Wedding Spot: An idea so obvious it should already have been invented
In Silicon Valley, if you've got a good idea chances are someone has already tried to build it. If they haven't, it's probably because it's a tricky problem to tackle. But every once in awhile, there's a diamond in the rough -- an idea so obvious that it's not totally clear why no one has built it yet.
That's the case with newly launched Wedding Spot. Wedding Spot is a website that lets fiancees search for wedding venues by category -- hotel wedding, vineyard wedding, ranch wedding. That's not new, there's plenty of sites that do the same, like Here Comes the Guide and WeddingWire. But Wedding Spot calls every single venue to interview them, enters their information into a database, and offers automatic, instantaneous price quotes to users when they enter in their specific wedding details.
Price quotes. If you've never planned a wedding before you might be thinking -- how hard is it to get price quotes into a database? But it's rather problematic when it comes to weddings. There's tons of variables. Peak wedding season or off peak season. Time of day. Size of the party. Indoor or outdoor reception or ceremony. Every factor changes the price, which is why most wedding venue search sites just offer general estimates in the "$, $$, $$$" format.
Unfortunately for both venues and wedding hopefuls, such vague information leads to a lot of wasted time. Couples wind up spending hours on the phone with various venues trying to get accurate price estimates, before they even decide which ones are worth visiting.
Wedding Spot fixes that. It's founded by a woman named Tina Hoang-To, who worked as an investor at Technology Crossover Ventures before leaving to start this company. She recruited David Ko as her co-founder, formerly a lead engineer at Eventbrite and Microsoft. He built out the database for determining venue prices based on wedding variables.
The issue of wedding venue booking is near and dear to both Hoang-To and Ko's hearts. Hoang-To got the idea for Wedding Spot during her wedding plans last year. She couldn't believe how difficult it was to find a venue, and soon realized she had stumbled upon a great market opportunity. Ko got engaged a few months after Hoang-To recruited him, and he's using the technology to book his own upcoming wedding venue.
Terri Baldocchi, the Director of the Kohl Mansion venue, says that she's a fan of Wedding Spot. Since it launched recently, she's only had a few people book visits through the site. They've all been serious about their interest since they already know the price.
"The wonderful thing about her program is you see the results right away," Baldocchi says.
For people booking the wedding, Wedding Spot walks you through all the particulars with easy to read drop down menus. You'll cover everything from whether you want to rent standard banquet chairs to whether you'll need a piano for cocktail hour.
And at the end of it, you hit submit and instantly get an easy to read price estimate broken down per cost per attendee.
Wedding Spot is such an obvious idea -- of course stressed out brides and grooms would want to make the venue search process easier. Of course venues would be willing to pay to appear on such sites. Of course data analytics and technology would be a great way to solve the price estimate problem. The real question isn't why does Wedding Spot exist -- it's why didn't Wedding Spot exist before?
Hoang-To wonders whether it's because many of the people who run wedding site companies come from content and publishing backgrounds, not technology. As a result, they're likely to focus heavily on articles and guides instead of algorithms to make the search easier.
At the end of the day, this is a product that should have already been invented. Perhaps the only reason it wasn't is because there aren't enough women in tech.
After all, entrepreneurs are frequently prompted to generate business ideas based on pain points they themselves encounter. That way, they're addressing a need they personally have, stoking their passion for the project.
And not to paint brides and grooms in one broad brushstroke, but if wedding marketing materials are any indication, women more frequently take the lead on planning the wedding. Given the lack of female founders in Silicon Valley, it makes sense that there are plenty of obvious, excellent, untapped ideas for the wedding technology market.
Of course, male techies can build for weddings too. In fact, WeddingWire is the closest competitor to Wedding Spot, and it was founded by a man named Timothy Chi. This isn't Chi's first startup -- he co-founded massive edtech company Blackboard -- so I'm surprised Wedding Wire didn't already tackled the venue price quote problem.
Eventup, a general venue booking site that also does weddings, was also founded by men, Tony Adam and Colby Palmer, formerly of MySpace. Eventup lets people request quotes, but it doesn't automatically generate them for users, slowing down the process.
It appears tech founders were dabbling in the wedding venue space up till now, but hadn't quite nailed the ease of price quotes. Perhaps there just hasn't been enough competition in the wed-tech space till now.
Wedding Spot is already putting these two sites to shame with its slick user interface, wedding specific details, and instant price quoting. But Wedding Spot is only available in Southern and Northern California, whereas Wedding Wire can be used all across the country and Eventup in nine major cities ranging from Philadelphia to Miami.
To feed its algorithm, Wedding Spot has to onboard every vendor individually. Thus, its biggest challenge will be scaling nationally. Hoang-To isn't concerned. She says it takes about thirty minutes to onboard a vendor, and she hopes to grow the company the way Lyft, Uber, and Hotel Tonight have, with community managers overseeing each new market.