YPlan — the app that gives people with no plans a curated selection of things to do and the ability to buy tickets to do them — has some big plans of its own. TechCrunch has learned and confirmed that the startup has raised another $24 million — funding that comes at a key time for the company. YPlan is planning a pivot, of sorts: in a bid to boost the number of listings on its platform, YPlan is moving away from a direct sales model, laying off people in the process, and into a self-service platform open to all event organisers to add and manage their own event listings.
“We’re doubling down to have the technology to aggregate the long tail of events, the pop-ups and the comedy shows,” CEO and co-founder Rytis Vitkauskas says. “The new portal will be how we will manage that more effectively.”
The idea is to turn YPlan into more of an event marketplace, he says. “We have been really busy in the last several months working away,” noting that the app will also be adding more social features for people to review and react to events as well as find out what their friends are doing — data that YPlan will also offer to businesses in the form of customer analytics. “YPlan is going to evolve very significantly.”
Part one of that update is due out in the coming month, ahead of one of the company’s busiest times, New Years Eve.
But with the good news comes some bad. As part of its shift, YPlan — founded in London in 2012 with a second main office in New York, and covering events in San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas and London — has laid off a number of staff, specifically in the area of the direct sales team that was tasked with striking the event deals that populate the service, while ramping up the number of engineers and others to build out the new DIY platform.
Out of around 20 full-time NYC employees, only six remain, a number that will come down to four by the end of the year — figures confirmed to us by COO Peter Briffett. The company now has around 70 employees globally, 50 of them in London, the CEO tells us.
YPlan’s new funding will go some way to helping make this pivot smoother. The $24 million, a Series B, brings the total raised by YPlan to just under $38 million. This latest round was led by previous backers Octopus Investments, Wellington Partners and General Catalyst. YPlan is not disclosing its valuation.
It includes a new investor, Nokia Growth Partners — the investment firm backed exclusively by Nokia but is operated and makes investments independent of the Finnish mobile company.
It also has a notable absence. Two of YPlan’s earliest backers were Peter Read and Tom Hulme — both of whom are now partners at Google Ventures in Europe, a new effort for the VC hungry for investments. Neither of them nor Google Ventures participated in this recent round. “Peter and Tom remain as angels and advisors,” Vitkauskas says, without more elaboration.
The funding, layoffs and pivot news comes at a key moment for the company. YPlan is growing — 300% over last year, according to Vitkauskas — and it now has over 1 million downloads.
“Part of the reason we were able to raise the Series B was because the growth has been excellent,” he says, a sentiment that’s reflected by the investors, too.
“We invested because YPlan is run by a strong team operating in a market with large growth potential,” says Paul Asel, a founding partner at NGP. “We have been looking at real-time, location enabled content and commerce technologies across the globe and found that YPlan had a really unique on-demand mobile service which fits well with the evolving consumer lifestyle of younger consumers deciding things on the go.”
But with scale at the center of how e-commerce businesses make money, YPlan has been rebuilding its platform to take on more listings and, by making the listings self-service, expand its offerings at an overall lower operational cost.
Right now, there are around 1,000 event companies and venues that are customers of YPlan’s. That’s included both paid events and information and tickets for free ones. One notable partner has been Apple, who offers some tickets for its iTunes Festival through the app. YPlan has traditionally not charged for any listings, taking its commission only when a paid ticket had been booked.
The shift to self-serve doesn’t necessarily mean that the core product will be shuttered. “Curation will always stay,” Vitkauskas says. “We’re very careful about what we choose.” And so will the last-minute nature of the events. Today, 60% of all bookings on the platform are for events the day of the purchase, and another 30% are for things booked the day before; 90% of the listings are for things to do in the same week.
But, he adds, now the company will be focused on running “a lot more events on the platform.” The idea will be to showcase a selection of about 25 of those to any given customer on the app’s main page, while giving users the ability to drill down and see significantly more as they look into specific categories and times.
Part of the push is also about making its service more event-organizer friendly. The basis of the new self-service portal is something that YPlan had already built and provided to existing event partners. “This allows them to get more data and insight into who their audiences are, as well as get feedback in real time.”
Longer term there are also plans for YPlan to forge partnerships with other sites and apps to spread its listings to more users. “That’s still a work in progress,” Vitkauskas says. Likely early partners will be travel portals and local publications, he says.