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Meet Ian Chen of Discotech in Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ian Chen.

Discotech was founded in 2013 by Ian Chen, Mark Wu, and Ian Bushong. The three Founders were friends from UC Berkeley where they met back in 2004. The idea for Discotech was born from the need to solve our own problems as consumers going out to clubs in our mid-twenties. Traditionally, customers seeking to go out to clubs needed to know a human promoter, essentially a middleman/broker for the night club. As customers, we found it very inefficient and non-transparent to have to find a promoter, call/text them, and then negotiate on pricing. We figured that there had to be an easier way to go out.

We noticed that a lot of other industries had already witnessed technology disrupting human middlemen. For example, OpenTable disrupting restaurant concierges, and companies such as Booking.com and Expedia disrupting travel agents in the flight and hotel booking industries. As such, we believed that we could copy their model and bring the same needed disruption to the world of nightlife.

Since 2013, we have launched a free mobile app on iOS and Android (4.9/5 stars on both platforms, over 1 million downloads to date), and have a website as well (http://app.discotech.me). We have expanded our service to over 60 cities and are partnered with over 1400 of the hottest brands in the nightlife space.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
These last seven years have had a lot of ups and downs, and we have had times where we barely survived.

The first year was off to a very slow start. After releasing our mobile app in 2013, it took us many months to get any sort of traction. The first downloads and purchases on our platform were very slow and hard to come by. It was very disheartening to have such meager usage and growth in the beginning. However, we believed in our vision and chugged along.

In year 3, we had a round of funding collapse on us. We had about $1M in committed funds, which was being led by a VC investor in LA. (They were the lead, but we also had a secondary VC and some angels behind them) On the day the lead investor was supposed to wire us their committed funds, they backed out and left us at the “altar”. Our other investors ended up backing out as well, and this left us in a situation where we had almost no money left in the bank. One of our other original co-founders left us around this time, and we seriously discussed giving up on Discotech. However, we decided to give it another quarter or two to see if our traction would pick up, and fortunately it did. We were able to use the new sales momentum to raise $1.2M the next year.

Today, we are facing another unprecedented challenge with the COVID pandemic. We saw our revenue drop close to 100% in a matter of weeks once COVID broke out in March. We have had to furlough a good portion of our team in order to stay lean and survive this “nuclear winter”. This pandemic has shut down our entire industry, and our hope is to make it out to the other side. We believe that there may be an unprecedented opportunity for us if we can tough it out.

Discotech – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Discotech is the “OpenTable for Nightlife”. Our free to download mobile app and website makes it easier for customers to discover events, follow artists, reserve VIP tables, purchase tickets, and sign up for free guest lists at nightlife venues in different cities. Our platform is live in over 60 cities internationally, and we partner with the biggest clubs, pool parties, lounges, bars, concert venues, and music festivals to make it easier for our customers to go out and have fun.

I am most proud of the reception and feedback we have gotten from our customers. We have a 4.9/5 star review on both iOS and Android, five stars on Yelp, and our customers have told us time and again how happy they are to have discovered us. In fact, Discotech has spent very little money on marketing our app and website (it is too expensive to advertise on platforms such as Google, Facebook, and Instagram these days), the majority of our customers discover us from word of mouth and customer referrals. Our mission from day one was to make it easier for people to go out and have fun (again, we were solving this problem for ourselves back when we were avid nightlife customers), and it is good to see that we have accomplished that goal.

I believe there are three things that set us apart from our competitors. First being the product and technology. We have a great CTO and team of engineers who have developed a sleek and easy to use product. Secondly, it is the breadth of venues that we have on our platform. No other company or promotion company has close to the extend of inventory that we have. Lastly, we have a stellar team that is in charge of our operations and customer success. If it weren’t for their professionalism and dedication to our clients, we certainly wouldn’t have the great customer reviews that we do today.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
On a philosophical level, our success is tied to our customers’ success. Did they have a good experience using our services, and would they use us again or refer us to a friend? If we continue to succeed on this level, I believe that our company will ultimately succeed across the board.

However, as a pragmatic entrepreneur who is running a real business, we also keep a close eye on other key performance metrics. It is important to us that we are growing our active user base, growing our net revenue, and managing our cash balance. Financially, we are trying to create a fast-growing and profitable company that can survive whatever obstacles come our way (including a pandemic).

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