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Unexpected call, follow-up meeting underscore John Platillero’s maxim that “Everything happens for a reason”

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

In a teknovation.biz article we published in October 2017, John Platillero, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of EventBooking, said, “Everything happens for a reason.” That truism was certainly at play a few months ago when he answered the telephone and the caller was asking a familiar question.

“I had received calls in the past from private equity (PE) firms, but this one seemed different,” Platillero told us. “It was an individual who said he was from Tennessee, would be passing through Knoxville visiting friends, and asked if we could meet, and I said yes.”

Fast forward a few months, and Cove Hill Partners, the PE firm where the young man worked, has acquired both EventBooking and its largest competitor – Ungerboeck based in O’Fallon, MO. The latter provides industry-leading event and venue management software to more than 50,000 users in more than 50 countries around the world. EventBooking is a Software-as-a-Service company that specializes in online booking and venue management for arenas, stadiums, convention centers and performing arts centers.

Today, Cove Hill has merged the two complementary businesses into one.

“They’re small and very strategic,” Platillero says of Cove Hill that describes itself on the firm webpage as “focused on partnering with outstanding management teams to build market-leading consumer and technology companies.” Founded in 2017 to invest the personal capital of the firm’s founders alongside a group of like-minded families, endowments and charitable foundations, Cove Hill manages a long-duration capital base with more than $2.5 billion of commitments from its investors and founders.

The acquisition of both EventBooking and Ungerboeck by the Boston-based PE firm was completed June 1, and Platillero is now serving as a consultant when called upon. He says it’s also opened a new world to him.

“You spend all your life scrimping and saving as a start-up,” Platillero says in describing his nearly three decade journey that morphed from a part-time interest in promoting concerts to the launch of EventBooking in 1999. We have told the story of the company’s founding and evolution in two different series – December 2013 (Part 1 and Part 2) and an update in October 2017 (Part 1 and Part 2).

In addition to liking the young man who called, Platillero said a key motivator for selling the business was the COVID-19 pandemic and the emergence from it. “Coming out of COVID, the responsibility for our 35 employees and their families was all on my shoulders,” he said, adding, “The joy I got from seeing and being around people had gone away” as COVID caused most employees to work remotely.

Being acquired and combined with the much larger Ungerboeck – 350 employees vs. 35 – that also had offices around the world provided additional comfort for that the team and the business Platillero built would be cared for long-term.

“The more I thought about the acquisition, it started making more sense,” Platillero said.

As far as the future, the always smiling native of Spain says that he has made two strategic investments from his proceeds. One is a non-profit foundation that will make gifts to other non-profits; the second is an angel fund to invest in start-ups including those founded by his son, David Platillero, and daughter, Elisa Trentham, whose Knoxville-based company named Sherwood Media was spotlighted in this 2015 teknovation.biz article.

David, who goes professionally by his first and middle name of David Francisco, lives in California where he is a singer/songwriter, musician, producer, recording engineer and, most important, spinal cord injury survivor following being t-boned by a distracted driver while riding his bicycle in 2016. His story of faith and persistence is captured in this narrative and this video available on YouTube.

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