Startup Corner

Clare Simonis, Contributor

Events are fun, booking them sucks.  Venuefly wants to change that. Clare Simonis and Josh Hoffman-Senn (HBS ’19) are co-founders of Venuefly, an HBS startup.

The Problem We’re Solving

Booking a social event venue – whether it’s for an office happy hour or a 40th birthday party – takes a lot of time and energy.  It takes thankless hours of Googling, Yelping, calling, and emailing to eventually find an appropriate venue.

On the flip side, venues are highly motivated to utilize their capacity.  Events are a great source of business. But venue managers also waste countless hours fielding inquiries from weak customer leads.

The Solution:

Venuefly takes the headache out of event venue discovery, communication, and booking.  This is how it works:

  1.     We take in a booker event profile
  2.     We solicit bids from event venues
  3.     We present the booker with several proposals
  4.     Booker chooses and books the venue

Idea Inspiration:

We believe life becomes too short if we waste time doing things we don’t love doing.

Before HBS, in addition to her professional roles, Clare planned a variety of events for her colleagues.  After the fifth back-and-forth with a bar manager to plan a happy hour, she wondered why there wasn’t an easier way to book a venue.   She thought there could be a solution to simplify the process of venue discovery and booking. And, voilà, the concept for Venuefly was born.

The Team:

We are Section G (woo!) classmates.  Josh has co-founded three startups – Causemo, Lesson Squad, and Write Wedding.  His extensive experience in launching platforms and marketplaces is a great complement to Clare’s experience in growing and scaling new business models.  We’re often cranking away at the i-Lab, so come say hi if you see us!

Gaining Momentum:

We knew we wanted to participate in the J-Term Startup Bootcamp.  Bootcamp is a SIP providing students tools and guidance for launching a venture – it’s a mixture of classroom workshops and studio time where we applying teaching to our own ventures.  Last fall, we assembled a team of four: the two of us, Jorge Echarte, and Starry Peng. In preparation for Bootcamp, we interviewed potential customers to get a better sense of their needs, allowing us to refine our idea.  Bootcamp itself was extremely valuable – the sessions rocked, and the studio time gave us time to test our idea and get some customers. For example, one afternoon we learned the basics of Google Adwords and Facebook Ads. Then, we used studio time to set up our own advertising campaigns.

To keep the momentum up during the semester, we meet regularly with each other and utilize resources on campus (e.g., talking to Entrepreneurs in Residence; participating in the Founders’ Cohort).

What’s Next:

Right now, we’re working to build our base of bookers and venues in the Boston area.  The plan is to grow the volume of transactions over the course of the semester to gain a deeper understanding of both sides’ needs.  Over the summer, we want to crank up automation and scale the product in the Boston market. As we learn and prove out the model in one geography, we’ll expand to other cities.

To our Classmates Booking Venues:

Let us know – we’d love to help you!

Clare Simonis (HBS ‘19) is passionate about simplifying peoples’ lives so they can make the space to be happy.  Clare spent the last few years building and growing the new innovation arm within Fresenius Medical Care. Prior to Fresenius, Clare consulted in Monitor Deloitte’s strategy group.  In her free time, she can be found cooking, practicing yoga, or jamming out to new music.

Josh Hoffman-Senn (HBS ’19) co-founded Causemo, a venture-backed donor acquisition platform that enables nonprofits to fundraise intelligently and efficiently. He also co-founded two online marketplaces, Lesson Squad and Write Wedding, and is retained by startups to assist with go-to-market and fundraising activities. Josh received a BA in Economics and Chemistry from Brandeis University.