Some people are born to build. Nelson Olavarrieta, founder at CelebratePlus – recently voted Dallas’ hottest showcasing startup – fits the bill. Already on his third tech startup since 2006, Olavarrieta’s latest venture combines the concepts behind Evite and Kickstarter to provide a platform for event hosts to directly fund their get-together.
Tech Cocktail caught up with Olavarrieta to learn more about the inspiration behind CelebratePlus and what role the show “Friends” played in its creation.
Tech Cocktail: Who does CelebratePlus target?
Nelson Olavarrieta: We target every person who is organizing a personal event and needs to raise funds to cover the expenses of that event.
We offer them a platform to create a beautiful e-invitation in which they send a link to their CelebratePlus account where they can manage their crowdfunded event.
Tech Cocktail: What was the inspiration behind CelebratePlus? What do you enjoy most about working on it?
Olavarrieta: Almost two years ago I was out with my wife having dinner. We were going through a difficult economic situation, at least comparable to a few years before when we both were working and with no kids. We remembered how our wedding was a great celebration, how we received not only the company and love of our friends and family, but also how we didn’t spend a dime in the party, how our family stood behind us, and all the gifts we received. Wow, we were so lucky.
That made me think what we would have done with all the money that was spent on the celebration and the gifts.
My wife and I agreed that it was a waste of resources to spend that much money on a “party.” Isn’t it more reasonable that all the people, friends and family, who care about you, ‘invite’ the marrying couple to have “dinner?” 200 paying the dinner of 2 is better math than 2 paying the dinner of 200.
Or worst, what if your personal or family’s current economic situation doesn’t allow you to spent that money and not be able to have a marvelous time sharing one of the most magnificent times of your life? What if instead of spending on a party, people can give money down on their house, pay their honeymoon, buy a needed car, or save to pay for the expenses of a new family? What if people can save that money and put it in a college fund for their future kids?
If you don’t have money for health care, are you supposed to wait for your death? If you don’t have money for a wedding, are you supposed to not have a good time in that special moment in your life? Everybody can have a shot at that if we built a friendly platform to invite and raise funds.
“Something needs to change, somebody needs to do something about it,” I said, and instantly hit me back. I NEED to do something about it. I’m a lawyer and have experience in a couple of previous Internet startups, so I said: Let’s start again! In the next days and months I came to the concept of CelebratePlus.com, something like Evite plus Kickstarter, a platform where any person who is having any kind of personal event can easily invite their friends and family, and with the new etiquette that the Internet gives you, be able to ask for funds and raise them automatically.
We have received an amazing response, and people are organizing events as varied as weddings, quinceañeras, retirement parties, dances, slumber parties, pizza night with friends, game watching parties, you name it. People are creating their accounts, creating events, and raising funds. The lack of funds will not stop anybody to share a great moment of their lives.
We have built a platform for friends and family to share their support to the ones they love, and we love what we do.
Tech Cocktail: Who is your greatest competitor, and how do you differentiate yourself?
Olavarrieta: Evite, and we differentiate that on top of of offering a platform to make invitations and organize events, our users can raise funds to pay for their celebrations. We like to think we are Evite + Kickstarter.
Tech Cocktail: What is the biggest advantage and disadvantage of starting up in your city?
Olavarrieta: Here in Dallas, there’s a vibrant community of startups, developers, and more importantly, the Texas attitude that “it can be done.”
Tech Cocktail: Describe a challenging moment or a crucial decision for your startup. How did you deal with it, and what did you learn from it?
Olavarrieta: When we decided to partner with PayPal because they are the most used and trusted online platform for payments, and people can trust their name to handle their money.
Tech Cocktail: What’s one quirky fact about you, your team, or your office culture?
Olavarrieta: When we first came with the concept of CelebratePlus with my wife, we remembered an episode of the TV series, “Friends,” when Chandler is having cold feet the night before the wedding, and his pals Joey and Ross ask him to have dinner with them. “Well I invited 200 people to have dinner with me tomorrow, so I don’t want to spend on dinner tonight,” or something like that, Chandler said. Well, with CelebratePlus, we will change that equation.
CelebratePlus was one the showcasing startups at the recent Tech Cocktail Dallas Mixer.