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The Start-up That Stole the Spotlight at SXSW

Meet Splash, the event-planning website that got SXSW partying
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The Biggest Buzz to come out of this year's South by Southwest conference didn't belong to anyone attending the conference's celebrity-laden parties. It belonged to Splash, the event-planning website that made many of those events possible. "Just about every event I went to at SXSW this year had a Splash page," says Mallory Blair, co-founder of New York City-based Small Girls PR.

Co-founded by Ben Hindman and Brett Boskoff, Splash claims to be the only online event-planning platform that allows users to manage the entire life cycle of an event. It sends online invitations like Evite, manages contacts like MailChimp, sells tickets like Eventbrite, and even creates a page for postparty photos like Flickr.

Launched in 2011 under the name One Clipboard, the New York City company got off to an inauspicious start. "We were turned down by 47 investors before we got our first yes," says Hindman. "I was sleeping on a floor for a while. There were many moments where it almost ended."

By January 2012, the company had refined its software and changed its name to Splash. Momentum surged from there. At the 2012 SXSW conference, Splash was used to planning 25 events.

This year, it powered 200. "What's interesting is that now when people attend an event powered by Splash, they talk as much about Splash as they do about the event itself," says Brittany Mascio, event director for the website Silicon Prairie News. That buzz didn't hurt when it came to pitching investors.

Splash recently completed a $1 million seed round led by Maveron, a VC firm in Seattle and San Francisco.Big brands have taken notice as well. "The social-media manager representing Hennessey discovered us because she was invited to a baby shower through Splash," says Hindman. Splash's roster of corporate clients now includes, in addition to Hennessey, companies such as Spotify, Ferrari, and Dove.

For individuals, Splash uses a freemium model. Seventy percent of its 35,000 users pay nothing to plan their birthdays and weddings. They pay extra for add-ons, like removing the Splash logo from their invitation. Corporate clients pay up to $5,000 per month for an unlimited number of events. Splash also earns $1 on each ticket it sells, plus 2 percent of the ticket price. It has sold $750,000 in tickets since launching the service in February.

Hindman insists that Splash's biggest value is that it helps party planners build communities around events--communities that outlast the three hours of the event itself. "People come back to look at pictures, watch videos, and find out about a company's next event," he says. "We call it the postevent event."

Splash, by the Numbers:

1.5 million--Number of RSVPs logged on Splash in the past year

$750,000--Amount of online tickets sold on Splash

35,000--Number of registered users

From the June 2013 issue of Inc. magazine




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