Interview: Jonathan Fry, managing director of Event Rater

Tech Dragons recently caught up with Jonathan Fry, a Welsh entrepreneur who’s on a mission to revolutionise the events management sector through his venue feedback platform Event Rater.

TD: Who are you, and what does your company do?

JF: I’m managing Director at Event Rater. The company was founded in January 2012 and is a free website and app that allows attendees to submit ratings and feedback to venue managers and event organisers to use for evaluation purposes. 

There are a number of incentives for attendees to submit ratings, such as competitions to win signed merchandise or the opportunity to build up points to be redeemed for Theatre Tokens.

I also have experience within the education sector, having completed a BA (Hons) degree in Events Management (2010) and MPhil research degree (2014). And I am currently studying a PGCE PcET at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

TD: Why did you set up the business?

JF: I started the company because I am passionate about the events industry and because I noticed a gap in the market for a service similar to TripAdvisor but tailored to the events industry.

Having researched what the industry wanted from the service and noted the weaknesses of other review websites, I decided that the most appropriate platform would not display the feedback and ratings to the general public.

TD: What problem is it solving?

JF: The problem that Event Rater is solving is providing a time-saving and comprehensive event evaluation platform (rather than creating surveys from scratch) and then analysing the results. The majority of organisers tend to move on quickly to the next event with minimal time to conduct effective evaluation which demonstrates a need for such a service.

TD: What makes your business unique?

JF: There are a number of things that make the business unique. The first is that the venue managers and event organisers can select from a ‘bank’ of questions developed as part of my undertaking an MPhil research degree at Cardiff Metropolitan University. 

The second factor is, unlike other review websites, the general public is unable to view the ratings and feedback as it is for evaluation purposes. The website uses a Ticketmaster API, which automatically generates event listings at venues that can be rated.

In terms of marketing, Welsh rugby players (mainly International and Cardiff Blues players) with large social media followings act as ‘Roving Raters’, attending events in Cardiff, rating the events and helping to promote Event Rater on social media.

We have also published a number of Q&As on the website with Welsh celebrities such as  Sian Lloyd (TV & Weather Presenter), Sara Manchipp (Miss Wales 2011) and Carolyn Hitt (Journalist) exploring their interests in events which helps generate website traffic.

TD: What’s been your biggest success, and biggest obstacle?

JF: The biggest success was Event Rater winning the ‘Best Digital’ Lloyds Bank Enterprise Award in 2014 (Wales and South West England Heat), which generated national recognition in the media.

The biggest obstacle has been to generate a critical mass of users and app downloads. However, there is a strong social media and marketing strategy continually spreading the word.  

TD: What do you think of Welsh tech? 

JF: I think Welsh tech is very exciting with great sources such as Tech Dragons and Cardiff Start to keep up to date with news. It is also great to hear that there are plans for Welsh ICE to expand to Wrexham, North East Wales.

TD: Do you have any advice for budding entrepreneurs? 

JF: I think the key thing is to be persistent. I started Event Rater when I was 22 because I am passionate about the events industry, and I didn’t want to look back in the future and regret not having had a go at developing my own start-up business.

The other important factor is to try to find a mentor who can support you. I was very lucky that after the company won ‘Best Digital’ at the Lloyds Bank Enterprise Awards, I was allocated a local business mentor. I regret that I did not have a mentor at the early stages back in 2012, as I think I would have benefitted even more from advice at the early stages.