It’s been a busy few months for Belfast-based ticketing company. After announcing a new partnership with one of the world’s biggest startup conferences, CEO Kyle Gawley is now focusing on international expansion, with their first US office to open in San Francisco in 2015.
saw a problem.
A design lecturer at the University of Ulster’s Belfast School of Art
and organiser of Break Conference
, he was (and is) an in-demand speaker, frequently travelling the conference circuit. Conference organisers, he discovered, had a pet hate: ticketing apps. The user experience was horrendous – and since they were selling tickets to designers, it was all the more more noticeable.
It was a “growing frustration”, according to Kyle Gawley
. Together with Murphy and another UU student, David Turner
, he launched Get Invited
, an event registration service that allows conferences organisers to monitor social media interactions and conversations about their event.
“Event organisers also gain insights about their attendees; what they’re saying about their events online and how they’re feeling,” says Gawley. “Intelligent, tailored suggestions provide real-time advice on how to best manage and promote their events to maximise success.”
A university side-project
The company has enjoyed some considerable success in recent months. A trip to Silicon Valley led to a deal with entrepreneur Jason Calacanis who is using the site to ticket his This Week In Startups (TWIST)
events and his startup conference, LAUNCH
, in March 2015. 12,000 delegates are expected to show. Meeting Calacanis was a lucky accident: “We jumped on a plane back in June and ventured out to the US, spending a week in New York and two weeks in San Francisco. I got an intro to one of the LAUNCH team, whom I met for lunch and within a few hours I found myself in LAUNCH HQ pitching to their CEO, Jason and showing him Get Invited. He loved the product and we returned home with a partnership deal.” Other clients include Aardman (of Wallace and Gromit fame – for readers born after the 90s, click here
) and The Web Is conference
Not bad for a company that started life as a university side project. “We decided to build our own ticketing system for our Masters project and after only a few months of building the first version of Get Invited, we had our first customer onboard and we provided the ticketing solution for the Ulster Festival of Art & Design, where we processed 1,217 tickets in just a few weeks. Following this we started to gain more and more traction locally and the rest was history.” While it’s still early days – the site has nearly 5,000 users – the company has been used by conference organisers from Silicon Valley to India and China.
For Gawley, the future lies in foreign markets. The company is “actively targeting influential events in the technology sector; typically those who make a lot of social media noise, which helps drive awareness about Get Invited.” This makes a Silicon Valley base a must for the company. In 2015, he will be moving to San Francisco to open Get Invited’s first US office and hire an international sales team. To date, they’ve raised £175K in seed money from local VC funds. In December, he’ll be travelling with a delegation of NI entrepreneurs to San Francisco and San Diego where they’ll be pitching their wares to potential customers and investors. The trip, dubbed the 'NI Tech Mission
’, was the brainchild of Belfast City Council, economic development agency Invest NI and NISP Connect
, a non-profit organisation supporting NI’s tech industry.
At 28, Gawley is one of Northern Ireland’s youngest CEO’s. While the tech press coos the Zuckerbergs of the world, being a young entrepreneur, he admits, comes with challenges. “Initially it was lack of experience as a first-time entrepreneur, but this was easily mitigated by building a solid support network and surrounding ourselves with more experienced individuals who have been there and done it, and who can provide ongoing support and advice. We've been very fortunate to receive a huge amount of support and advice from local organisations and entrepreneurs. There is a fantastic sense of camaraderie in Northern Ireland were everyone wants to help each other become successful.”
TechWatch is supported by NISP Connect