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500 Startups invests in Social Tables to help seat Shakira

By Hamish McKenzie , written on October 17, 2012

From The News Desk

How much of a business can be built on helping to allocate seating at parties? Well, it depends on the party.

For Social Tables, which provides software for easily doing seating organization from events that span from weddings to galas, the parties are getting increasingly large. The Washington DC-based startup has just landed a deal with the Grammys to do the seating for the Latin Grammy Awards on November 15.

“When I saw Shakira’s avatar in a Social Tables seat, that was my ‘holy shit’ moment,” says Dan Berger, the company's founder. At that point, it became clear that this was bigger than the regular Bar Mitzvah. “It’s a kind of validation we need from the market that people actually want what we’re building.”

So far, the Grammys arrangement is a one-off deal, but Berger hopes it's the beginning of a fruitful relationship. He says the event has some particular needs – seating 1,500 people at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas does throw up some challenges – but that those changes benefit the product down the chain. “Whatever it takes to plan a Grammys is the same as what it takes to do a corporate event or a wedding," says Berger.

This week brought a couple of other pieces of good news to Social Tables, too. For a start, it has just closed its $500,000 seed round with an investment from 500 Startups. That was particularly sweet for Berger, who had last year missed out on an opportunity to get into the Mountain View-based incubator because he had failed to find a co-founder in time. He was on the verge of leaving for California when he got the news that, actually, there wasn't going to be a place for him there after all. So, he stuck it out in Washington DC and slowly built up a team, all the while operating out of venture capital firm Fortify.vc's co-working space and incubator The Fort. Now the startup has nine employees across engineering and sales.

The third piece of news is that Social Tables has forged a partnership with events planning media company BizBash. It's the media company's first technology partnership. Social Tables will provide it with event design software exchange for a share of revenue.

While Social Tables specializes in seating charts, that's really only the startup's main building block. Seating is tied to guest-list management, floor plan diagramming, and check-ins, which opens up broader opportunities for Berger's team as it grows.

The startup's other investors include Gary Vaynerchuck, Fortify.vc, and Piedmont Investment Advisors.