Joshua Gooch wants to change the way planners book event space. A travel industry veteran who helped develop the online registration system for JetBlue, along with the airline's TrueBlue frequent-flyer program, Gooch has founded a new website, Pogby, which is poised to become a robust search and booking engine for the fragmented events industry.
The site already is earning buzz -- and with good reason. Pogby was one of the seven finalists in the 2009 New York City Entrepreneur Week Business Plan Competition in April. Among the site's board members are Amy Curtis-McIntyre, senior vice president of brand communications for Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, and Darlene Miranda, a senior manager at American Express.
Gooch envisions individual party planners and meeting and event professionals searching for all kinds of venues on his site, finding availability and booking the facilities with just a few clicks. It's the events equivalent of the web-based restaurant finder OpenTable -- an easy way for planners to book, and venues to sell, event space online. By cataloging a wide variety of facilities, Pogby will be broader in scope than existing search and booking engines such as Worktopia, which currently focus on hotels and conference facilities.
The website, which is still in beta mode, has a small but growing list of venues, including New World Stages and CityView Racquet Club in New York, both of which Gooch considers key contracts for his fledgling company. "Most interesting is that we've been contacted by art galleries, museums, restaurants, bars, private event spaces, music venues, concert venues and more," he says. "It is a broad list that is quite exciting, showing people need a low-cost way to sell their space for meetings and events."
Gooch wants to get 150 venues on the site by next spring. For now, he's focusing on New York City and San Francisco, but he says the growth potential is immense: He's already received inquiries from Los Angeles, Seattle, the U.K. and Spain, among other destinations.
Pogby is paying event planners to help it get off the ground. Anyone who refers a venue to the site will earn a modest finder's fee if that venue signs up for the service.