I’d like to congratulate founder and CEO Dan Berger and the team at Social Tables on their acquisition by Cvent.
As the leading event diagramming, seating, and collaboration platform, Social Tables has partnered with more than 5,000 organizations and hospitality brands, including Under Armour, Live Nation, Hyatt, The Venetian, ClubCorp, and Forbes, helping event planners successfully launch more than 4.5 million events worldwide.
In 2014, I led the Series A round at Social Tables and served on the company’s board. Social Tables was sourced by former Bessemer analyst Toni Campbell and is one of many deals that were originated by our analyst team.
Even before our Series A investment in Social Tables, Bessemer was exploring its vertical software roadmap.
Then, and now, we believe in software’s revolutionary capacity to wake up sleepy incumbents and do away with inefficient processes that often hold businesses captive to the status quo.
Toni and I worked together to evaluate the hospitality software space as part of this roadmap that has now generated more than a dozen new investments for Bessemer, including Shopify, Mindbody, Procore, Toast, and ServiceTitan.
When first meeting Dan (pronounced “Don”) and learning more about Social Tables’ market, I was fascinated to learn that SaaS-solutions had yet to serve this surprisingly large market.
We then learned that a substantial portion of the $150 billion in U.S. hotel revenue is generated by group and event business. Analysts estimated that for the typical Marriott, Starwood, Hilton, or Hyatt, group business represented 30 percent to 40 percent of overall revenues.
However, the group event planning and booking process remained largely untouched by technology. Event venues and blocks of hotel rooms are typically sourced through brokers and personal relationships, and event planning is done using spreadsheets, email, and basic CAD drawings.
One of the many reasons why technology adoption lagged in this industry could have been due to the fact that it was so heavily fragmented. In 2014, there were more than 30,000 independent event planners in the U.S. and the vast majority are very small businesses.
While hindsight is always 20/20, we knew then that Social Tables was uniquely positioned to streamline a mostly relationship and paper-based market. We also knew its leadership gave the company an unfair advantage.
When evaluating industry-specific software at Bessemer, we like to see how a founder or CEO has an ‘unfair advantage’ in the market. We define this to mean a deep connection to the industry or a level of expertise that gives a company a huge leg up when fixing a problem– or transforming an entire market.
We were excited to back Dan and his vision to build a SaaS-enabled marketplace to help event planners discover and book meeting space in an automated fashion. He empathized with fellow event planners, had first-hand experience, and deeply understood the obstacles that came with the job when juggling relationships and resources across organizations, hotels, and other venues.
Prior to founding Social Tables in 2011, Dan worked on Capitol Hill as a personal assistant and close advisor to Congressman Rangel of NY. Parallel to this role, Dan ran a national advocacy group where he organized national events and led steering committee meetings. And before his foray into politics, Dan was a consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton, received an MBA from Georgetown, and founded a small web development firm in New York.
Dan is an energetic founder who has a passion for bringing people together through events. The company built a SaaS business serving 5,000 hotels and event planners and scaled well into the double digits of ARR on less than $15 million in invested capital.
He ran a lean and efficient business and I commend him for avoiding the temptation to raise too much venture capital. Their recent success in expanding the product portfolio and delivering on their SaaS-enabled marketplace vision caught the attention of Cvent. Dan’s decision not to over-capitalize his business meant that an exit at this level provided a great outcome for all stakeholders.
On behalf of Bessemer Venture Partners, we wanted to congratulate Dan and the rest of the Social Tables team. We’re honored to have been part of their journey and look forward to seeing where they go next with Cvent.