On a roll ... Ying Wang (left) with business partners David Wei and James Giang. Photo: Theresa Dao
Aged just 24, Ying Wang has already founded one successful start-up and sold it to US group-buying giant Groupon.
His latest venture Venuemob is also attracting interest from major players, recently securing $450,000 in investment from Optus and other private investors.
Venuemob helps people planning events, such as 21st birthdays or corporate Christmas parties, find venues. The venues are sorted by characteristics such as size, price, what sort of food and entertainment they offer and whether they have disabled access. The site indicates whether the venue is available for the chosen date and allows users to book.
A screen grab from the Venuemob website.
The site makes use of the matching and searching powers of the internet to essentially create a new market – one which matches vacant venues with people looking to hold parties. For the venues, the site can help fill typically quiet nights such as Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
"We bring large-group bookings of in excess of 50, 60, 70 people directly to the venue where they will be spending $50 per head," says Wang. "We act with a recommendation to provide users with the coolest place to hold their events, and sometimes it's a place they haven't heard of."
The site earns its revenue by charging a commission of between 10 and 20 per cent on bookings.
Wang and his partners believe users will book through the site rather than going directly to the venues because of its recommendations and convenience. He points out that people still book through accommodation site Wotif even though they could book directly with hotels.
Currently, about 40 per cent of bookings are for private functions, with the remainder corporate.
Wang, who finished his combined commerce and law degrees at the University of Melbourne last month, is putting the lessons he learned with his original website into practice at the new venture.
In 2009, Wang and one of his current business partners David Wei founded Crowdmass, one of the first group-buying websites in Australia. The site was quickly snapped up by Groupon in early 2011 when it wanted to enter the Australian market.
Wang won't reveal how much Groupon paid, but says it was "quite enough for a couple of 22-year-olds". At the time, a Groupon executive described the payment as a "symbolic" amount.
It was while working as a marketing executive for Groupon after the sale that Wang got the idea for the new venture. He had been working with cafes and bars that were having quiet periods.
"We managed to bring them some 21st events for our friends, and we thought these venues are really, really great and they need a way to broadcast what their services are,” he says.
Wang also wanted to demonstrate that starting a company is a legitimate career. "The overall vision for me is to grow entrepreneurship as a viable career pathway for university graduates and through these ventures I'm hoping to show people that this is possible, and trying to foster that kind of environment," he says.
He is using marketing skills he learned at Groupon at his new site. "We were exposed to very good marketing techniques where they build up a lot of users," he says. Venuemob uses "wingmen" – university students who are paid for referrals from friends – as well as social media to run photo competitions and give away drink vouchers or nights out.
In November, the business raised $450,000 from Optus and other investors, but the founders retain a majority share of the business.
They plan to use the cash for marketing, hiring sales staff and expanding the business to Sydney and Brisbane from its Melbourne base over the next few months.