It all started with a wasted cover charge.
Baltimore-based Localist now provides online calendar software to more than 100 clients. It’s proven useful in the university setting and is beginning to make an impact on other types of organizations, including Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library and the Downtown Partnership.
And it was born from a disappointing night out in Los Angeles.
Localist co-founders Myke Nahorniak and Nate Mook were visiting the city for a conference in 2007, and wanted a fun place to go afterward.
“We were kind of looking through these reviews and thought we had a good idea of where the cool place was,” said Nahorniak.
But after they paid a cover charge, the pair walked in and found that the supposedly hot hangout was completely empty.
From there, they embarked on a mission — create a calendar of all events for every city and put it online in one location. The place to be would no longer be a privileged secret, known only by city natives and savvy socialites.
That idea changed over time.
As they developed the tools for their site, the co-founders realized that keeping an updated calendar of all events would be time-intensive and costly and presented few revenue opportunities. The idea, however, was getting some attention.
“We got some initial interest from media companies and tourism boards,” said Nahorniak. “We got tired of telling them no.”
So they changed roles. Instead of using the tool they had created, they would sell it to other organizations as online software.
The first client was the Johns Hopkins University in 2009. Like many colleges, Nahorniak said, it had the event content and an interested audience but was lacking the online technology to connect the two.
That partnership proved successful, he said, so Localist began serving other colleges.
The company had 13 clients and achieved profitability by the end of 2010. It launched a mobile app, Tailgate, in 2012, and moved into its headquarters at the Broom Factory in Canton.
Localist now has more than 100 clients and has begun to reach out to non-academic organizations.
“I think obviously we’ve made a splash in the university space, but there’s a lot of value Localist can provide to any marketing director,” said Nahorniak, who still leads Localist as CEO. “The next few years is going to be scaling up the other industries.”
At the end of 2013, Baltimore magazine and Enoch Pratt Free Library both started Localist calendars. When the Downtown Partnership reveals its redesigned website in May, it will include a new Localist calendar.
“There aren’t a lot of great aggregators that show you all those things at once,” said Michael Evitts, vice president of communications for the Downtown Partnership.
Instead of presenting a traditional-looking square calendar, Localist provides a list of events. Each item has the basic event information, as well as a thumbnail photo and a clickable button with which viewers can declare, “I’m Going.”
The old calendar image isn’t all lost. A small version appears on the side and users can click to narrow down to events on a particular day. They can also sort by other categories like location, event type and more, depending on the site.
At the Pratt library, for instance, site users can sort events by age group. That feature has been popular so far, said Roswell Encina, director of communications for the library.
It has also proved far less tedious than hand-aggregating calendar content, said Evitts. At the Downtown Partnership, he said, that task was previously equivalent to a full-time job.
Localist is now working to reach out to more businesses and organizations, said Nahorniak, with a focus on the ones that are “really serious about having really solid event content.”
While the company’s initial focus was forced to change, the CEO said that he’s pleased with its current direction.
“We were so focused on being this destination site, but one day it sort of clicked,” he said. “There are no plans to go back to that old destination site model again. … We’re much more passionate about improving the program.”