No one on their death bed says “all the things I could have owned?!” It’s “all the things I could have done?!” The world is shifting from a material culture to an experiential culture. Many of our most prized possessions like photographs and music have become digitized. We now have the Internet to find experiences, devices to capture them, and social networks to share them. It’s memories that matter.
Everfest wants to accelerate this shift. Launching today, Everfest is a global calendar and search engine for festivals. Music, film, food, drink, art, sports, culture. Wherever you are or wherever you’re going, it can find a nearby festival that’s sure to give you a rich experience. With $1.5 million in funding, Everfest wants to connect the revelers who attend festivals, and build location sharing technology to help you find friends while you’re there.
It took isolation to spark the idea for this community celebration tool. Paul Cross had sold his event ticketing startup TicketBud in 2012 and ditched out to Spain. An 11 mile hike into a nature reserve made him realize that all around the world, people love to congregate. “It’s like the Hubble Deep Field project” Cross tells me. “The more you adjust the lens, the more galaxies you see.” There’s more than Coachella and Burning Man, Mardi Gras, and Diwali. Festivals are everywhere if you look close enough.
Cross believes our sudden immersion in cyberspace has nudged people to seek out IRL gatherings, leading to a recent explosion in the number of festivals held. But when he started Everfest, he admits he didn’t even know about festivals going on a few cities over from his home in Austin, Texas, like a half-million person Renaissance Faire in Houston. But after a ton of digging, Everfest now indexes over 9000 festivals.
When you sign up, you can tell Everfest where you live, how far you’re willing to travel, and what kinds of festivals you’re into. It then shows full-screen previews of relevant festivals that you can save to a calendar. A search engine lets you find events in specific categories, locations, and time frames.
Cutting Through The Chaos
My biggest concern with Everfest is that it wants to do everything. The long-tail festival discovery feature seems useful, given most competitors are either specific to music like Festival Finder, focused only on larger events like Fest300, or feel stuck in the 2000s like Festivals.com. Everfest’s other ambitions may be harder to fulfill, though, even with $1.5 million from Bob Kagle (Benchmark), uShip’s founders, angels from Google, and Austin investors via ATX Seed Ventures.
The startup wants to be a community forum for each festival, but I’d bet official forums run by the larger festivals will have more traction. And honestly, having gone to 11 Coachellas, 7 SXSWs, and countless other festivals, I’ve never really wanted to connect with people from them on a forum. Everfest also imagines becoming a social media hub where all the photos end up.
Eventually, the company hopes to solve possibly the biggest problem with festivals: meeting up with friends amongst the chaos. Many event-specific apps, Facebook, Apple, and more have tried to solve the issue by letting you share your real-time location. But on long festival days, avoiding battery drain is critical. Constantly checking the schedule, texting friends, and taking photos in crowded network conditions can decimate a mobile device. “There’s also the creepiness” says Cross.
Everfest’s solution is to create accurate maps of event grounds, unlike the wonky illustrated PDFs found in most festival apps, and let you drop a pin that friends can see. Friends can ask you to drop a pin if they want to find you, and the pins decay with time so you don’t try to find someone where they were hours ago. This method has it’s own problems though, as you’ll have to remember to drop pins, update them if you move, and they could still become outdated quickly.
To pay for everything, Everfest has a bunch of ideas too. It plans to host targeted ads on festival pages that appeal to the corresponding demographics. Cross also believes that by surveying all of the festival organizers, Everfest could become an aggregation layer that sponsors could go through to run campaigns at scale at multiple smaller events. Its immediate plan to keep the lights on is to license data on when and where people are traveling to festivals to flight and hotel companies, which it already has relationships with.
Cross likened Everfest to five prong spear, saying “We’ll get them with one of the prongs”. But mobile doesn’t necessarily work like that, and doing too much could make its forthcoming mobile app feel bloated and confusing. Festivals are supposed to be a vacation from the rigamarole of our online lives. If Everfest can stick to getting us away from our screens and out making memories, it could become an essential tool for the adventurous.