Mobile Digital Mood Ring? Gravy Targets Hyperlocal Events — All of Them

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You live in a city? Don’t complain about not having anything to do. Spend some time on the periphery, and you’ll have my empathy.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Lots is happening in the boroughs and the ‘burbs. It’s just not always clear how to find out what what that is. Sure you’ve got Patch (perhaps), as well as a litany of apps that want to be the first to announce to you that the Chromatics are coming to a venue within 15 miles some three months from now. Thanks.

Then I recalled timeRAZOR and the new location-based events product it rebranded as called Gravy — perhaps launched partly due to a deluge of new capital. I recently caught up with Jeff White, the serial entrepreneur behind the app. Among other things, Gravy asks users what they are in the mood for, rather than presenting them with a menu of options. It’s kind of a interesting gimmick, but one that happens to work (with limitations perhaps).

So what exactly is Gravy and why would anyone use it versus other events apps: Eventbrite, Eventful, Patch?  And what’s with the name?
Great question. One [reason] is simply comprehensiveness of the content. All those sites you mentioned are actually sources for us, so we have all that content and much more. We pull in hundreds of thousands events per night and optimize them for our users. This also isn’t just events; it’s offers, free items, things to try, places to go, etc. And we are a mobile-first model, so we optimize it all based on users’ preferences, their mood, their location, and also leveraging users’ future locations based on our calendar integration. Geo-relevance and personalization are the icing on the cake and make the experience so much richer.

The name Gravy is a personification of what we do really. It’s not the main course on your plate but what makes things just taste better. We are the “special sauce” that helps users understand the good stuff going on all around them.

Why did you go after the local events market when it seems many others are there or have tried [to be]?
We were really about helping users solve the problem of what’s going on nearby. Events are just part of the solution, but it’s a fair question. Solving this is hard for events. … Events just aren’t persistent and the content is very transient. We spent the first nine months of the company building the back end to tackle the events aggregation and syndication.

The problem of discovering what’s going on is real, and we see the Google stats on searches related to this problem and know it’s a large one. We simply believe it’s worthy of solving.

How difficult has it been gathering local events and keeping them fresh?
Extremely. We not only maintain events but also venue data for the entire U.S. Pulling in and processing hundreds of thousands of events per night is a big task. We do a large amount of processing (duplication checking, geotagging, creating [an] event radius, applying metadata, enabling personalization, categorizing, image processing, etc.). So not only are [these things] fresh but also relevant, indexed, curated by moods. Its a huge system and core to our overall business.

What is your penetration in the market? How many cities are covered?
We are throughout the entire U.S. We have users in every state and and have events across the entire U.S.

At any given time how many events are in the database?
At any given time, millions. We can pull in a million events on any given week. But that’s just events. We also partner with major brands so their events, offers, promotions, and free items can be made available too. We just passed our hundred millionth event discovery as well.

So talk more about your content feeds. How exactly are you gathering [or] pulling?
We have dozens and dozens [of ways]. Some are scrapers, some are APIs, some are submitted through our portals, and others are from our partners such as Universal, L’Oréal, Open Road Films, Eleven Seven Music, et cetera.

Who are you competing with?
Well, [we’re competing with] the current landscape of how people discover and solve the problem of what’s going on.  That can be local papers, the sites you mentioned, friends, et cetera. The considered set of how that is done today is fragmented and addressed in a variety of ways; that fragmentation creates the opportunity for Gravy to become a go-to place for everyone. Before they go out, decide what to do this weekend, or plan an evening with their spouse or kids, we believe everyone will [want to] check Gravy.

But what’s the business model?
We allow our partners/brands to submit their events, offers, and promotional items in Gravy. Harris Interactive came out with a study in October that had some staggering statistics on how not only ineffective current mobile advertising is but [that it] actually creates a negative brand relationship with the users.  Our results are just the opposite. Just like Google proved in web advertising — that advertising that helps a user solve [an] inputted problem is effective —  our solution of allowing our partners’ events and offers to become part of a solution for what a user is looking for (what’s going on) creates a powerful brand experience.

And it’s not just positive brand experiences but also bottom-line results. Our current partners and case studies bear this out. You can see more on our website but L’Oréal as an example saw 150% increases in foot traffic and a 70% increase in store revenue in working with us.

Rick Robinson’s Turf Talk column appears every second week on Street Fight. Follow him at @wideopensea.