“Hey Brian, I’m Luke. I liked your SaaS to Marketplaces talk, there are parallels to what we’re building at Perfect Venue. I’d love to tell you more about it.” It started like any friendly conversation with a new connection at a conference. Luke, the Founder and CEO of Perfect Venue, shared an overview of his startup and made some interesting connections between the Eventbrite examples in my presentation and his own business. I was intrigued but had questions too. As we parted ways Luke asked if he could check in from time to time. I agreed, though I honestly didn’t think much of it as people seldom follow up.
But Luke was different. He sent consistent updates sharing his team’s learnings and progress. From our first serendipitous meeting in 2019, Luke reached out a few times asking for a quick chat. When we’d meet, he always showed up with thoughtful questions about an area of his business he was actively thinking through and provided concise but impactful updates on how the business was evolving. Beyond being a thoughtful entrepreneur, Luke initially stood out in terms of how he worked to build and nurture a relationship. Over time I also saw Luke consistently showcase his grit and tenacity.
Getting to know Luke personally over time, I learned how 9/11 compelled him to serve his country. Upon graduating from West Point he completed multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan as an infantry officer where he led his platoon on daily combat missions. Luke doesn’t actively offer stories from his time served and is quick to defer any mentions of heroism, but it’s clear that he developed a rare toughness through his service. Defy has been fortunate to back a growing number of veterans-turned-entrepreneurs, and it’s no coincidence that they share this quality.
While everything in life is relative, it’s tough to see the first incarnation of your startup struggle. I watched Luke grapple through an unsuccessful first launch of the product, but Luke marched on and pivoted into a more promising direction. Briefly energized by this new momentum, the team was quickly smacked in the face by the Covid pandemic. With their target customers of restaurants and venues fighting for survival amid business shutdowns, it certainly didn’t seem like the ideal time or place for Perfect Venue to be building products for in-person events. But Luke and his Co-Founder Matt never gave up. They hunkered down, sought input and feedback from any prospective customer who would give them the time of day, and Luke and Matt built a powerful yet easy-to-use platform to serve their target users (I was astonished to learn that Matt built the entire new product himself).
Finally Luke and Matt caught a break. As the economy opened back up and in-person events started to re-emerge, they started to feel pull from the market. With pre-pandemic private event spending totaling $80B annually, restaurants and venues were eager to restart this critical revenue stream. Furthermore, facing extreme challenges retaining qualified employees, restaurants and venues were desperately looking for ways to do more with less. More and more venues started using Perfect Venue’s product to manage their private events, saving hours of time and driving more revenue as they switched away from the spreadsheets, pen/paper, physical checks, faxes, and other offline cobbled-together solutions that most had been using. One customer I spoke with said “Now I think to myself ‘how could I have done it the old way?’ Perfect Venue is easy-to-use and powerful but not too big for me. It’s vital to our business.”
Many other venues felt the same way — Perfect Venue steadily and organically grew its customer base each and every month. On the foundation of a multi-year relationship, as well as seeing the team persevere into this new growth, I was fortunate for Luke, Matt, and team to choose Defy as their partner for this next phase of growth. Turns out, a chance meeting at a conference ended up being the perfect venue to plant a seed for our partnership together.