Start-up gets people discovering their cities
SQUARE, an innovative online events start-up from Wellington, makes it easy for anyone to find great events happening near them. You can search for categories like music, show or family events, or just scroll down and see what you find. Co-founders Mohit Shrivastava and Katy Wilson initially started SQUARE to provide an easy way to find out what’s happening in a city, and to showcase the great events that many people do not hear about. After moving back to Wellington last year, Wilson wanted to go out to new places but struggled to find a good mix of fun events in one place. Often she would only hear about a great event after it had already happened. SQUARE has grown quickly since launching in April, recently expanding to Auckland and Christchurch after they got a lot of interest from both cities. Angel investment means that the co-founders can focus on growing the company quickly.
Apart from her connection to Wellington, Wilson says that New Zealand was an obvious place to launch SQUARE. On average Kiwis spend over 20% of discretionary income on recreation and culture, compared to just 8.6% in Australia. Nearly 9 in 10 New Zealanders had attended or participated in at least one arts event in the last 12 months, according to Creative NZ’s 2014 survey, the highest level so far. Despite that, 78% of Kiwis said that even though they were interested by arts events, they didn’t go very much. SQUARE has definitely resonated with Kiwis looking for events, and has more than doubled their user numbers every month since their beta phase finished in June. Shrivastava has some thoughts as to why “No other platform in the world is so intensely focussed on enabling the discovery of events in the user’s vicinity. That makes it perfect for the modern technology user. The technology industry is at a place where the modern user needs to be given a solution that is instant, clean and most importantly, very very precise. And that’s what SQUARE does so well, and that’s why we’re seeing such immense traction and response from our users.”
Currently SQUARE finds events through organisers uploading them, and through their own research. “We try to make sure we have a good mix of different types of events in all locations”, which means doing a lot of research to find out-of-the-way things that most people won’t hear about, as well as including some of the big events, like those coming up at the NZ Festival. SQUARE acts as a hub to pull together lots of events and make them easily searchable and then links to where the tickets are sold. Anyone can upload an event for free, and add their own search tags to make it easier to find. “Community organisations really appreciate that, now they can focus more on their exhibition or show and less time on promoting their event.”
The two co-founders have overcome some unusual challenges in getting to this stage. They met while studying together on a course that took them to 3 different continents. Moving so much and always getting to know new places was one of the reasons they liked the idea for SQUARE. “It can take so long to get to know a new place, and we really would have loved a way to find events and discover the cities that way” says Wilson. After the course finished, Shrivastava returned to his base in New Delhi, India, while Wilson came back to Wellington. They started working on SQUARE in January, and did everything remotely. Shrivastava only visited New Zealand for the first time in July “so before that I was trying to explain Wellington and Kiwi culture to him via Skype” laughs Wilson. Working in two countries does have it’s advantages though, as they’ve gotten support from an angel investor in India and have been accepted into an accelerator there, while the startup scene in Wellington has provided a lot of contacts and other support.
Currently they’re working hard on new features for event organizers and the expansion to Auckland and Christchurch. The Android app has been available since July, and the iOS app has just launched. The whole platform is also available on their website, www.townsquare.co. Why Town Square? “We wanted it to be the modern equivalent of what town squares used to be, a place where people could go to find out what was happening and socialize with each other” says Shrivastava. “We want to encourage people to spend more time with friends and family in person, not just on social media.” With summer on its way, now is a great time to start.
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