By Gamal Hennessy
There are a lot of web sites out there to help the nightlife patron navigate their way through New York’s 1,200 venues. Some, like Urban Daddy, highlight the new spots. Others like Yelp and the directories on Black Book and New York Magazines provide a catalog of venues searchable by keyword. Still more sites are available to sell you tickets to parties, get you discounts on drinks, connect you to promoters and flood your inbox with invitations to parties you don’t want to attend.
Every site has their niche, but Venugo plans to be the one place that everyone goes before they go out. At first glance, Venugo looks like other nightlife sites, but dig deeper and you will find a more involved process.
That deeper level of involvement is both the good news and the bad news about the site.
Venugo has similarities to several different sites. It is similar to Lending Tree.com because once you submit your party preferences, participating venues compete to give you the best deal in order to get your business. You then negotiate back and forth with each venue (up to 5 at a time) until you get the deal and the party that you want. It is similar to Yelp because it offers official and user reviews, organizes venues together by type, location and other elements so you have the information that you need to decide what venues to work with. It is also like Facebook, because it offers (or plans to offer) social media elements such as groups, chats, file sharing and other things that nightlife patrons use.
When you combine all these elements, the founders of Venugo believe that anyone who uses the site can easily organize a party for groups from 2 to 200. It even gives people who use the site the potential to become a promoter. For example, let’s say you start a group for Knicks fans on their social site. Your friends and other random hoop fans join your group. When the Knicks win the championship (I know it probably won’t happen, but this is my example so just let me dream, ok?), it will be time for a party. At that point, you can use Venugo to find venues big enough for your group, negotiate a deal to get the best offer, invite your whole group and just like that, you are a promoter. And since you can make a group about anything, you don’t have to wait for Amare to get a ring to make it work.
All of these things in one site sounds like a good idea, but there are a few hurdles that the developers will have to overcome before Venugo becomes the be all and end all of nightlife planning.
First, this process requires both the owners and patrons to do work that they might not want to do. It’s one thing to ask two groups to negotiate a deal for something major like a mortgage, but if a few guys want to drink on their birthday, they might not be willing to put in the effort Venugo requires.
At the same time, operators often have their hands full keeping the doors open. They might not have the time, interest or staff to negotiate back and forth with multiple parties. They would rather just let the promoters deal with it. And the venues that consider themselves A-list won’t even get involved in the discussion in the first place.
That’s just one hurdle. At this point, Venugo doesn’t incorporate a venue’s music format into the selection process. The number of venues currently working with Venugo is limited. There hasn’t been much public push back from the established promoter community at this point, but it isn’t hard to imagine a scenario where they see this as a threat to their business and use their financial leverage to keep venues off the site. Finally, while patrons can review venues and share their experiences the way they do with Yelp, Venugo allows club owners to do the same thing. That means patrons who consistently book parties and don’t show up, trash the bar or engage in other fanatic behavior might not find many venues willing to host their next party.
Can all these obstacles be overcome? Absolutely. All it takes is creativity and work by people smarter than me and there are a lot of those people around. Venugo has investors, experienced network architects and advertising professionals behind them as well as prominent operators. Until the hurdles are dealt with, Venugo is still a good idea for professional corporate and charity party planners who organize events for a living. It could streamline their job and give the company the traction it needs to reach a wider market. If you want to get involved with Venugo before they blow up, visit them at www.venugo.com