Brandon Stephens MBA2005 hopes his latest venture proves just as successful as his Mexican restaurant chain
A fear of missing Red Hot Chili Pepper music gigs in 2010 gave Brandon Stephens MBA2005 the idea for an events app that is now a reality after seven years. He has launched REVL, a website and mobile phone app to keep track of the latest events and shows across the UK.
Stephens said he thought of the concept – where people can find out about everything from concerts and football matches to comedy nights and restaurant openings or promotions – when realising gigs featuring his favourite bands had passed him by.
“Almost everyone at some point has missed out on things and thought, ‘I’m tired of not knowing when tickets go on sale for my favourite festival, when the next trivia night is at the local pub, when my favourite comedian is in town', and so forth. It struck me that there was no single platform to get event information conveniently and in one place.
“What’s amazing in 2017 is that we have Spotify that’s organised all the music out there and we have YouTube for all the video content. And yet, where would you go to find out about all the UK-based events taking place? We realised that the only way to create an exhaustive database was to enlist all of the pubs, clubs, museums, galleries and other institutions to broadcast their events. It’s a mammoth undertaking, but we’ve been amazed by the receptivity from the leisure industry.
The challenges of promoting events for his previous business, Mexican restaurant chain Tortilla, was also a catalyst. The company – which now has 33 outlets across the UK and one in Dubai – used Facebook and Twitter but neither proved effective.
“You realise there’s a gap for a platform that allows people to find out what’s going on near them and for promoters to advertise their events,” he said. “We expected Time Out or another player to build an ‘open platform’ to broadcast events but they never did, so we decided to do it ourselves in 2015.”
In those two years before launch, Stephens and his team have secured more than 600 partners including 19 of the 20 most visited venues in the UK. The REVL team works with the National Trust, British Museum, V&A, Houses of Parliament, Fuller’s, BAFTA and the O2 Arena.
The company also has agreements with 17 major ticket sellers that use the platform to promote music gigs, football matches and leading tourist attractions. There are 159,000 UK-based events across 42,000 venues listed on REVL – with the numbers constantly rising, according to Stephens. But he admits getting so many partners on board since starting the business in 2015 has been challenging.
“We have just three people in business development, so building critical mass isn’t easy,” he said. “But we’ve been surprised by the receptivity from those at the brands who are responsible for event promotion – they also see the gap in the market. And because they’re all in the event space, they have a personal draw to the platform. Now when we meet folks, they don’t want to miss out on being part of REVL.
Building a user base is the immediate goal. “We want to build a virtuous circle of content, curation and users. But again, that’s predicated on content exhaustiveness. We want you to be able to go onto the platform, look up any pub in the country and find out what’s going on there,” Stephens said.
In the long-term Stephens wants to roll out REVL across the globe, starting with the US. He also plans to establish it as a data-driven marketplace for businesses that inform customers about nearby events, such as newspapers and magazines, tourist boards and hotels.
“They buy that information from other providers, so the idea is that they start using REVL which is far more extensive when it comes to local events. In Glasgow alone, we have several thousand events taking place – and the numbers are always growing.”