Ben Hindman’s company is exploding. And not just with riotous color, smart design, and dead simple project management tools, though those abound. Thanks to a $1.5 million seed round of funding and high-profile clients like MasterCard, L’Oréal, and Toyota, his full-service event-planning platform, Splash, is blowing up the notion that the most important part of an event is what happens in the room.
Like most useful products, Splash was created to fill a need. As the director of events for Thrillist, Hindman was charged with producing massive events for big-deal clients. It was while crafting a mystery trip for JetBlue in 2009 that he realized that the most challenging part of event planning was finding a way to create and sustain buzz around the event, to harness the attendees’ energy, and use it to grow goodwill toward the brand.
“It was the most incredible event ever: There were reggae singers, every kind of sponsor you could think of, luxury hotel rooms, ziplining. But while the event was important, I realized the point was surrounding the event. It was all the anticipation and the post-event press that really mattered,” Hindman says. “It used to be that you created events to reach the 500 people that attend. Now you are leveraging those 500 people to reach 5 million of their friends and followers. So the question becomes, how well equipped can you make them to share your message?”
And that’s where Splash stepped in. “We named the product Splash because that’s the reason people throw events, to create an impact. The concept is very simple: Splash makes your branded event look awesome. The event begins the moment your attendees get their invitation and empowers memories that last forever,” says Hindman, who cofounded the company with CTO Brett Boskoff, his best friend from college.
The platform had its coming out party at SXSW 2012, when Hindman’s team used it to host their own party. But 2013 was the breakout year, as Splash’s free tools for collaborative planning, elegant design, digital ticket sales, RSVP collection, mobile check-ins, and real-time guest photo uploads and social streaming lured folks from sites like Evite and Eventbrite. It led to Splash facilitating a whopping 80,000 happenings. “We believe that an event is the most powerful way to connect. So to see brands connecting with their audience on a real level has been incredibly rewarding,” Hindman says.
The Boston native is a man of many skills, including beatboxing (“Benny Beatbox” was integral to his Vanderbilt University a capella group, the Dodecaphonics) and starting stuff (he launched DC By Foot, a free walking tour company, in 2007, and then joined Summit Series as a cofounder and chief travel officer a year later). But perhaps the talent that serves him best as the CEO of Splash is his ability to make people want to do things.
“All I work on all day, really, is making sure everyone on my amazing team cares. I do that by giving them ownership, by encouraging them to yell at me, to tell me when I’m wrong,” Hindman says of working with his team of 15, many of whom were recruited via client experiences that Splash supported. “I don’t think it’s so dissimilar to throwing a great event and making attendees feel ownership, feel like it’s their event.”
But you don’t have to be the boss to get good use of Splash’s free tools. Whether you’re hosting a 35th birthday party or creating a wedding site, using Splash is a lot more fun than drafting a static page on Evite or Facebook (which actually used Splash to host its own SXSW events this year). “Great events are the coolest thing ever,” Hindman says. “If we do our job, it won’t only be easy to throw an event, it will be easy to throw an incredible event.”