By LAURA LOREK
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
As summer kicks off so does festival season including the Keep Austin Weird Festival, Austin Chamber Music Festival and Bat Fest.
But hundreds of festivals also take place all over the world and often it’s difficult to find out what’s going on where and when.
The solution is Everfest, an Austin-based startup that seeks to be the marketplace for discovering festivals worldwide. But it’s not just listing music festivals. The categories include arts, book, civic, culture, faith, film, food, historical, performance and seasonal. And it even has a category for “unique” for gatherings such as the Austin International Drag Festival and Zilker Kite Fest.
“We want to be inclusive. We want to promote all the great festivals. We’re agnostic to scope and geography,” said Jay Manickam, co-founder. In fact, Everfest has seen festivals of all sizes claiming their pages and actively managing them, he said. It has festivals listed on every continent.
Everfest recently closed on $1.5 million in an angel round funding from investors including Bob Kagle of Benchmark, ATX Seed Ventures, uShip Founders and investors from Austin’s tech community.
And the Austin Chamber of Commerce last week named Everfest to its 2015 A-List of the Hottest Startups in the emerging or early stage category.
Manickam, co-founder of uShip and Paul Cross, founder of Ticketbud, founded the company in October of 2014 and officially launched in April. Everfest, with 12 employees, occupies a little cottage off Lake Austin Blvd.
The inspiration for Everfest came from a trip abroad.
“We were looking for a challenge in the consumer space around a passion,” Manickam said. “I’m an avid traveller. I’ve been to quite a few festivals.”
They came up with the idea for Everfest while touring Europe. Manickam and Cross travelled through small towns and big cities in Europe and noticed a plethora of festivals all around them, Manickam said.
As they did research, they discovered attendance at festivals is on the rise worldwide, Manickam said. And it’s not just music festivals that are popular. It’s also book and film festivals, food and wine festivals and more, he said.
The creative class sees festivals as a destination involving adventure, travel and entertainment, Manickam said. And now many young people value experiences over material goods so festivals meet their needs, Manickam said.
“All of us are dying innately to connect around passions we have,” Manickam said. “That’s really part of why you see so many festivals now than you did 15 years ago. People want to engage with each other. And the more we can make connections happen that wouldn’t otherwise happen the more opportunity we have to succeed.”
Everfest also created a mobile app that makes it unnecessary for festivals to create their own app. It also comes with a “find my friends” feature that lets festival attendees see who else is attending the event.
On the Everfest site, a consumer can create a calendar of fun through recommendations based on their taste profile. They can also share their calendar and see where their friends are going. The company plans to create a “User Generated Content” platform for people to post stories, pictures and videos of festivals they’ve attended.
Festivals are hot right now. It’s a worldwide movement. One out of three Americans attended a festival last year, Manickam said. And festivals are even more popular in Europe and South America.
“You’d be amazed at how many festivals there are in just in Austin that you’ve never heard of,” Manickam said.
Everfest makes money through partnerships in travel, accommodations and ticketing. It’s also working on some exclusive experiences too.
To qualify as a festival, an event has to be celebratory and that excludes work conferences. It also has to be inclusive and it cannot be a private club, Manickam said.
“There is a high demand for everything around festivals right now,” Manickam said. “People want to connect physically in an offline community.”