San Diego’s Eventful Looks to Put Consumers in Charge, with Backward Glance at eBay

[Corrected 8/8/11, 11:35 am. See below.] Eventful CEO Jordan Glazier likes to describe the San Diego Web-based startup as an “eBay for local events and entertainment,” and there are more than a few similarities.

One of them is Glazier himself. Before joining Eventful in 2006, he spent five years as a general manager at the San Jose, CA-based giant. Glazier refers to his time at eBay as a five-year study in the economics of marketplaces, supply, and demand, and he was deeply involved there in developing and managing three of eBay’s biggest business units: consumer electronics; computers; and business & industrial. His predecessor, Eventful founder Brian Dear, also had worked at eBay (as well as San Diego’s, and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s Omidyar Network is among Eventful’s prominent investors.

Eventful, which began in 2004 simply as EVDB (as in Events and Venues Database), also has long since evolved into an eBay-like online exchange that is both global and local. The company’s Web-based platform hosts roughly 5 million local events at any given time for some 20 million users worldwide. Eventful users can search the website by category, performer, or venue to find events in their local markets. Concerts and shows are the big draw, of course, but the site also tracks sports, political rallies, and other activities. A comprehensive movie section features local movie show times, trailers, reviews, and links to buy tickets.

“It’s the best way to get the word out about local events,” Glazier says. “Every month, 20 million people rely on Eventful’s local markets, which includes 80,000 people in San Diego who are using Eventful monthly to answer the question, ‘Honey, what do you want to do this weekend?'”

[Corrected 8/8/11, 11:30 am to show company raised $20 million, not $30 million.] Today the seven-year-old company has 60 employees—up from seven employees just five years ago—and has tripled its revenue each year for the past two consecutive years. The company has raised a total of $20 million in three rounds (the most recent was in October 2008), and it is not currently looking to raise additional capital. Aside from Omidyar, Eventful’s investors include Twitter co-founder Evan Williams; Zynga founder Mark Pincus; entrepreneur and digital media guru Esther Dyson; telecommunications giant Telefónica; and the venture firms Draper, Fisher, Jurvetson and Bay Partners.

Since Glazier stepped in as CEO, Eventful has expanded its capabilities, beginning with technologies that monitor users’ interests and offer them new choices in concerts and other events based on their past preferences. At roughly the same time, Eventful moved to a multi-platform strategy that has enabled the company to distribute its content through e-mail reminders, online calendars, widgets, mobile apps, and social networking sites. Eventful spokesman Chris Lehman says users can sign up for e-mail alerts when their favorite performers are coming to town and create a personal watch list of events they are interested in. They can also share events with friends, and they can add their own events for free.

More than 3,000 partners also license Eventful’s content and platform to power local entertainment content across their own online, mobile, email and digital signage platforms, according to Lehman. The company’s content is used in digital signage by local television websites throughout the country, as well as Tully’s Coffee, Einstein Bros. Bagels, and other retailers.

During the 2008 election campaigns, Eventful’s Web tools enabled candidates to enhance their local outreach online and integrate event widgets into their Web strategies. The company also unveiled Eventful Demand, a free online service that let campaign supporters lobby for political figures to make local appearances. Candidates using the service also could track the demand and adjust their whistle stops accordingly.

As the service evolved, Lehman says, “We realized that it was becoming a direct representation of why people are on the Web to begin with. They want to influence and impact the world around them. As a company, if you can fulfill this expectation you can win the hearts and minds of consumers—any type of consumer.”

More recently, Eventful has been extending what it now calls its “Demand it!” (patent pending) throughout the entertainment industry, enabling artists and bands to determine the local markets where they are in highest demand.

Glazier contends that digital technology has forever changed the recorded music industry, making it infinitely easier to find new music and to create personal playlists with thousands of songs. With this great leveling of recorded music, Grazier says these are the glory days for live music.

“In the past, radio producers curated songs for consumers,” Glazier says. “Now the fire hose is 1,000 miles wide and you can get direct or indirect access to the entire warehouse of music archives.” With Demand it, Glazier says Eventful is offering a way to democratize the process that Joni Mitchell once described as “stoking the star maker machinery behind the popular song.”

“Demand it empowers consumers to be able to influence the location and—or—content of entertainment and events,” Glazier says. “From a consumer’s perspective, you’re able to demand the content you want. And from the point of view of 100,000 musicians, filmmakers, exhibitors, politicians, authors, comedians, performers, you can use Demand it to gather data about where they should perform. In other words, it helps artists sell tickets.”

Unlike social marketing agencies that look outward, Eventful’s Lehman writes in an e-mail, “We’re tapping fans in our own community…People are waiting to hear from us so they can participate.”

