After a rocky 18 months for the food and beverage industries, event tech startup Happied is making a new splash when it comes to entertainment for DC professionals.
What started as an app connecting DC professionals with happy hour spots, CEO April Johnson said, has now pivoted to online event planning for businesses in the wake of the pandemic. With mail-order kits for activities like making cocktails and cookie decorating, the company is now specializing in events for virtual and hybrid teams.
So far, it’s worked with over 100 customers, including Google, American Express and Match.com, as well as DC-area firms.
Further supporting this model, the two-year-old company was just announced as one of 10 inaugural participants in the 2021 Minnesota Twins Accelerator by startup accelerator giant Techstars.
In collaboration with the Minnesota Twins, which is Minneapolis’ Major League Baseball team, the accelerator focuses on sports, media and entertainment technology. The accelerator, Johnson told Technical.ly, fits in perfectly with the startup’s new direction towards event planning, including in the sports world.
“[The accelerator is] really focused on the intersection of sports and entertainment, which is perfect for us because we’re all about experience and entertainment,” Johnson said. “It also gives us the opportunity to dive into the sports industry, with respect to bringing the sports experience to people everywhere.”
With the new direction, Johnson said Happied is rebuilding its system. Presently, it’s building a new database via Ruby on Rails. The company hasn’t raised since its founding in 2019, but with the accelerator, she said the team will be seeking $1-3 million in funding in the coming months. While the original app still exists in the app store, with its B2B shift, Happied won’t have a public app for its new services.
The move to event planning and the participation in Techstars follow a period of new paths in entertainment technology. In a statement, Techstars said it created this accelerator due to the enormous growth of the sports and entertainment industry, which it said “may be the fastest evolving industry on the planet.” With changes in content types and ways to consume, as well as increased access to data, Techstars said now is an ideal time to innovate and disrupt — traits it said the selected founders hold.
Johnson said there are “so many companies that are really just focused on the fact that entertainment is not location-specific, experiences are not location-specific, and just broadening that audience so that you can enjoy entertainment from anywhere.”
Through the accelerator, participants will take part in a mentorship program with the Techstars network. They will also have the chance to connect with the startup community in the Twin Cities, the Minnesota Twins team and the companies in the fold of parent company Pohlad. According to Techstars, mentors will assist in business innovation, industry access and connections from around the world. Johnson and other founders will pitch their companies at a Demo Day on Feb. 15.
Following the accelerator, Johnson said she doesn’t have plans to revisit the original Happied app. Right now, she said she and cofounder Sharon Cao have found a new passion for the connection in events. After graduating from Techstars, they plan on bringing in-person event planning to DC with their tech in 2022.
“Seeing people come and being able to connect with colleagues, clients and just seeing their spirit lift is what makes us happy,” Johnson said. “We love it, it’s work, but…every time you see a different group come together and get to show them the power of the experience, that’s what keeps us going.”
Here are the other members of this year’s cohort and their home cities:
- AWSM Sauce, West Chester, Pennsylvania
- BeyondRanked, Indianapolis
- EDGE Sound Research, Los Angeles
- Knoow, New York City, New York
- LeagueOS, Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Local Sports Network, Austin, Texas
- Node, Toronto, California
- OneScreen.ai, Boston
- SoleSafe, Saint Paul, Minnesota