“I have no interest in ever owning a nightclub.”
– Parag Shah, quoted at least a million times.
I’ve been in the nightlife industry for six years now. Never as an owner, never as a worker, but always as an observer and constant innovator of how technology can make life better.
As a founder of Vēmos, I spent the past six years building a tech company that serves the nightlife industry. It was one of those situations where being naive was actually an advantage. I wasn’t afraid to ask questions or challenge the status quo. I wasn’t engrained in how it’s always been done, and I could see the opportunity to do things differently. While I didn’t know how to run a nightclub, I did know how to build a tech company and how to ask for help from the true experts — owners and managers of nightclubs. In the history of this company, we’ve built our software right alongside our customers.
But now the tides have turned. I’m going to become our own customer.
I love our customers and am thankful everyday for their willingness to let me in and learn from them. This will never change. But now I get to become one of them. I figured it was time to put my money where my mouth is and do what I tell everyone else to do while experiencing their reality.
Don’t get me wrong, this idea wasn’t a sudden lightbulb moment where I immediately knew I had to dive in and then figure out how to pursue it. It was actually just a classic happenstance. I was talking with the VIP manager of one of our customers here in Minneapolis about how he could better use Vēmos for his reservations and how he could make better use of his back space. It’s an exclusive area. It’s niche. It needed to live up to that.
My belief is that bottle service in Minneapolis isn’t up to par with where it should be. We needed a spot here locally where wealthy individuals could experience the level of exclusiveness that’s available on the coasts. This space is exactly the space to do this.
The idea was pitched to the owners of the venue, and it was greeted with hesitation. I don’t blame them. It’s a concept that hasn’t really existed here in Minneapolis, and their reaction was right on par saying it likely wouldn’t do well here. I naturally disagreed. I’ve seen this concept work really well in other markets. I see the need here. I know it can be done if it’s done well with the right setup. I was asked to be a consultant on the project. But being the person I am, I set out to prove this concept right and decided to own it.
Five months later, I’m excited to introduce The Hideout, which will be launching this weekend.
We’ve spent the last five months redoing the whole space to turn it into an elite private venue. We worked with over a dozen vendors to get it to this point, with us as an internal team laying the groundwork of who we are, why we exist, and what experiences we want to provide our customers. I believe in identifying your purpose/cause/passion first, and building everything out around it.
For us, our purpose is to be an elite venue with the best customer experience. To provide an intimate, exclusive space where likeminded individuals can party together. Everything we do is about that high-level exclusive experience, from the design to the execution. I want everyone who spends a night at The Hideout to say “wow, I’ve never had this unique of an experience in nightlife before.” Whether it’s a good experience or a bad experience, my goal is for it to be a unique experience.
In order for that to be successful, we need to have our details down. Everyone should be blown away by the level of service we provide. They shouldn’t have to wait for a drink. Each person should be known by name and face. There should be a server at their table at all times. They should feel genuinely special while they’re there. We want to make sure that from the time someone makes up their mind that they’re going to The Hideout, to the time they arrive back at their house after a night out, that they have an exceptional experience. Most other places start their experience at the door, and end it at the door. I want to take this a step further. I think we as an industry need to take this a step further.
So what does this mean?
- It means I’m thinking differently about the way the door works. There isn’t going to be a line. My guests will know where to go to get in — it’s modeled after 1920s speakeasies. We will scan their license to validate their entrance. There’s not going to be a loyalty card for them to add to their wallet. Their license is their loyalty card.
- It means we’re going to have a strict guy to girl ratio of 60/40. Which means we need to track our data in real-time to be able to live up to this each and every night.
- It means providing alcohol, drinks, and champagne brands that people in this market haven’t experienced before. We want to bring something new to the table, and give our guests something they can’t get elsewhere in this market.
- It means the only way to be guaranteed into the venue is to be invited and then by pre-registering or reserving a table.
- It means the people who are invited to pre-register either know a staff member or are invited by someone else who has experienced the venue.
- It means we’re tracking when they register to attend, what time they do end up attending, how many guests they bring with them, and what they buy once they’re there. This is what allows us to tailor individualized experiences. My vision is to get to a point where once a guest scans in, their drinks are waiting for them without them having to order.
This concept isn’t for everyone, and I get that. My individual purpose is to drive innovation in a space that hasn’t innovated in a long time. I’ve made crazy suggestions like this to countless people, and have been laughed at. And honestly, I like when people laugh at my ideas. It means they’ve never thought of it before. And while I admit that not all of my ideas are good, I’m excited to implement some of my wild ideas and see how they go. This idea in particular I wholeheartedly believe in and have set up the tools we need to succeed.
And so, I invite you on this journey. This is the start of a blog series about me being my own customer. I’ll share what goes well, what goes terribly, and everything in between. I’ll share my wild ideas, the execution of that idea, and the end result. I want you to learn with me and see how a different way of thinking coupled with the right set of tools could amplify your own journey.
This Saturday will be our first night open to the public, and I look forward to sharing the results with all of you. So, I raise my glass to this crazy journey and look forward to seeing you at The Hideout.