Talia Mashiach always knew she wanted to start a big, disruptive technology company. But unlike many young entrepreneurs, this 35-year old mother of five was in no hurry. Mashiach’s company, Chicago-based Eved (Hebrew for “servant”), is an online marketplace for meeting and event planners—a $263 billion dollar industry that Mashiach says is woefully behind the curve in terms of technology. In that pain point, she saw an attractive business opportunity. But the company she started eight years ago bears little resemblance to the one she has today, the one that just landed $9.5 million in venture capital.
“I was really a technology entrepreneur who saw a huge opportunity to build a big tech solution in the event space,” says Mashiach. “So I spent seven to eight years figuring out the industry.” That meant launching her company as a local service that connected hotels and meeting planners to the vendors they needed for big conferences. Airport pick-up for 4,000 executives? Not a problem. Flowers for 150 tables? Piece of cake. A carefully selected group of vendors created online profiles on the Eved Web portal, where clients could view their offerings. Eved’s sales team then created proposals for clients, using the virtual inventory from those vendors.
For several years, Eved grew steadily—to $9 million in revenue in 2009—and Mashiach proved that she could deliver efficiencies and cost savings to the events industry. At the same time, she drew on her company’s profits, a home equity line and investment from a “super angel” to invest $5 million to develop the technology she knew she would need to grow Eved to the next level. “We launched a totally separate technology company,” she says. The plan: to leverage her knowledge of the supply chain to create a global cloud-base platform where big players in the events space could completely automate how they chose and managed transactions with vendors. A few high profile clients, such as Fay Beauchine, president of events at Carlson Marketing, helped give the new venture credibility in the marketplace. “It was huge to get that kind of support,” says Mashiach. To make the transition from service provider to tech company complete, Mashiach sold her original company, but kept the name Eved. She says that she expects approximately $75 million in transactions to pass through Eved’s platform this year.
Mashiach’s big goal: an IPO. To that end, she began serious talks with venture capitalists last March, focusing largely on Matt McCall at New World Ventures. “I had been talking to him about our company since 2007,” says Mashiach, “so he knew Eved well. I learned very early on that I wanted partners, not just money, so I took the time to build the relationship.” She also met with Silicon Valley venture capitalists, but her strong desire to remain in Chicago, and her desire to have “hands-on” investors close by, ultimately led her to stick with local Chicago companies. MK Capital, also in Chicago, joined in the $9.5 million round as well.
With this most recent capital raise, Mashiach forfeits majority control of her baby. But she has no regrets. She needed the investment to scale her company as she had always planned: to scale the platform, hire top-notch sales and marketing teams and improve customer support. “My driver isn’t wealth,” she says. “It’s having a goal and achieving it, and I know I can’t get there by myself.”
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