Occasion: Worlds Collide in Chicago and a New Platform is Born

In 2011, during his trip to Chicago, Kieran Klaassen used Airbnb to crash at Aksh Gupta’s pad; the two became fast friends. Two years later, Gupta and his colleague Eric Di Silvestro approached Klaassen to see if he was interested in joining their new startup.

As it turns out, Klaassen had been approached by a fourth party, Pelle ten Cate, about joining a startup that operated in the same vein. Instead of becoming instant rivals, the four young men got together, fused their ideas, and built Occasion: this was a true collision of worlds.

The simple of it is that Occasion makes it easy for customers to purchase services while browsing local and small merchant websites. All business owners need to do is insert two lines of code into their site to enable purchases; it is online booking made simple.

“We found that there were many online tools to help find a perfect merchant for a local service,” says Gupta. “But, there are few online tools available to help customers re-engage with their favorite local merchant.”

In addition, Gupta and the rest of the team found the tools that did exist were not customer-friendly. They identified this consistent problem and seized the opportunity to develop a B2B product that enables SMBs to accept reservations and payments on their own website.

Right out of the gate, Occasion was pre-sold to 10 different businesses and brought in revenue streams before the product was officially launched. In August 2013, when they did launch, the team was able to add a few dozen more businesses to their client list.

The prime customer that Occasion looks for is any business that uses pre-registration for its offered services. To help bring them in, the team has worked hard at signing these specific clients through inside sales.

At their current stage of the building process, they have paired inside sales efforts with an exceptional service for their current customers. This serves as a marketing strategy that spawns referrals which has brought Occasion 10 percent of their current customers.

That high level of service is necessary to stand out from competitors who have been around since the early days of the Internet. These legacy systems have a head start on Occasion, but Gupta finds them lacking when it comes to offering a fast and easy booking experience.

The challenge to succeed is ever present, as it is for most startups. But the wholesome energy between the four team members at Occasion has kept them grounded through the ups and downs of a rollercoaster startup life.

“To paraphrase what Harper Reed said at the Chicago Tech Cocktail event, there is no ‘e’ in e-commerce or in e-marketing anymore; it’s just commerce and marketing,” says Gupta. “All digital services are becoming integral to our daily lives. Accepting orders online or via mobile will become necessary to every business as consumer preferences rapidly evolve. That’s the larger trend here.”

Occasion was featured at Tech Cocktail’s Chicago Mixer & Startup Showcase on September 26th. 

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Will is a Senior Writer with Tech.Co, based out of America's Finest City: San Diego. He covers all territory West of the Mississippi river, digging deep for awesome local entrepreneurs, companies, and ideas. He's the resident Android junkie and will be happy to tell you why you should switch to the OS. When he's off the clock, Will focuses his literary talent on the art of creative writing...or you might find him surfing in Ocean Beach. Follow Will on Twitter @WJS1988
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