Atlanta-based Software Startup Makes Big Gains in Hospitality Business
Thursday, March 30th, 2017
There’s no doubt that Atlanta is becoming one of the top foodie destinations in the country. We’re familiar with uniquely Southern hot spots around Atlanta like Ford Fry, Empire State South, Kevin Rathbun Steak, Kevin Gillespie’s restaurants and Buckhead Life group’s restaurants. And while they are all successful dining destinations featuring some of the country’s top chefs, they also have something else in common—they are all working one of the leading event management software companies in the nation, Atlanta’s own software startup, Gather.
Nicholas Miller, co-founder and CEO of Gather, says their event management software is now used by close to 3,000 restaurants and venues across the U.S. to support workflow and manage all aspects of their private events including planning and billing. And the numbers are growing so quickly, there is no telling where Miller and his team will be six months from now.
Along with co-founders Alex Lassiter and Tom Merrihew, Gather was founded in 2013 and grew from the original three founders to 15 employees within two years. They now employ a staff of 55.
“We should be growing to 80-90 people by end of the year,” Miller adds.
And not only has the staff increased quickly, but their Atlanta-based office space has recently expanded as well.
“We started in my living room,” Miller says with a laugh. From there they moved into a 200-square foot office, and in October 2016, they moved into a larger space on Krog Street.
And Miller’s unique background as a philosophy major could possibly be one of the hidden ingredients that creates Gather’s recipe for success.
“The background is helpful,” he admits. “Philosophy is definitely a really broad topic and broad line of thinking—it’s big picture thinking. Gather tries to consciously take time to step away from working ‘in’ the day-to-day business to work ‘on’ the business. We set goals that are very logical.”
So, what exactly is event management software?
“Event management software means 10 different things to 10 different people,” Miller explains.
“Our mission is to make planning special events more fun for everyone involved. To achieve that we sell software to what we think are interesting venues. We provide them with software and help with anything from collecting leads and inquiries from their website to executing the day-of event successfully. We collect contracts, collect money and help facilitate everything to create seamless events.”
And while Atlanta is their home market and holds a special place, Miller says they realized early on they can sell their software application across the U.S. They now work with businesses in 49 states.
And Miller says event planning is important to his clients because these special events make up at least 20-30 percent of a restaurant’s total revenue. And he says that some of his clients have even higher revenue in that area.
“We were really drawn to forward thinking restaurants,” Miller says. “All the folks we work with are really interested in what’s next, not just how business is done today.”
And while the technology side of their business is what they are known for, Miller says part of their success is realizing that when you operate in the service industry, you have to appreciate the human element as well so they are constantly on the phone and meeting clients in person to help meet their event goals.
“The human element will never go away … so you have to find a way to balance the human element with technology and that’s what makes hospitality great.”
And when asked if they have taken a moment to pat themselves on the back for creating one of Atlanta’s most successful startups, Miller says they “probably don’t reflect as much as we should.”
“There are moments where you step back and realize it’s pretty cool to see what we have accomplished … At our holiday party last year, we rented out a restaurant and it was amazing to see the size of our group in one place.”
And Miller has advice to others wanting to jump into a software startup: sell your software as a service and provide service with that software.
“Ultimately, you are selling software, but you are also selling your team as a resource and selling your vision as a company. … It’s not just what we offer today, but partnering with us for the future and getting all the innovation that comes with working with Gather …
“We really do try to partner with our clients for the long term. Sometimes it can feel easier to just invest in sales and neglect the post-sale aspect of the business. But we really want to invest in our clients’ success ... and we want to be there to not only support the use of Gather, but to also achieve the initial goal of why they purchased the software…
“Making the leap (to founding a startup) … is the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do, but it also gets harder as you get bigger…”
As for the future of Gather, Miller says they want to keep growing because they feel there are a lot of people they can help with their product and support.
“Atlanta will be a tier one city soon ... so it’s an exciting time for Atlanta and for us.”