In 2012, CEA’s Innovation Movement launched a new campaign called “Faces of Innovation.” Every week, the Innovation Movement highlights a new innovator or entrepreneur on its website and “Innovation Conversation” newsletter. The individuals featured in the campaign are the real faces of American innovation and are job creators making a better America for today and for future generations. Each innovator has an opportunity to tell their story and voice which issues in the industry are the most important to them and their company. Their stories illustrate the struggles and highlights of running an American business, large and small. As an outlet for entrepreneurs, the Innovation Movement hopes their insights will inspire current and future innovators alike. The “Faces of Innovation” campaign will continue through 2013, featuring entrepreneurs from all aspects of technology. I3 will introduce several of these innovators in future issues. You can find out more at DeclareInnovation.com.

Dan Berger, founder and CEO, Social Tables

Social Tables is a Web-based event planning platform for large, seated events. Following is a discussion about startups and the event planning industry.
 

Explain the concept of Social Tables.

 
Social Tables is an event planning platform. Our software is designed to make the event planning process easier and less stressful. Our line of products includes guest list management, floor plan design, seating chart creation, and even iPad check-in. We also have a social layer that pulls in guest information to help planners make more informed decisions and guests have a better event experience.
 

What are you most passionate about?

 
I am passionate about building an amazing team. I love our team and what each of them brings to Social  Tables. I am also passionate about just building beautiful software that people love to use.
 

How do you define innovation?

 
I define innovation as anything that isn’t status quo. Innovation is doing anything that’s different from the way it has been done in the past. As the world gets more complex, we need technology to keep up and that’s why innovation is important.
 

What has been the most challenging aspect of being involved in a startup?

 
Every day is a challenge when you’re in a startup. Every day is a grind. However, there are different levels of challenge. At the highest level, being a CEO is quite a challenge. Our company is constantly going up against industry giants and critics. Also, getting people behind a vision that’s going up against industry status quo can be quite difficult. On a more basic level, customer acquisition is challenging early on as well as recruitment. Simply the most rewarding part of being involved in a startup is winning.
 

Why did you get into the event planning industry?

 
I’ve indirectly been in the events industry for a while and have been a Web developer since the late ‘90s. I had the idea for Social Tables when I was at a wedding a few years ago and I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be cool to see who was at my table before I got there?” Fast forward a few years and here we are—the original idea enhanced yet somewhat intact.
 

Do you believe the government should do more to aid small businesses?

 
I do think there are certain things the government can do to aid small business. For example, here in D.C., the City Council just turned down Mayor Vincent Gray’s tax proposal to eliminate capital gains tax for entrepreneurs. It means that if I sell my company, I have to pay nine percent in taxes even if I have forgone salary from day one. Virginia, on the other hand, has no capital gains tax for entrepreneurs. So government can definitely do more. D.C. does have some great programs for small businesses. One of them is related to on-the-job training where the city reimburses up to 90 percent of the first six months of an employee’s salary who was hired from unemployment and needs to be trained.

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