Queensland startup Ivvy has raised $7 million in pre-IPO funding, as co-founder and chief Lauren Hall seeks to capitalise on an inflection point in the events management industry, caused by COVID-19.
The round was led by Australian private investment firm Thorney Investment Group, and also included Gandel Invest.
Founded in 2009, Ivvy is a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service platform for management of venues such as hotels, casinos, stadiums and restaurants.
For a long time, this industry has been lagging in terms of digitisation, Hall tells SmartCompany.
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Booking a venue for an event is very manual, time-consuming and labour-intensive, because venues themselves don’t have live data on their own availability.
It means events organisers are ringing around various venues and waiting for them to respond with availability and pricing.
Globally, this is a trillion-dollar industry, she notes.
“This lack of connectivity has definitely prevented progression.”
The software automates back-of-house processes, becoming a “deeply integrated part of their operational backbone”, she explains.
It can also distribute this data to third parties online, making booking processes easier and much quicker.
The great disruptor
Ivvy has some 25,000 users across 14 countries, and is gearing up to list on the ASX within the next 12 months.
This funding will be used to accelerate its growth plans, particularly in the US and Europe, and to build out its sales and operations teams around the world.
But, the funding comes at a time when the events industry is still on its knees. The COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to all manner of in-person events, and saw many hospitality businesses close for prolonged period.
Hall sees the lockdowns as a catalyst for change in the events sector. Venues have lost staff, she notes.
Becoming more efficient through automation is no longer optional.
As the sector recovers, venues will likely turn to technology as a priority in a way they haven’t previously. And Hall and the Ivvy team have spent the past 10 years building that tech.
“There’s a massive opportunity,” Hall says.
“Change is hard for a lot of people … We’ve seen COVID as a catalyst and a tailwind that’s pushing change very quickly.”
That said, the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. Globally, regions such as India are still very much in crisis, and even locally, the latest Melbourne lockdown shows there’s still uncertainty and disruption.
Still, Hall is confident that the time is right for Ivvy to double down.
As vaccines roll out in various countries, confidence is slowly coming back, she suggests. And while cities may be subject to localised lockdowns, events are moving to the regions.
The recovery may not be 100% underway, but it’s getting there, and it’s just a matter of time.
“The need for face-to-face engagement is so huge,” Hall says.
If anything, the pause to events is making that more prevalent. It’s going to be “coming back with a vengeance,” she adds.
“We will recover and we will come back stronger … This is an industry that will never stop growing.”
The next Australian unicorn?
Ultimately, Hall sees Ivvy riding this resurgence to become Australia’s next tech success story.
“It takes a long time to build very good technology and to build it for global scale in multi-currency and multi-language,” she explains.
She and the team have spent 12 years proving out their tech, and it’s ready to go.
Her goal from day one was to build a legacy, to solve a massive challenge and change an industry. That takes time, money, faith and perseverance.
“I’ve always believed … this one day will be a billion-dollar company,” she says.
“I don’t think I will ever stop believing that.”
Now, she has the capital to scale and grow fast, and to “grab that opportunity in front of us”, she adds.
“The faster we can run, the faster we can embed ourselves, the more value we can drive.”