacks the wider range of customization and advanced tools offered by many companies that serve larger corporations.
The good news for Eventbrite is that after its success in the mid-market ticketing game, fueled by acquisitions and clever marketing, it can move into adjacent areas of the event technology sector if it wants to diversify beyond ticketing revenue.
“Investors are excited, there is a lot of buzz and it over-performed so they marketed it pretty well,” said Ron Shah, CEO and founder of event venue sourcing and management platform Bizly. “Obviously, they’re pitching a lot of growth opportunities and what they’ve done is smart: they haven’t even attempted to do everything yet. They’ve narrowed in on mid-market events. The corporate market and event tech haven’t been touched, and that’s exciting for investors. They’ve truly hustled for 12 years, they found the one thing they wanted to go after and just homed in on ticketing.”
The Financial Perspective
The market’s reaction would sure signal that investors are excited about the events and ticketing space broadly. Even competitor Live Nation (LYV) was up Friday, outperforming the market. So it would seem that investors are not concerned about the rise of a new competitor as much as this IPO was a bit of a wake-up call as to how profitable this segment can be.
Tying it back to travel, Skift Research estimates that anywhere from 15 to 20 percent of consumer expenditures on tickets to entertainment events, such as sports and movies, take place on out of town trips.
This is one of the most successful IPOs the markets have seen this year with strong investor demand. Bankers had initially planned to offer Eventbrite shares for between $19 to $21 per share. That range was raised to $21 to $23 and the company priced at the high-end of that revised bracket, indicated strong demand. but raised that range after receiving high interest.
Shares are were trading at around $35 toward the end of the day on Friday, up 51 percent from the initial offering price. That translates to an intra-day market capitalization increase of $906 million. That is the 10th highest one-day increase of market value in absolute dollar terms this year. It is the 15 largest one-day pop in percentage terms this year (out of 169 IPOs this year).
A Deeper Look
Eventbrite targets smaller venues and organizations than the business-to-business event tech sector, which tends to serve large corporations looking for integrated solutions to help plan, execute, and market events around the world. There is no one-size-fits-all platform that offers the best all-around solutions, and the sector is broken up into companies that provide suites of software (like Cvent and Aventri among others) and more specified companies that look to solve specific pain points for planners.
Eventbrite has found success in offering simple tools for venues and organizations to handle event ticketing and registration, making most of its revenue off ticketing fees. It also operates a consumer platform for finding events to attend, something that is not attractive to larger companies in the business world since they want to own the branding and distribution of their events.
“Eventbrite is in a different slice of the market, kind of like the Constant Contact of the ticketing world,” said Leonora Valvo, director of event management provider Swoogo and founder of eTouches (now Aventri). “You hear ads for them on NPR. It’s interesting positioning because they work with people who don’t mind driving the Eventbrite brand. Our customers are looking to use their own brand, and that’s the big difference between the consumer market-focused and B2B-focused.”
Event technology, much like the overall event industry, is highly-fragmented and can be confusing to understand for newcomers and investors. Large platforms like Cvent are unwieldy to use and have the problem of being a collection of bolted-on technology services that don’t always play well together.
There are some parallels between Eventbrite and Cvent going public, even if they play in completely different markets.
“I would say if you look at both these companies, Cvent pre-merger was doing around $150 million in revenue; Eventbrite’s around that as well,” said Bizly’s Shah. “If you look at the $300 billion event market in the U.S., this is a huge market and these companies are doing a very small amount of revenue. There is so much growth potential in this market.”
Smaller players may not offer a variety of integrated tools, leading companies and planners to use a variety of different tools to effectively plan and manage their events. This can be extremely time-consuming and poses a challenge for the sector, even as event technology has embraced automation and mobile tools.
The global event market is so large, however, that there is room for a variety of different platforms and competitors to thrive alongside each other.
“Yes, raising awareness is good but it’s still a very confusing sector,” said Swoogo’s Valvo. “Is one company going to win? No, everyone is winning. It’s such a vast market that many can win, you still don’t have to unseat any specific player to gain traction.”
Additional reporting was provided by Seth Borko, senior research analyst for Skift Research.
Photo credit: A promotional photo of the Eventbrite offices. Eventbrite