By Kath Walters

I love uncovering content marketing innovators, and AroundYou is my latest discovery. Part business directors, part event guide and part review/rating site, AroundYou is the brainchild of Mike Dovey and his mate, Sandy Taylor (the technical one).

Dovey, a Sydneysider, came up with the concept of AroundYou when he and his girlfriend (now his wife) moved into Elizabeth Bay, a vibrant harbourside suburb behind Kings Cross.

Watching the locals rushing hither and thither, Dovey knew plenty of exciting stuff was happening in his new home suburb – he just didn’t know what. “We go for a walk and see people doing bootcamp in the morning, meditation in the park, or trivia in the pub, and we would always wonder how to find out about this stuff,” he says.

“We realised there is a difference between search and discovery. You can search for something if you know what you are looking for, but what you cannot do is search for something if you never knew it existed. For example, I’ve discovered I really enjoy going and watching community theatre, but that thought would never have popped into my head without a website like the one we built.”

Event-finding apps and websites were pretty rare at the time. This was part of the reason Dovey struck it lucky when, having built a prototype, he applied to The Australian Centre for Social Innovation in South Australia for seed funding. He received $250,000 in exchange for 1% equity – a remarkably high valuation of his business idea ($25 million) by anyone’s standards, let alone mid-GFC. “They saw the benefit of a site that allowed people to discover and get involved in local activities,” Dovey says. “It promotes community engagement.”

The duo used the funds to build the site. AroundYou now attracts 300,000 visitors a month, and Dovey says the site has more 20,000 listings at any one time. “That is miles ahead of anyone else.” Others have since entered the field, such as Event Finder, Around Me, and MeetUp.

Yeah but …

The twist, though, is that Dovey and Taylor have generated enough leads from AroundYou to build a second business – a digital marketing agency called Marketing AroundYou.

Businesses can list on AroundYou for free (or pay for featured listings), and requests are snowballing as businesses hear about it, and notice how many other businesses are listed.

“We use free listing requests as a conversation starter to ask if they want any other online exposure as well,” Dovey says.

Once businesses are listed, AroundYou Digital gets in touch to offer additional services such as website development, AdWords and search engine optimisation. This second business is wholly owned by Dovey and Taylor.

AroundYou is profitable in its own right, and has been for the past three and a half years. It now employs 50 staff in Australia, and 18 in the Philippines managing data and monitoring comments.

Dovey, a former investment banker whose job evaporated in the global financial crisis, is also trialling an affiliate program, exchanging referrals (and fees) with businesses that offer allied services, such as copywriting or content marketing.

Within the next 18 months, Dovey expects to “comfortably double” monthly visitors from 300,000 to 600,000. “It has doubled in the last 18 months,” he says.

But he says there is no pressure for rapid growth. “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and take on work we cannot fulfill,” he says.

Dovey says all this growth will be within Australia.