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Bidding to beat the band

Family ties can be a useful source of new business ideas, according to Chris Kelly, entertainment director of

‘‘The initial idea came while talking with my brother, who works as a singer and entertainment booking agent in Portugal,’’ Kelly said. ‘‘He was filling a lot of gigs for Irish and British weddings in Portugal and asked me to help him source acts in Ireland.

‘‘That worked very well and then wedding planners asked us to provide a similar service in other countries, but we found matching musicians with these gigs was extremely difficult with no structure.’’

Bringing musicians and booking agents together

Kelly saw a gap for a website that would bring musicians and booking agents together, and conducted market research to determine the needs of both groups.

‘‘I spoke with musicians and with pub and venue owners to find out what would make life easier for them,’’ he said. ‘‘We took every piece of advice into consideration. We still use all our phone calls to gather market research to help develop the site to our customers needs.’’ uses an online auction model to match venues that need musicians with artists looking for gigs. Hotels, pubs, clubs and other venues looking for live entertainment initiate an auction stating the location, date and maximum price they will pay.

Registered entertainers create an online profile and then bid up to the maximum reserve price. When a match is made, the band pays 10 per cent of the agreed fee to BandBidder for providing the service.

Kelly devoted himself full time to the business just over 12 months ago.

Test and launch

‘‘In July 2010, I took a redundancy package and started to work on the site full-time from home,’’ he said. ‘‘I quickly realised that the only way to market a product like this was to build a test site to demonstrate. The first test site went live on December 1, so we could use the Christmas period for putting test gigs through. Then we started the really big push when the full site was launched in April.’’ employs three people full-time in Dublin’s Docklands Innovation Park. Getting early users to sign up to the site proved challenging.

‘‘I spent weeks on the phone calling pubs and musicians and getting some write-ups from friends in local papers,’’ he said. ‘‘A huge plus was an article in the Vintners Federation of Ireland Christmas magazine. We also took the site to an Irish Pubs Global conference in Galway last September. They really liked the concept and their feedback was invaluable.’’

Getting support

Kelly also made use of various schemes and supports for new Irish businesses. ‘‘My first day of researching was spent in the Ryan Academy in CityWest speaking with new business start-up advisers,’’ he said. ‘‘I also attended a lot of free talks, seminars and group meetings where I learned so much about starting a business. Last September, I received a place in Dublin Institute of Technology’s Hot House Venture Programme, which allowed time and space to develop the business and gave me some expert feedback.’’

Kelly said it was crucial that entrepreneurs concentrated mainly on critical business issues in the early stages.

‘‘Only when I got out into the marketplace did I really make progress and see what was important.’’ Kelly said the next 12 months would see expand, particularly in Irish themed pubs in overseas markets.

‘‘For the month of August, we have our first Irish national radio advertising campaign to attract more venues and musicians to sign up,’’ he said. ‘‘We are currently in talks with a partner about exporting the concept on a US regional basis. A new version of the site is in development, which will be adaptable for different regions and countries. We are also currently seeking invest or to support these overseas plans.’’

Chris Kelly, entertainment director,