Sometimes, innovation means jumping into new markets. Other times, it means doubling down on something you initially thought was just a feature. Regardless, successful innovation requires an intense focus on customer needs, which is exactly what Jayesh Parmar and the Picatic team did.
Picatic grew from humble beginnings as an event crowdfunding platform to be one of the world’s largest event management platforms. Every new innovation came from a laser focus on customer needs. Now that Picatic is a global business, Parmar is focused on the responsibility that comes with growth – to build a business driven by a purpose beyond only profit.
During the early days, Parmar noticed a problem: event organizers were spending a ton of money to put on an event (space, catering, etc.) before knowing if the event would draw an audience.
So he came up with a solution: an event crowdfunding platform where organizers could sell early bird tickets to events before they spent money. If tickets sold well, the event would proceed and early bird ticket holders benefitted from a discount. If the event didn’t happen, ticket holders got a full refund.
It was a win-win situation, and it helped Parmar expand Picatic to the point where they moved from their native Saskatchewan to San Francisco to take on the world.
“The business model worked well, but the lifetime value of a customer isn’t very high with event crowdfunding,” said Parmar. “We learned that after organizers got market validation, they needed a normal ticketing solution. So we started to look at what problem we were trying to solve – we decided we wanted to be software-to-software.”
The unique challenge they faced – a successful platform with low lifetime customer value – brought them to the Extreme Startups accelerator. There, they met Marcus Daniels (now a partner at Highline BETA), who became a mentor and advisor to Picatic.
“We needed mentors with experience, who could help us shrink our knowledge gaps and connect us with relevant individuals or companies,” said Parmar. “Marcus came with passion, high energy, and always made – and still makes – time for us when we need help or advice.”
The mentor fit helped set Picatic’s course to become the global success they are today: an event management platform that focuses on seamless user experiences, building a software-to-software product vision.
Now, Picatic users can embed ticket sales panels right into their website, solving a nuisance of other platforms that redirect you off the event site to buy a ticket from the ticket provider’s site. Further, through mentorship from first Extreme Startups and then HIGHLINE.vc, the company adopted a “go where ticket buyers are” mentality, helping them create solutions such as an API integration that allowed organizers to create native ticket-buying experiences on their own tech properties. This led to a huge jump in conversions for event organizers, and a lot of success for Picatic.
As Picatic gained more growth and success, Parmar became adamant that the company stand for something more than just profit. To make sure this happened, he brought the “quadruple bottom line” into Picatic, creating an equal focus on employees, Picatic’s mission of bringing people together, the broader community and nonprofit organizations, and also profit.
“Picatic evolved to become more conscious about our company being purposefully driven,” said Parmar.
They started some initiatives to help charities raise money through the platform, but soon the team was “bombarded with requests” from charities and nonprofits. Not only was the initiative not scalable, it was also unfair, as Parmar said, for Picatic to “police what’s worthy” of their support.
Instead, the team launched a self-onboarding platform within Picatic for nonprofits and charities. Those organizations get a sponsored rate and can immediately go live with their event, and a footer at the bottom shows a live counter of how much the platform is helping to raise. The initiative launched in January 2018 with the ambitious goal of raising over $100 million for charity.
“Profit isn’t a swear word,” he said. “But I wanted to have a purpose and help global citizens – and build a team that didn’t feel they had to work without purpose. So we want all these intrinsic fields – people, mission, community, and profit – to be part of our DNA.”
In order to build a company that can do great things and focus on more than just profit, however, you have to bring the right people in; that includes advisors and investors.
“It’s all relationships,” said Parmar. The reason I chose Marcus as an advisor and investor is because he had deep connections in the industry. As we grew and needed help, having him in the background helped us learn faster and connect with the right people.”
But more than just offering an introduction or two, an advisor or investor must be aligned with your business and your mission. In order to find those individuals, Parmar says it’s more about putting in your diligence than expecting magic to happen.
“When I advise people now, I say mentorship and investment is what you make of it. There isn’t a magic wand – advisors and investors will open up doors, but it’s up to you to go through the doors.”
For founders seeking investment, Parmar suggests making a list of as many as 100-200 potential names, further researching from AngelList, Crunchbase, and seeing who invested in your potential competitors. Once you’ve re-ordered the list for potential quality and alignment with your vision, go about 20-30 names down the list and start making pitches.
“You can ask all your questions and get ‘beat up’ with names deeper down the list,” he said. “Once you are comfortable with your story, your deck, and your ask, you can go to the top of your list.”