EVDB: organizing the world's events
While thumbing through a local city magazine recently, we realized how incredibly inefficient the whole events calendar system is. In any given city, dozens of print publications and Web sites spend untold labor hours compiling event calendars that, in many cases, overlap with each other. Why isn't there a massive, centralized database of events that anyone can contribute to and pull events from?
Fast-forward to yesterday, when we found ourselves on the phone with Brian Dear. Later today, Dear is launching EVDB (the Events and Venue Database), which he hopes will become the mother of all events databases. We don't normally write much about non-valley start-ups. But Dear's ambition for EVDB is noteworthy. And the company's lined up a bevy of valley investors, including Draper Fisher Jurvetson, the Omidyar Network and angels Esther Dyson of CNET Networks, Half.com founder Joshua Kopelman, Pyra and Odeo co-founder Evan Williams, and Tribe Networks CEO and co-founder Mark Pincus.
EVDB is an events search engine. Dear is going to spider the Web for every conceivable event listing he can find and invite the public to add their own events to the database, in an open, collaborative wiki-like style.
His goal is world-wide reach.
"The Web traffic in North America is only 26 percent of the world. When you do a start-up for the Web, you have to think of the world,'' he says matter-of-factly.
What qualifies as an event? Most everything, says Dear, who was once a designer for eBay. That includes everything from Little League baseball games and book signings to programming on NPR radio, the next U2 concert and everything in between.
The logistical challenges are huge. Just getting the information is one thing. But for EVDB to have credibility, Dear will need to make sure the listings information is accurate, even when it's coming from volunteer submissions. Sending users to events on the wrong days or at the wrong times will not play well with the masses.
"This is a big issue. It's a technical issue. It's a social issue. But it's not big enough to scare us off completely.''
As the name implies, the EVDB team (now just three people in LaJolla near San Diego) is augmenting the listings info with detailed information about venues.
We mentioned to Dear that aggregating a massive database of event listings seemed ideal for a company like Google, whose mission is to "organize the world's information.'' Dear agreed. "An awful lot of the world's information is events, and it definitely needs organizing,'' he said. "I just got tired of waiting.''
He added: "Our big competition hasn't launched yet. I think Yahoo, Microsoft, Google all want to be in this space. You hear it all the time – everyone wants to be local. We're at the nexus of local.''
Dear hopes to make it easy to get information out of the database. He has plans to allow people to download events to their desktop or mobile calendars. He's building a "prospective search'' feature that will let users subscribe to events that are not yet in the database. And he expects to roll out an API that will allow users to slice, dice and re-use the data as they see fit.
What's the business model? Targeted and local advertising, Dear said. And a commercial API, pricing to be determined later. "We're focused on charging businesses, rather than individual users,'' he said.
Dear already has competition in the space. Upcoming.org, created by Web programmer Andy Baio, offers a similar service, with an impressive list of venues, more than 10,000 events and growing list of features. Upcoming.org is free. EVDB intends to be a profitable business.
"I think to really do the innovation right, you have to do it as a business'' Dear says.