If you think La Jolla is a place people spend their pickleball years, then what’s happening in a street-level suite in the Merrill Lynch Building will surprise you. The event-management and registration platform events.com recently moved its world headquarters there.
Co-founder and chair Mitch Thrower won’t say exactly how much his company — which employs 50 — is worth, other than “it’s a big number.” But the last company he founded, active.com, sold for $1.05 billion in 2013. Events.com’s investors include former Google chief Eric Schmidt (through Tomorrow Ventures) and Burch Creative Capital founder J. Christopher Burch. And every business hour, 245 new events from around the globe sign up to use the company’s event-planning software — and events.com gets a percentage of each.
When the Light was toured around the office, brainwaves could almost be felt radiating out from the glass dividing walls — many of which were covered with math equations scribbled in whiteboard marker by events.com co-founder Stephen Partridge. But there isn’t the heavy geek vibe one might expect. In fact, when Thrower received a thumbs-up from an employee, he explained: “That’s Tony, who invented the sport of wakeboarding.” (It was Tony Finn, and yes, he did!)
Thrower moved events.com from Del Mar earlier this year. He says he’s been in love with La Jolla since relocating his first company to San Diego from his native Connecticut in 1993.
Q: Why not be in Silicon Valley?
“The question is why be in Silicon Valley. We don’t have any boundaries anymore. Everything is online. We have transactions happening all around the world on our platform. There’s video-conferencing. So you can really be anywhere.
And the team is just overjoyed living here. They can walk for coffee to Better Buzz or Brick & Bell, work out at the La Jolla Sports Club at lunch. La Jolla is so superior, from a lifestyle perspective, to 90 percent of the rest of the world, that if you’re going to work as hard as you work in technology, why wouldn’t you put your location in the same place where most people save an entire year just to be able to spend one week?”
Q: How did you first discover La Jolla?
“I started a company in Connecticut that was doing technology solutions for student marketing. I moved that company to San Diego because I’d fallen in love with the sport of triathlon. So I was renting in Cardiff-by-the-Sea and I was driving around looking for another place. I ended up having a construction vehicle block my passage on Ivanhoe Avenue and I got forced down Roslyn Lane, and some guy walks out with a for-rent sign and starts hammering it on the wall. So I thought, ‘Oh my gosh.’ And I moved my original business into the garage and had my apartment above.
Then we had an incubator and worked in different areas. We had a company in the government sector, we had an effort in the automotive industry. We had the whole second floor in the building that they turned into condos (7500 Girard Ave.), part of the third floor and a quarter of the fourth. Our previous company was the largest employer in The Village.”
Q: What exactly does events.com do?
“Let me show you (typing into computer). One of our local customers is La Jolla Half Marathon and Shores 5K. When you want to participate, you go to their website and they’re using our administrative-technology platform to manage their event and registrations.”
Q: So you’re a ticketing company?
“No. We built a platform, more like shopify.com If you want to build an event and all the things that have to do with the event — merchandise, management, sponsorship, marketing — there was no platform, so that’s what we built.”
Q: Which came first, the idea to start an events-registration platform or the domain name?
“The idea. My business partner, Stephen Partridge, had built eventsonline.com We had tried to acquire his company a few times, and he said he didn’t want to sell, but if I ever wanted to work on something bigger, I should call him.
So Stephen and I were walking down Prospect Street in front of the La Valencia in 2010 when Stephen came up with the the name for our new venture. It was one of those moments you never forget. And it was like, ‘Oh my. We need it that name!’ But CBS owned events.com, so we had to negotiate to get it from them.”
Q: For what purpose was CBS using it? Ten years ago, if you typed “events.com” into your browser, what would have loaded?
“They never really launched it. It was a domain to be launched.”
Q: So are you the Steve Jobs of events.com to Partridge’s Wozniak?
“Yeah, pretty close. We’ve both been in tech for a while. He went to school for IT management, he’s engineered stuff. He was the guy who built an earlier version of Vistaprint before there was Vistaprint. But there might be a little bit of Jobs and Woz in us both.”
Q: What’s next for you?
“Well, we just acquired the largest event calendar and media company in the country. That’s part of the stuff that we’re letting the world know about that we’re doing. There’s also stuff that we’re not. And you’ll be hearing about that stuff soon.”