Q&A: Brian Zuercher, CEO of Venueseen

By Columbus Alive
From the January 17, 2013 edition

As CEO of Venueseen, Brian Zuercher saw the proliferation of social media as an untapped resource for marketing opportunities. Venueseen aggregates and organizes the content, mainly users’ photographs, of social media applications like Instagram and Foursquare to present as a marketing campaign. Zuercher said Venueseen is an evolved kind of marketing that many companies are interested in tapping into.

Besides running Venueseen, Zuercher also likes to give back to the entrepreneur community with his monthly WakeUp StartUp program. The program offers a mutually beneficial venue for all types in the business community — from budding companies to established corporations — to pitch all sorts of subjects.

Venueseen started off as a consumer travel app called Flymuch. In the process of trying to build a location recommendation business, we were combining location databases with social content like Instagram photos. Businesses started to ask where we got all these photos of their locations. Then we just focused on selling that to them as a service. So the company has evolved and now we’re a big marketing platform; a service company for developing marketing campaigns, or whatever a business may want to do with photography from their customers.

We try to give brands a way to tell the story of their product or service using the photos. If they want to turn those into display for their website, or marketing, or Facebook or whatever, they know it’s a really authentic way to show off their brand, their product — customers using it in real life.

We worked with a variety of local establishments and restaurants when we started. Places like Pistacia Vera, who have beautiful products that are easy to work with because they get a lot of customer photos. We’ve now started working with bigger brands for big scale photo contests and campaigns. From a national perspective, we’ve always done really well with sports and franchises. In particular, we partnered with the Indianapolis 500 for a five-month campaign leading up to the race and built this really cool interactive display.

I and some other entrepreneurs have WakeUp StartUp once a month at Ohio State. Every time it’s sold out from a capacity standpoint. One of the things we decided to do was democratize the process — you don’t have to pay to pitch, you don’t have to pay to come, and you don’t have to ask for money. Typically when entrepreneurs are pitching it’s in front of a room full of stogy old white guys who they’re requesting money from. We encourage those who’re looking for customers, or maybe need to hire people, or advisors.

The audience at WakeUp StartUp is diverse. We wanted to have it at the university so students are more likely to show up, both as participants and as audience members. If you look at the spectrum, it’s corporate, entrepreneurs, small business service providers, investors and just a whole host of creative types that are interested in hearing something new. The last one had a brewing company, an Ohio State professor, a women’s online clothing exchange site and a video production company. We’ve found that the 15 to 20 minutes before and after, where everyone just stands around and networks, is just as beneficial. And because it’s such a diverse audience you meet a lot of people you normally wouldn’t meet.

Entrepreneurs are a pay-it-forward community. Any good one knows they would’ve never gotten anywhere without a ton of help. So that’s what we want to do for WakeUp StartUp.

Photo by Meghan Ralston