For example, Lehman says Eventful’s approach helped more than 1.5 million consumers influence the distribution strategy of a motion picture for the first time after Paramount Pictures acquired rights to the 2007 independent film “Paranormal Activity.” The ’70s rock band KISS used Eventful’s Demand it feature to determine a nostalgia tour, based purely on the 50 cities with the highest consumer demand. In a second tour, KISS announced plans to play in 22 markets, and used Demand it to let fans in each market determine which local band would open the show.

“Fifteen years ago, the Internet was the information superhighway, but it was one way,” Glazier says. It’s become more and more interactive, and there’s now a generation of 18- to 30-year-olds who have grown up with the Internet. There is not just an expectation, but almost a sense of entitlement that the Web is not just there to inform and entertain them, but to help them impact the world around them.”

It is a continuation of the kind of interactivity that eBay ignited 16 years ago. As Glazier puts it, “eBay is part of my digital DNA. They had a marketing slogan, ‘Shop Victoriously.’ You weren’t just buying something. You won! And Demand it conveys a similar sense of empowerment.”

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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2 responses to “San Diego’s Eventful Looks to Put Consumers in Charge, with Backward Glance at eBay”

  1. Brian Dear says:


    As Eventful’s founder I thought I would chime in with some comments.

    1) You state the company has raised “$30 million in three rounds.” Are you sure? Eventful did have three rounds, but only $20 million was raised. Did the company recently raise $10 more million? Perhaps it is a typo or you were told inaccurate information?

    2) You state the seven-year-old company had “seven employees just five years ago”. Actually, as of five years ago (August 2006, my how time flies) there were probably 17 or 18 people working at the company.

    3) It is correct that the initial name of Eventful was “EVDB”, which stood for “Events and Venues Database.” The idea was to build the equivalent of CDDB (the huge music-information database) or IMDB (the huge movies database) but this time for events, and become the de-facto search engine for events worldwide. But to be clear, the Demand it! feature was part of my very earliest vision; I even blogged about it twice a few years before founding the company. When I circulated the initial 5-pager to potential investors in January 2004 describing the vision for EVDB, it talked about Demand as a way to aggregate interest in desired events that were actually not scheduled but that people wished for. I should also mention that the reason I didn’t choose “Eventful” as the company name from day one is because, while that was the name I wanted, the domain name “”, while available, was for sale by a domain squatter for $888 which I thought was an outrageous sum at the time and, silly me, simply couldn’t in good conscience pay for. So I got, which was available, and went with that, though I kept a watchful eye on the “” domain every week or so for a long time. By the time we bought the “” domain name, let’s just say the price had gone up more than tenfold, but it was still a great investment!

    4) Early on, nobody wanted the “Demand it!” feature at the company, and I mean nobody, including the employees, the board of directors, and yes, even Mr. Glazier once he joined the company a month after it was launched. If I had not pushed hard for it the feature would never have seen the light of day. But we shipped it, in March 2006, and it took a long while to catch on, which was frustrating, but eventually it did catch on. Mr. Glazier deserves a lot of credit for helping it eventually catch on with millions of people.

    5) While it is technically, as in chronologically, accurate to state that “Since Mr. Glazier has stepped in as CEO . . . Eventful moved to a multi-platform strategy” it is kind of misleading for readers. The reality is that much of that strategy was already underway, especially the syndication of calendars, email reminders, and widgets. As for mobile, there was near zero interest in mobile. Then the iPhone came out but even that did not ignite interest in mobile inside the company so I had to resort to designing an Eventful iPhone app myself and hiring an outside firm to build it. Nobody wanted to do mobile, even after that app launched in the App Store, and by two years later there was still so much resistance against mobile in the company that it was the main reason I finally resigned from the board of directors to pursue mobile opportunities full-time elsewhere.

    6) It depresses me to hear Mr. Glazier describe “Demand it!” these days as something that lets “consumers” to “demand the content you want.” Sure, I suppose that is one sort of abstract, MBA way to describe it, but it sure isn’t how I ever thought of it when I created the feature. The Demand it! feature was intended to be rather radical, as in disintermediating businesses like Ticketmaster, by giving people a free way, a new power, to make desired, wished-for events happen in their own cities and towns without a lot of middlemen involved (how naiive, I know). Note I didn’t say “consumers”, but I said people, both audiences and performers both. And I didn’t say “content”, but “events”, as in experiences that are scheduled and happen somewhere, things you go to with friends and family. I don’t go to a concert to receive “content”, I go to feel, experience, listen, enjoy, be moved by music, and share that experience with the people I am with. I don’t go to a movie to receive “content”, I likewise go to be transported somewhere else, to live a story, to see a part of the world I might have never seen before, to be moved, to laugh, to cry, and to share those experiences with others in a theatre. I suspect that is the way most people feel about events. We shouldn’t forget that.

  2. Interesting! Thanks Brian.