Let’s face it: If you’re not a professional event planner, planning a party or event for a large group of coworkers or friends is not a fun or easy task. If you need catering, a photographer, or a DJ, get ready to contact lots of companies and rip your hair out because people aren’t getting back to you or charging too much.

Enter Fiestah, an online marketplace that promises to connect New York City event planners and all kinds of vendors in a much easier manner than what’s described above. The event planner simply signs into Fiestah’s dashboard, inputs what “items” they need for the event, and then vendors place bids to fill in those needs. If you’re a vendor — such as a baker, DJ, photographer, caterer, food truck, or personal chef — you can look through events in the area and make bids. Fiestah generates revenue by taking a 10 percent cut of each transaction.

One other thing Fiestah provides for both parties: The payment is held in escrow until the vendor completes its task, meaning both sides need to get what they want first. So if a DJ charges $1,000 for an event, Fiestah deposits $900 into the account of the DJ once the event is over.

Fiestah chief operating officer Nurul Yahya (pictured above in the pink shirt) said that she came up with the idea for the startup a few years back. “I had another company prior to this making wedding invitations part time,” Yahya said. “Once I did one wedding, I kept getting more requests. When I was working with these brides, I realized they had a hard time finding a DJ and getting vendors. It was difficult for brides to find companies that would fit their budgets.”

So Yahya teamed up with two friends to found Fiestah — CEO Stefanos Missailidis and chief technology officer Marvin Tam. All three have the pedigree to get a business off the ground. Yahya formerly worked for Goldman Sachs, Accenture, and Barclays in program management, and Missailidis was an IT consultant for Accenture. Tam’s story is a bit crazier — he quit his job as a front-end engineer at Jetsetter to work on Fiestah’s tech full-time and, in turn, he had to move back to his home country of Malaysia because he no longer had a work visa. (Yahya said they hope to get Tam back in New York “soon.”)


Yahya and her co-founders pitched the idea at New York’s Startup Weekend in Nov. 2011, and while it didn’t win, Yahya said there was a lot of positive feedback. She said audience members came up to her and said they wanted to use the service.

And so, the Fiestah team has been hard at work building out the marketplace, introducing themselves to lots of New York businesses, and trying to get traction. The next thing on the company’s long to-do list is to create full merchant profiles with the ability to rate vendors some time in the next few months. And, as it might not surprise startup-world watchers, the next city Fiestah plans to bring its marketplace to is San Francisco.

My first exposure to Fiestah was on the “Startup Bus,” where I met 14 startups that were trying their hand at pitching investors and meeting other young companies in Montreal. Fiestah was one of the most promising startups out of that batch because it serves a clear purpose and could easily work in big cities all over the country.

New York-based Fiestah was founded in February and is currently self-funded. The team said it is in contact with several angel investors and hopes to secure seed funding early next year.

Photo credits: Fiestah