By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
The company that developed the world’s top web-based venue management software is located in a condominium office development off Hardin Valley Road, just east of the Pellissippi Parkway.
Like many of Knoxville’s technology companies, EventBooking flies under the local radar unless you happen to need its services or operate an arena. However, a quick review of the company’s webpage reveals some prestigious clients – Staples Center (Los Angeles), Mercedes-Benz Arena (Shanghai, China), The O2 (London, England), Brisbane Entertainment Centre (Australia), and American Airlines Center (Dallas).
For John Platillero, the company’s Founder and Chief Executive Officer, it’s been almost a lifetime journey, starting about two decades ago when the then Plant Engineer at the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) began promoting concerts as a sideline.
“I loved the lifecycle of a concert . . . the beginning, middle and end are addictive,” he said. “I never intended to make any money; just did it for the love of it for five years.”
Platillero’s sideline passion included promoting an annual event on the World’s Fair site named the CMC Music Festival. CMC was an acronym for Christian Music Connection, and the event drew local musicians as well as nationally-recognized performers.
“I used all venues in town,” Platillero says of his work, adding that he also observed on a small geographic scale the challenges that national and international promoters faced. “The only way to know if a venue was available was by phone,” he explained.
Ironically, it was the mid-1990s as the potential of the Internet was just beginning to be understood.
“Wouldn’t it be great if I could go online to check availability,” Platillero asked himself.
His answer was to quit his job at ALCOA, and enroll in the MBA program at the University of Tennessee’s Knoxville campus. As part of that program, Platillero wrote a business plan for EventBooking.
“Fundamentally, nothing has changed,” he said, pulling-out a copy of the bound plan during our interview.
The idea was simple – allow venues to have a web-based, standardized calendar that concert promoters and agents could access to check availability rather than having to make repeated calls.
“It was Software as a Service before the term was even coined,” Platillero observed.
EventBooking.com was launched in February 1999 with a key partner – Pollstar, the concert industry’s leading trade publication. Fourteen years later, the two are still partners, Platillero proudly says.
More than 200 big venues signed-up within weeks of the early 1999 launch. A month later, Platillero says, “We were failing, spiraling downward.” The reason was simple – venues were not keeping their calendars up-to-date. As a result, agents quit using the service.
It was time for the proverbial pivot, and the changes that Platillero made are the subject of the second article in this series.