The story behind VenueScanner: A female led startup that is taking the market by storm

VenueScanner, which has been described by Forbes as the “AirBandB of venue hire,” was founded in 2016 by Rebecca Kelly and Benjy Meyer.

The company´s objective is to connect people with places to make it easy for events, meetings, and party organizers to find the perfect venue and book it for a good price.

At the same time, they help venue owners to be found by a big pool of potential customers and keep their order books full. It is a “win-win” platform that solves problems for both venue owners and their customers. That ability to address the needs of both parties has enabled VenueScanner to grow at a phenomenal rate.

Where did the idea for VenueScanner come from?

Inspiration for its creation came out of Rebecca’s personal experience. While working for M&S and Naked Wines, she saw firsthand the challenges that event venue owners faced. For most, keeping their order books full is a daily struggle, especially for smaller venues that find it difficult to compete with the industry´s bigger players.

Kelly realized that creating a database that any size or type of venue could join and making it possible for people to search it online would level the playing field. That realization inspired her to start VenueScanner. In the process of doing so, she fulfilled her dream of creating businesses instead of advising them.

What was the reception like when it launched?

VenueScanner’s industry-leading Tinder-style app that matches event planners with their perfect venues was an immediate hit. The business grew at an incredible rate. By 2019, they had 21,000 venues in their database. A significant percentage of them were small businesses, including schools, community centers, cafes, pubs, and churches.

What barriers has the company had to overcome?

The future looked exceptionally bright, but then disaster struck. In March 2020, the UK locked down for the first time because of COVID-19. A month later Rebecca won Outstanding Entrepreneur at the Global Business Excellence Awards.

She was pleased to win the award, but her thoughts were very much focused on keeping the business afloat despite the crisis and continuing to help venues thrive. At the time, she said:

“This is no time for celebration. We exist to help small, undiscovered, independent venues better compete and this award recognises them as much as it does VenueScanner. We are absolutely committed to supporting those very venues through this incredibly difficult and challenging time.”

Rebecca met that commitment in full. The very tough decision to reduce the size of the VenueScanner team was made quickly and an additional £1 million in funding was raised to ensure the business was ready to re-grow fast once the crisis was over. In addition, a new service called VenueScanner Retreats was developed and launched to make it easier for businesses to get their remote teams together.

How is VenueScanner doing today?

Today, VenueScanner is still the UK’s largest online booking venue booking platform. The headcount has gone from five to 27, revenue is increasing month on month by 20% and the business is expanding into other countries.

How does VenueScanner demonstrate the power of female entrepreneurs?

Rebecca´s story perfectly demonstrates the role women are increasingly playing in shaking up the business space. Firstly, she recognized an issue that others who had been involved in the industry for decades had either missed or been unable to address.

Secondly, she was able to take off-the-shelf technology, tweak it and use it to solve the problem. Women are proving to be excellent innovators who can break down barriers and bring people together in ways that benefit everyone.

What’s the future for VenueScanner?

VenueScanner is by far the best place for anyone who needs a venue to find one. The database is growing day by day and is extremely intuitive. The company is expanding beyond the UK. So, soon, regardless of where you are in the world or the type of event you want to host, finding the right venue will no longer be a huge headache.

There is no longer any need for small venues to build a website and try to outrank huge companies with deep pockets to appear high enough in the search rankings. The sign-up process is fast, and venues can be found and booked online by thousands of potential customers.