Luke Hutchison wasn’t sure what he wanted to do as a West Point graduate in 2013 — just that he wanted to serve his country since the 9/11 attack in New York.
Sure, he never thought he’d launch a private event management platform for restaurants and venues, but that’s what he’s building, and VCs think enough that they just funded the company to the tune of $3.6 million.
Interestingly, the idea is related to Hutchison’s five years in the US Army as an infantry officer. Strange as the jump may sound, Hutchison, who has served twice in Afghanistan, says that “when you rise through the ranks, there’s a lot more paperwork and a lot less working with soldiers and doing things on the ground.”
Indeed, he says, the idea for his startup — Perfect Venue — owes much to the time between deployments, when Hutchison hosted social events for his unit — and frustrated with the process. “It would take days to get responses from venues, then the proposal was made in Word and I usually had to hand over a check to pay the deposit.”
While big chains and hotels have the resources to invest in cool software, the more he talked about the problem to Hutchison, it became clear that independent operators didn’t have an affordable option, so he decided to leave the military and go to work. † Now his three-person team has developed what he describes as an all-in-one, subscription-based event management platform that allows restaurants — and many other building owners with ample space for an event — to easily respond to messages, send quick and professional proposals, and collect secure online payments.
In fact, according to Hutchison, Perfect Venue is so much more efficient than the “hundreds” of different processes previously run by clients in the time that they say they save 12 hours a week and see a sales increase of more than 40%. because they can book more business with much less friction.
It’s a bigger market than you might think, suggests Brian Rothenberg, the venture capitalist who led Perfect Venue’s new financing on behalf of Defy Partners. The private event business is estimated to generate about $80 billion a year in the US, and Rothenberg — who previously served as VP of Growth at Eventbrite for six years — says Eventbrite has long viewed the venue space as “pretty interesting, quite attractive.” .
It never ended with building a product, which is perhaps why when Hutchison Rothenberg first presented his idea at a conference, the two kept in touch.
While there are consumer-oriented options in the market that help individual venues — Peerspace is one of them — Rothenberg says he prefers the Perfect Venue approach, which is to build a roster of restaurants and other venues and their CRM vendor ( Customer Relationship Management).
Both men also suggest that Perfect Venue — founded about a year ago in San Francisco — has plenty of room to expand into other areas once it captures the company it’s building today.
Hutchison says: “Maybe in the future there may be potential to help people find and book the right location, but right now we’re just focused on helping companies manage their existing business. When you go to a restaurant’s website and fill out an inquiry form, you are essentially going to our white label form which creates a lead in their system. From there, restaurants can communicate with guests, rate proposals, get paid – everything you need to do in a CRM.”
Other backers in Perfect Venue’s starting round are Amity Ventures, Context Ventures, Caviar co-founder Shawn Tsao, Dutchie co-founder Sam Ellis and Meritech co-founder Paul Madera.
Above: Perfect Venue’s small but growing team, with Hutchison on the far right.