A FEELING OF not going to enough events – shows, exhibitions, concerts, performances – is a familiar lament among Londoners, often as they spend another comfortable evening in the local pub, saying to the same people over the same drinks that they really should take more advantage of all the capital has to offer.
Samuel Johnson was bang on the money when he said to Boswell, ‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.’ So the problem Londoners have is not lack of choice; rather, it is a problem of how to effectively distil everything that’s going on into a list of the events that interest them, which are nearby, and that fit into their schedule.
Tina Mashaalahi and Mehdi Nayebi, co-founders of the dynamic and rapidly expanding events website KweekWeek, saw an opportunity in this problem – like all true entrepreneurs do.
Coming from civil engineering and investment banking backgrounds respectively, they noticed that their London-based friends, though having all the latest smartphone technology at their fingertips, were relying on ‘old school’ methods to find out about events in their local area: recommendations from friends, time-consuming searches on Google or ticketing sites.
But lacking omniscient friends or endless hours to trawl through London events sites, they often missed out on a decent evening’s cultural immersion or entertainment.
Nayebi and Mashaalahi’s website, launched last year in the ‘Solomo’ space (Social/Local/Mobile), aims to fix this problem by giving users real-time, personalised information about events going on in their areas, and throughout the capital, that may be of interest to them.
It benefits those hosting the events too, since it ensures their adverts are seen by the right people. Growth rates reflect the demand for KweekWeek’s personalised matching service: 45,000 users and over 1,000 promoters have signed up so far.
Pictured left: Exhibition at the Royal Academy
This dual benefit, though, was also the first major hurdle the two young entrepreneurs were faced with. Nayebi explains: ‘It’s a problem with what’s called double-sided networking: how do I get promoters to join my platform to offer their events if I have no users? Simultaneously, how do I get users to join when, if they type in the search bar [to look for an event] nothing comes up? But like any challenge, it’s also an opportunity.’
Undeterred, Mashaalahi and Nayebi responded by throwing a few huge parties (seriously). Arranging high-profile events such as comedy shows, conferences and, in May, a spectacular bash at the now closed Battersea power station, they invited as many potential users and hosts as they could muster and thereby raised awareness of the brand.
It enabled them to ramp up their user base – the ‘initial fuel’ of the thriving start-up – from zero to 15,000 almost over night. This then gave them the clout to approach hosts and advertisers, who were rapid in signing up too.
Although there is clearly demand among both users and hosts alike for the service KweekWeek provides, it is hardly a subversive, disruptive piece of technology – unlike the Hailo black cab app that is threatening to put private hire firms out of business all over the capital.
Pictured left: Chelsea football match
Nayebi concedes this: ‘No, this is not revolutionising anything, if you think about it. It’s just as if I had a really good friend in each neighbourhood [of London]. We’re trying to get to a situation where technology can be put in the middle rather than actual people.’
When I point out that this is essentially what ticketing websites do, I’m swiftly put right by Nayebi: ‘The difference is the social element: people are connecting with us because they feel we know them and they feel the platform advises them correctly.’ Now Londoners – or at least those with smartphones – have no excuse to idly complain in their local pub about not taking advantage of ‘all that life can afford’.