INNOVATE

This Start-up is Making Event Planning Easier by Putting Vendors in One Platform

Delegate is a one-stop online marketplace that offers a transparent way of finding and booking individual vendors

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BY Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop - 29 Aug 2017

event planning

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Two budding entrepreneurs met while working together at Quintessentially, a private members' club providing worldwide concierge services — Melissa Lou, 29, was working with high net worth clients, helping them plan personal celebrations and private dinners, while Jacqueline Ye, 31, was focused on corporate clients who needed help in organizing internal events. Together, they saw the gap in connecting with the right vendors. So in 2015, they both quit their jobs to set up Delegate, a one-stop online marketplace that offers a convenient and transparent way of finding and booking individual vendors.

"We wanted anyone to be able to plan a great event, and knowing the right vendors and how to go about it shouldn't be privileged information," says Lou.

The platform currently has a database of 750 vendors in Singapore and Hong Kong, and Delegate is hoping to increase the number to 1,200 by the end of the year. This would represent about 5% of the vendors in the two countries, still a relatively small percentage which Lou is hoping to double by end 2018, acknowledging that 10-20% is what is needed to become regarded as an aggregator, "like Expedia is for hotels."

So far, around 1,000 transactions have taken place on the platform, with an average spend of S$2,000?6,000. And while the website seems at first glance to be dominated by wedding and birthday photos, Lou says 60% of bookings is coming from corporate clients — the segment they are particularly targeting to capitalize on repeat business. "From our experience, corporates in Singapore can organize three to five events a month; (which) could be a team building exercise, a weekly staff lunch or a private dinner for clients. In Hong Kong, it's actually three times this number, so the market potential for growth is there," says Ye.

Tjin Lee, founder and managing director of Mercury Marketing & Communications, says her company has been using the platform as a resource for finding boutique venues and new catering partners. "I do use them to check out new vendors and suppliers in the event industry. I don't see them as competitor, more a complementary business, and we've engaged them for events in the past," she says.

Jacqueline Ye and Melissa Lou

Lou and Ye say they are looking to close the first round of seed funding for Delegate, aiming to raise S$500,000 by end-September 2017 in order to help develop new tools such as "smart" payment plan options for buyers, and enhanced backend support functions for vendors such as payment tracking and invoice generators.

Recently, the platform introduced a new visual search recommendation engine that scrolls through a library of 20,000 images from vendors, and provides recommendations to buyers based on their pins on a mood board. Delegate is also planning to launch a 'robo-advisor' that will help match vendors based on answers from a questionnaire.

Lou is hoping Delegate can help demystify the sometimes-opaque world of event planning, "where event organizers will typically charge a fee to customers but also receive kick-back from the vendors they select." Delegate currently receives a referral fee of 5-10% of the final transaction booked through its platform, justdelegate.co.

"Many people will still want to use an event company to manage their event, particularly if it's a larger one. But they can select directly the vendors they want to use with our platform, and compare fees more transparently," says Ye.