Karl Jacob is a five-time entrepreneur who is currently the CEO and Founder of Hangtime, which builds a way for consumers to see their friends’ social plans.
Over his career, Jacob’s raised over $200 million from Microsoft, eBay, Integral Partners, Norwest Ventures, Greylock, Benchmark Capital, Ignition Partners and Vulcan Ventures. He holds a B.S. in Computer Science from University of Southern California Engineering School.
1. Tell us about Hangtime. What is it? When did you start? Where are you going with it?
Before Hangtime, consumers had to go to the events section of newspapers, city guides, Ticketmaster, Stubhub, AEG, Livenation, Ticketfly, Eventbrite, Facebook and numerous others to discover ways to have fun with their friends. On Hangtime, consumers come to one place where they can discover all the events their friends are interested in along with all the other events going on around them.
This is the first time a company has aggregated all this information in one place. We have discovered over 30 million events and counting. We started the company in 2011.
We believe consumers will gravitate toward one place to discover events much like they did in the airline industry (Kayak) and the product space (Pinterest). We already have lots of great content around events like live Instagram photos, deals and discounts near the event and we plan to add much more so consumers can get a better feel for an event before they choose to attend. We will also be integrating many more event sources. Finally we want to provide consumers with one click ability to purchase tickets to events from our partners.
2. Why do partners like Groupon, TicketMaster, and Live Nation want to work for you?
Much like was the case with airline sites before Kayak currently consumers rarely visit our ticketing partner sites unless they are ready to purchase. By integrating their events with Hangtime, where users come much more frequently, our partner events are much more likely to be seen. This means they have more opportunities for people to purchase tickets from them. For Groupon its a brand new way of distributing deals. We integrate their deals directly into the event details so consumers can see what deals will be happening just before and just after the event they are attending. This type of highly targeted promotion has never been available before and is driving much higher click thrus.
3. Why do consumers like the service?
Consumers like the service because they don’t have to go to multiple apps to find ways to have fun with their friends. We also make it very easy for consumers to share events with their friends, which previously happened over email or texting and now can happen with a simple tap.
4. Do certain events drive more responses than others?
Absolutely, analyzing the data from millions of events shows that even small changes in the title, image or description can yield a big difference in response. As well who is attending the event makes a big impact.
5. As a mobile start-up, how do you get noticed and keep driving up MAUs and engagement?
We have achieved most of our growth thru word of mouth, which comes from people adding their friends so they can see more events and sharing events with friends. On engagement we are laser focused on event relevance
6. How do you view the messaging war going on right now with WhatsApp, WeChat, Line and Kik? How does Hangtime fit in with that?
We think it is the next set of platforms much like Facebook and Twitter evolved into platforms so will these messaging apps. This happens because ultimately to grow they need more content and apps are a great way to add content into the system. A good example of this would be the games that flowed across the social graph at facebook and drove tremendous growth. The messaging apps are even more interesting on this front since they don’t have native services for things like events so we believe there is even a bigger opportunity
7. How does the messaging feature drive increased engagement on the app?
We found lots of customers wanted to message with their friends about an event but were doing it thru SMS. We even saw people taking screenshots of events and sharing them with each other. Now when you include your friends in an event it creates a private chat among the group you choose so you can have the conversation about going to an event with all the data about the event right there. As well you can do this for numerous events at time. We also keep track of who is “In” for an event so you don’t have to keep track and even let the group know when people arrive at the event.
8. Facebook famously back-tracked from HTML5 a couple of years ago. What would have to happen for you and others to flip and start adopting HTML5? What does it give you and your users that they don’t get from native apps?
Yes, there were those of us who didn’t think HTML5 was ready back then me being one of them . The key for HTML5 is it needs to be as fast or faster than a native app. It isn’t just about the data that is presented to the user its how it is presented. As phones become more powerful and developers take advantage of the new features consumers expect faster more visually appealing interfaces. As well HTML5 will have to have access to all the underlying native features of the native platform. For instance it wasn’t so long ago you couldn’t access location thru HTML5. While we are hopeful HTML5 gets to this point it is clear the phone operating system vendors greatly benefit from lock in and so the incentive for them to make HTML5 successful is quite low.