“Whenever people would call me asking if they could bring 30 people to places that I own, like Union Bar, it would always be accompanied with the same phrase,” Venugo and nightlife owner Eddie Sherman says. “They’d repeatedly ask ‘What can I get in return?’”
From this singular question, the idea was born for Venugo.com, a new Website on which New York City clubs and bars compete, Priceline.com style, for patrons' business.
Along with partners Will Regan, Ted Kirschner and James Maliszewski — and some guidance from nightlife maven David Rabin — Sherman developed a site that takes into account all of the idiosyncrasies of nightlife. Simply choose five venues, then put them in a shopping basket.
“Tell the system, 'This is how many people are coming, and this is what I want for bringing you this business.' It could be everything from free drinks to VIP seating to free food,” Sherman explains. The club or bar can, in turn, modify the request one time. “And the owner can ask a question of the user, and the other four [establishment] owners can see that Q&A.”
The reason for the rigidness? The Venugo fellas understand, from a storied experienced in nightlife, that a transaction over the Internet isn’t like one done in person. By limiting the round of negotiations to two and the number of venues to five, Venugo is trying to juggle both the users' and the venues' interests.
“Venues want to know you’re not just clicking everyone asking for free stuff. So if you know you’re one of five in the running, you’ll take bids seriously. And consumers know they can’t ask endless questions — just their most pertinent ones,” Sherman shares.
Sherman and crew have even planned for one important factor: the patrons' look.
“This is an image business, and we understand that," Sherman says. "On Venugo, a bidder can be asked to upload a link to his or her Facebook page and those pages of some of the friends he or she is bringing, so venues can see exactly what type of crowd they can expect. We want the venue to have as much information as possible.”
Once a venue and party agree on a bid, the Website’s system does all of the work.
“Imagine you’re a venue owner,” Sherman begins. “You can be on the golf course, an offer comes in to your phone. You agree, and once accepted by the user, it’s booked, deposit’s taken for you, and it’s in your calendar. A party page with all the details and an RSVP page are created for the user, and the RSVP list or guest list is generated and sent to the bar. All of this is automatic; the owner doesn’t have to do anything but worry about his short game.”
For all of this, Venugo charges $1 per person confirmed for each venue — leaps and bounds cheaper than the standard promoter who can charge up to $12 a person and be less than stellar at relaying the same key info mentioned previously.
The site has even more opportunities for venues.
“We allow establishments to publish their events and deals, all without being censored by us. And we created a marketplace that, for a small subscription fee, you can find great electricians or state-liquor-license attorneys, or insurance guys, etc. The list goes on,” Sherman says.
The 100 participating New York City bars and clubs are thrilled with the software and technology. Up next for the budding venture is Chicago, then out to Los Angeles, Miami and Las Vegas.
“Even college towns would be great,” Sherman surmises. “We’re adding about 50 venues a month, and to do it right — with all the pictures and correct information — is time consuming. But the resulting directory is quite vast.”