Yplan, the London-based startup that’s building a platform for selling last-minute event-booking on mobile, has closed a $12 million (£7.9 million) Series A, led by General Catalyst Partners. Existing investors Wellington Partners and Octopus Investments also participated in the round, along with a swathe of co-investors, including A-Grade, Kevin Colleran and David Morin’s Slow Ventures, and Shakil Khan, investor and advisor to Spotify and Summly.
YPlan has previously raised $1.7 million (£1.06 million) in seed funding, bringing its total funding to date to $13.7 million. The startup plans to use its new funding to fuel international expansion — with the second city (after London, where it launched in November last year) in its sights being New York. It plans to launch there during the second half of this year, and will then use New York as its North American base, as it looks to expand to other U.S. cities. London will remain as its European base as it looks to expand to other cities in the region, and also for a future push into Asia.
There’s no firm roadmap on which U.S. cities it’ll be tapping after New York but co-founder and CEO, Rytis Vitkauskas, tells TechCrunch that likely candidates include San Francisco, L.A., Boston, Chicago and Austin. “We’ll decide as we go along but the cities that we have in mind are the more densely populated cities with a lot of smartphones,” he says. “And also with a good density of events… That’s the priority list.”
As for why New York specifically, it’s not hard to imagine why a social events app would settle on the Big Apple. Basically it’s got the right blend of time-strapped young smartphone owners who want to go out, coupled with a steady supply of events to go to, says Vitkauskas. “New York is a large city, a lot of people but also a lot of our target audience — our core demographic is people between 20 and late 30s, that are typically starved for time, so they’re very busy. For them time is everything, and you also don’t always have time to plan for the last minute or their plans have changed at the last minute,” he says.
“On the other hand there’s a high density of events happening in New York every single day. Plus surrounding both of those is the fact that New York has a great going out culture. People are out four or five days in a week, just actively engaging with social activities and so YPlan essentially just plugs into all the existing trends.”
YPlan is mobile only, which plays to the serendipitous/spontaneous going out niche it’s targeting. It’s definitely not competing with the big web-based ticketing platforms, says Vitkauskas. The focus is firmly on personalised last-minute recommendations for time-strapped folk — so it’s putting money into what he calls its “secret sauce,” aka its personalisation and recommendation engines.
YPlan users aren’t presented with huge lists of stuff to browse through — a model that doesn’t make sense on mobile — rather they are pushed “a carefully curated list of up to 15 events to go to every night.” YPlan is even writing the snippet-sized descriptions itself, telling its users why such and such an event is a must attend for them. So really YPlan is acting as a personalised filter to flag up cool stuff so its users don’t have to go looking for it. Frankly it’s the sort of feature you could imagine Google adding to Google Now, or Apple to Siri.
Currently YPlan has some 200,000 active users in London, and claims that more than 10 percent of iPhone owners in the city carry the app (I must be one of the 90 percent that don’t then). Since launching in November last year it says it has featured more than 2,500 events on its platform.
The startup works directly with events organisers to get their events on its platform, meaning its headcount is already up to around 30 staff — which it says will probably expand to around 100 over the next year and a half. Its business model is based solely on taking a cut of any events booked through its platform — so it’s already booking revenue — with the aim being to keep the monetisation process simple and free of detracting clutter like ads, says Vitkauskas.
Asked what attracted its VC backers to the YPlan model, he says it’s not so much the idea but the execution, with the company having managed to achieve decent traction in the half year or so its app has been in the market.
“The idea of YPlan is not new necessarily. Brent Hoberman and Martha Lane Fox started Lastminute.com with exactly this vision in mind, and what Brent saw — he’s also an adviser to YPlan — and when he saw our prototypes first he said this is what Lastminute.com was meant to be but we were there 14 years too early. And now the time has come. Now the mobile Internet’s fast enough, smartphones are smart enough and GPS technology is up to speed enough and consumers are ready to transact through the phone and they weren’t ready to transact just a couple of years ago,” says Vitkauskas. “Likewise the event organisers are now ready to embrace the developments in technology.”
YPlan is currently on iPhone only, with plans to launch an Android app “later in the summer.” It’s also going to make a dedicated iPad app, tailoring the experience to fit the different use-case of the tablet device. Vitkauskas adds that it will also look at whether to launch apps in other mobile platforms down the line.