OccasionGenius is a Virginia-based technology company that connects users with the most popular local events in their area. HqO recently sat down with Nathaniel Marcus, CEO of the company, to understand more about how they add value to the workplace experience for employers.
What does OccasionGenius do for its partners and users? Can you give us an elevator pitch?
OccasionGenius is an event discovery technology company that connects users with exciting upcoming events happening around their building. We blend our technology with a local team of experts to aggregate, curate, enhance, and keep up-to-date information about upcoming local events.
Our core function, at present, is to connect users with great events that are happening nearby. We use our technology to make that list as interesting as possible for everyone who interacts with it.
Can you tell us a little about your background? How did OccasionGenius get started?
The company’s roots go back to 2015, when I was actually running a separate private events company. Around that time, I decided to include a section for public events on our website, and it really took off. That growth continued and came to a head in 2017, when I sold that private event company and made the pivot to public events. That’s how OccasionGenius was formed. After that initial stage, our growth was aided by many community resources and accelerator programs, in particular the Lighthouse Labs RVA accelerator in our hometown of Richmond, VA, as well as the Plug and Play accelerator in Silicon Valley.
We’ve always excelled at connecting people with the most interesting in-person events and that mission hasn’t changed with the pandemic. If anything, I think that people actually have a greater need for in-person events now than they did before COVID. So while the market conditions have changed, the work has stayed the same and is actually more important now than ever before.
People want to get back together after a long time apart. They want to go places and they want to see other people there. That’s exactly the kind of contact that we facilitate.
Can you describe your partnership with HqO? How do you work together to connect users with engaging events?
We connect people with the most exciting upcoming events. Those events come in all shapes and sizes, and can include things like local fairs, festivals, Shakespeare in the park, rodeos, fireworks, art walks, movies on the lawn and food truck courts, to name a few. All listings appear either in English or in the building’s native language. That’s what users see when they open the HqO app: an optimized list of popular events in their area, written in their native language.
For now, users see that list of events that are tailored generally to fit their building location. But in the future, we’re working with HqO to build toward each individual user seeing a recommended list of upcoming events, hyper-personalized just for him or her.
In your experience, how can expanded and optimized programming create value for employers?
We did a primary research study of office workers in the United States. What it showed us, basically, is that office workers are hungry for local event discovery:
- 89% value local public events over private team-building events, which is not too surprising. OccasionGenius allows buildings to meet workers where they are at, by supporting their discovery of local public events.
- 78% say their building does not satisfactorily connect them to events happening nearby.
- 59% believe that knowing about nearby leisure events improves their quality of life and work-life balance.
- In addition, 40% say that knowing about upcoming local events provides them better ideas for dynamic team outings.
People are coming back to work more and more, but they’re not always able to leverage their location at work to take advantage of what’s happening nearby. OccasionGenius helps foster a more positive work-life balance, which adds value for employers by improving their overall employee experience.
Obviously, the future of work has changed significantly after the pandemic. A lot of companies understand that they now have to offer something special to get everyone back to the office, and I think that programming is a big part of that mission. Events, classes, and concerts help make the office become an interesting place that employees want to visit.
How would you describe the importance of programming in the post-pandemic workplace?
Today, a lot of companies are brainstorming ways to get people back in the office, and they’re using a number of different tactics to accomplish that goal. We’ve seen some companies add certain perks or limited-run events to their offices, for example, in an attempt to get people to return. Of course, these kinds of benefits can help get people back in the office. But I also don’t think that most companies are satisfied with the effectiveness of these strategies. In fact, I think that most offices are still struggling to get people back to in-person work.
To get workers back in the office — and to keep them satisfied when they return — I think that companies really have to make physical workspaces more appealing. One of the best ways to do that is by engineering a more enjoyable office environment. That means connecting workers with events and programming, but it also means adding programming to make the experience of being in the office much more meaningful than it was before the pandemic. That’s what people want today: they want meaning and human contact. They want satisfying in-person moments.
What do you think the future of work will look like, based on your experience with OccasionGenius?
It might sound a little bit unconventional off the bat, but I actually think that the future of work will be similar to the current state of leisure travel. Let me explain.
Today’s business travelers are able to extend their business trips for leisure experiences, and I think it’s similar with office workers today: you go to the office to do your job, but you can extend your commute to relax by attending a local event, going to a bar near the office, or doing some shopping. That’s how I think about the future of work — today’s office workers are kind of like business travelers. The old way of doing things is opening up to a new paradigm.
How can digital technologies (like the partnership between OccasionGenius and HqO) enhance physical experiences, whether in or out of the office?
We recently asked office workers about the types of events they are most interested in going to. The 5 most popular categories were, in order of preference, food and drink festivals, concerts, markets, cultural festivals and art exhibits. I think that, in the future, we’re going to see more technology that can connect employees with these physical experiences.
The pandemic showed us that we all have this deep need for human contact, and now, as people continue to get back to their regular lives, I think that we’re all going to be looking for satisfying in-person experiences. Digital technology certainly helps us engage in digital experiences, but it also connects us with in-person experiences, and I think we’re going to see it continue to do that in the future, probably to an even greater degree than it does now. Growing demand for physical experiences is one of the unexpected side effects of the pandemic.
Want to learn more about how your company can use technology to improve the workplace experience? Download HqO’s recent Attracting Workers with Fun and Utility guide.