Roughly 1.5 million people descended on the District this past spring to see the cherry blossoms bloom for the 100th year, many of them toting a digital guide to the annual festival in their pocket.
Organizers created a mobile application with a schedule of events, maps, merchandise and other features for the second year in a row. Spokeswoman Danielle Piacente said the app saw a 14 percent increase in downloads compared to last year.
“Once people are on site, so many people have smartphones and it makes it so much easier for people to access maps and get to many places within the event,” Piacente said.
McLean-based Cvent bought the firm that built the festival’s app earlier this month, one of two acquisitions carried out in less than a week as the maker of event management software looks to engage with event attendees on handheld devices.
“Events are going mobile,” chief executive Reggie Aggarwal said. “When you go to an event and you’re not in your office or at your house, that’s when you rely more on ... a smartphone or iPad because you need to access the information.”
The company paid $4.2 million on June 13 for Austin-based SeedLabs, which builds mobile applications for consumer-oriented events, including the National Cherry Blossom Festival and Preakness horse race.
Less than a week later, on June 19, Cvent announced that it paid $10 million for Portland, Ore.-based CrowdCompass, a firm that creates mobile applications for business-related events.
Aggarwal said mobile has become front of mind for the firm in the last year as an increasing number of people buy smartphones to access the Internet while on the go and share information and photos via social networks.
Event applications can be used to find information about the event, such as schedules and speakers, to connect with other attendees in real time or communicate via popular social networks, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, Aggarwal said.
“There’s all kinds of things you can do to enhance your experience and make the most out of the event,” he said.
The SeedLabs acquisition will also push Cvent into the consumer events market, an area where the company doesn’t do much business currently, Aggarwal said. To date, its primary client base consists of corporations and associations.
Neither acquired firm will relocate to the Washington region and the purchases will add a combined 45 employees to Cvent’s staff of 1,000. The acquisitions are a first for Cvent, which raised $136 million from investors last summer.
“Part of the reason that we raised the money was so we could make acquisitions,” Aggarwal said. “At the end of the day we’re growing rapidly, but there are a lot of interesting areas in our space that we can’t get to. We can’t be all things to everyone.”