Picture a team of software professionals seated in a classy Italian restaurant, ready to compete for bragging rights over assessing the nuances of fine wine. This was our Austin team’s idea of bonding—and Seekr turned this very particular vision into a reality.
Seekr is a local startup driven by a passion for creating community by getting people to engage IRL. Founded by Andoni Almeida and his father Carlos, the company curates unique Austin-based experiences. They started with events for residents of apartment complexes (because, really, how often do you hang out with your neighbors?). They’ve since recognized an opportunity to apply their model within the corporate space by helping companies to break the mold in terms of culture-building.
Culture is very much part of Headpsring’s DNA, which is why we immediately recognized the authenticity of Seekr’s vision. So for our recent quarterly event, we put our Austin team’s outing into their hands, which freed up our own coordinators to join in too. The private wine tasting they organized at Mia Tapas was well-attended and highly-rated, and still talked about by our team.
Seekr’s model clearly works. And since we’re also invested in business growth, we wanted to learn more about how this fellow Austin company is making its mark. Below is our interview with Andoni Almeida, who talked to us about his company’s vision, how he measures success, weird requests he’s gotten, and why culture and community are critical.
Where did the idea for Seekr come from?
When we started Seekr, our main focus was to connect people through fun experiences around Austin.
We were bootstrapping, so we had to be scrappy and creative with how we advertised our experiences to local Austinites. We began hosting events at apartment complexes as a way of reaching our target audience directly, and while doing so, we quickly realized the power of these events. Though apartment properties have hundreds of people living in them, the people are hardly friends with their neighbors. We realized we could change that. We were going beyond the purpose of just marketing: We were creating a community, and turning neighbors into friends through the events we were hosting.
Hosting events at apartment complexes started to become a business of its own. Once we realized what was happening, we decided to go with it. Since connecting people and creating community through experience had always been the driver for us, it was a natural transition into.
How would you describe the impact you make? Has that changed since moving from community to corporate events?
We connect people and create community by creating engaging experiences. We also make life easier for community managers by taking care of the event from start to finish, so they can actually enjoy the event, get to know their group members better, and make sure the events are a success. Furthermore, the talent we recruit—sommeliers, painters, bartenders, candle making enthusiasts, etc.—get to do what they love, and get paid for it.
For residences, when people are friends with their neighbors and feel a strong sense of community, they are more likely to remain in place longer, write positive reviews, and recommend friends to move there.
The transition to corporate events opens even more possibilities to impact on people’s lives: If there is a strong sense of community among employees, they will feel more engaged, perform better, feel more loyal to their company, and will work better with their teams. That leads to a greater sense of purpose, improves the bottom line, and makes work/life more enjoyable for everyone.
What’s the weirdest request you’ve gotten?
At one event, a resident asked me if I could set up my father, Carlos, with her mother.
How do you measure success at your events?
We have a few ways of measuring success—some conventional and others not so much.
1. If people are not on their phones throughout the event, we know it’s going well.
2. If people are laughing with each other and exchanging numbers / making plans for after, we know it’s been a success.
1. We send out an anonymous post-event survey to get feedback from the people who attended the event.
2. We get requests for more events!
Company culture is something that organizations are paying more and more attention to. Do you think culture is truly important, and why?
It’s arguably one of the most important things for a company. No matter how big the organization, in the end, a company is as good as the people who are part of it. The most successful companies are those that have a strong culture that spans the entire organization, where people share common values and a sense of purpose bigger than themselves. A strong company culture spills into all the aspects of the business, fostering open communication, sense of purpose, inclusivity, productivity, company loyalty. It even improves the attractiveness of the company to new talent. Companies that genuinely pursue positive culture, in a sincere way, will be successful.
If you had to curate an Austin experience for the Seekr team, what would that look like?
We’re a small team, so one experience we have in mind is going on a flight over Austin on a six-seater plane!
Something we like to do is host mock events with the team before trying them out with our clients, and thats also really fun! We’ve done wine tasting competitions, candle making happy hours, karaoke, a 1920’s murder mystery party, and more!
What was it like working with Headspring? Any challenges?
It was really fun working with Headspring! Yvette and Tu, our points of contact, were incredibly nice and helpful throughout the planning process. They were also pretty clear as to what their priorities and expectations were, which helped a lot. Since it was our first corporate event, it was fun to brainstorm how we would do it differently from our previous events, and how we were going to take it to a whole new level.
One challenge we had, was that two of our best sommeliers were out of town for the date of the event. Since the event was a Blind Wine Tasting Competition led by a sommelier, it was crucial we found someone just as good. Fortunately, we were able to find an amazing sommelier to lead. [Note: Our sommelier was Nikaela French, and our team loved her!]
We’re really thankful that Headspring trusted us to host this event! We enjoyed the whole process, as well as the event itself!
Video recorded by Adam Alcantara (AJ_Ninjafoo)