Zvents, a San Mateo, Calif. company that has been building an events-based search engine for several years, must be on the right track: It just raised $24 million from a set of investors including Nokia Growth Partners, AT&T and NAVTEQ.
What makes Zvents a bit different from other events sites — last year I profiled it along with its biggest competitors, Eventful, Going.com and Upcoming — is that it’s not an events calendar or social networking site. Instead, the company is working on an advanced search engine that’s optimized just for looking through time-based listings.
That type of search, developed for the Internet, is also turning out to fit well with the mobile industry. “A lot of the industry still thinks mobile search needs to be separate and distinct from the Internet,” Paul O’Brien, the company’s chief marketing officer, told me. But a basic events search is the same for either the Internet or a mobile device — the person using it is just in a different place.
Events, by the way, can range from concerts and festivals to sales and celebrity appearances. A person out on the town with a mobile device will likely be interested in knowing about those things, which is why carriers are becoming interested in Zvents (as evidenced by the AT&T investment). Location-based applications are also proliferating, and they all need data of the sort that Zvents has.
Finally, publishers can also benefit, both by porting their own event listings into the database and by having acces to others. Zvents partners with several hundred publishers, including big ones like MSN City Guides, and less prominent ones like small town newspapers. O’Brien says that Zvents has a significant set of listings in about 2,000 cities in the United States, and several large cities overseas.
Mobile is where Zvents expects a large portion of its business to be in the future, but O’Brien wouldn’t say whether the company is profitable yet. For now, it’s making money off of enhanced listings. While anyone can add an event for free, businesses like department stores will often want to add information like coupon codes or videos, which they pay Zvents a small fee for. In the future, they may be able to pay for greater prominence.