After months losing thousands of dollars a day, Eventfinda’s upbeat founder is placing his hope in schemes to revive the events sector – and Kiwis’ pent-up demand to get out this summer
Every month in lockdown knocked $100,000 off James McGlinn’s tech company Eventfinda’s bank balance.
Going into the latest lockdown in August, he expected to use the same playbook as last year.
But then weeks turned into months. Then more months. And finally more than 100 days later Auckland entered a new Covid-19 restrictions framework.
McGlinn says the hardest part was not knowing how long to hold on.
“We were losing $2000 to $3000 a day. It’s just one of those things that weighs on you.
“Every day you’re looking at that balance coming down, not knowing when it’s going to end, not knowing how the Government or health policies are going to impact the lockdown.
“And what was even worse, especially in the last month or so, was being in the dark about what changes were coming and when.”
Being an entrepreneur can be lonely at the best of times, but McGlinn says having to be the “cheerleader for the business” and keeping staff motivated was challenging.
“When we were in the thick of it, we were losing $100,000 a month because 90 percent of our revenue was gone. But our team was flat out doing cancellations, postponements and communications for the industry.
“We’re connecting our clients to the news and promoters with their audiences with us every week, we’re sending out communications to the industry about what the changing rules are, what it means for them, how they can use it to find the systems to meet their obligations at each level.”
The company also doubled down on its marketing service as its ticketing service had no demand.
“Marketing was the silver lining here as our clients were suddenly not flat out all the time and we were able to go to them and talk about case studies for events that took place over the past 12 months. Get that written up, get it published.”
The Government consulted with Eventfinda while planning the vaccine pass.
The Government’s pledged to underwrite 90 percent of unrecoverable costs for major events cancelled or postponed due to Covid-19 this summer.
McGlinn also helped set up a similar scheme for smaller players, announced by Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni earlier this month.
A survey of 50 founders and majority shareholders by Entrepreneurs Organisation NZ published last month revealed most operators, like McGlinn, were also after a clear roadmap and immigration opening for international staff. Immigration NZ says it won’t process offshore visas until August next year.
“The number one job between now and the end of this year is to build up our balance sheet. We’re not out of the woods yet, we have no idea what’s coming next.”
– James McGlinn, Eventfinda
Collectively, the surveyed businesses contribute more than $400 million in revenue to the national economy annually. And about a third of the respondents reported their revenue dropping by more than 50 percent.
The traffic light framework has been the “light at the end of the tunnel” for businesses, he says.
“We’re at a much better position with half the country in orange. It’s such a relief but it’s very difficult for us to predict when Auckland is going to get there. We just have no idea. So yeah, that’s tough, but it’s a lot better than Level 3.”
The Entrepreneurs Organisation NZ survey found 53 percent of respondents were still feeling confident about the coming year.
McGlinn says entrepreneurs are optimistic by nature.
“If we weren’t we wouldn’t get into business. There is still going to be a lot of pent up demand like we saw coming out of lockdown last year to get outdoors with your friends. So I’m not concerned at all that we won’t see that in 2022.”
Eventfinda is on track to break even by January as ticket sales soar, he says.
“The number one job between now and the end of this year is to build up our balance sheet. We’re not out of the woods yet, we have no idea what’s coming next.
“But the events and festivals that are going on sale are selling really well. So yeah, it’s all looking positive at this point.”