MyPunchbowl lands seed funding for online invitations

Although Evite makes it simple enough to invite some friends to an event, MyPunchbowl thinks it’s found a better way.

Since we last reported on MyPunchbowl in January, the company has been tweaking its workflow-based event planning tools, and has just raised enough funding (less than $1 million) to keep developing for at least another year, according to founder Matt Douglas.

The site’s primary draw is its ease of use and end-to-end planning, from picking the date (the attendees are polled for the best time) to planning the after-party. It also helps users locate stores for their supplies.

New features have made it into the mix, including a “Party Animal” Facebook application that tells friends what kind of party personality they have, and an algorithm-based “pick-a-date” tool that weighs out the schedules of potential guests (including VIPs, who carry more weight) to land on an acceptable date for the event.

Douglas says the site is used for a lot of family parties, and other “mid-market” event planning from book clubs to baby showers. There are also a few corporate users.

Although he won’t give out specific details on the MyPunchbowl’s user base, Douglas told us that the site has higher-than expected traffic, and has been seeing 50 percent growth in users each month for some time.

Competition in the event planning space looks intense, but most of the startups active in the arena have chosen specific niches, and will be able to capture their own followings without invading each other’s territory.

Renkoo, for example, focuses on social networking and casual meetups. Another startup, MingleNow, helps users make it out to the nightlife, with a large list of bars and clubs, while Socializr also aims for a younger, hipper crowd. Evite, while it could develop user tools that mimic MyPunchbowl, is more likely to stick with the model that has made it successful since the dotcom era.

The potential for a strong entrant with a creative, all-encompassing approach to gobble down the small fry still exists, though — especially one with a strong mobile strategy.

For now, MyPunchbowl is avoiding monetizing the site through display ads. Instead, it plans to open partnerships with vendors, helping users secure any party supplies they need. To make money, the site is working on opening more relationships with vendors. A guest asked to bring the turkey to a Thanksgiving event, for example, might receive a targeted offering from Butterball.

Douglas, whose company is based in the Boston area, has three employees. The funding came from Intel Capital and eCoast Angels.

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