It seems like such a simple concept: Create a platform that brings friends together for an evening of casual painting and drinks at a local bar.

But what began as Paint Nite the concept back in 2012 at Clery’s Bar in Boston’s Back Bay has ballooned into Paint Nite the empire just four years later; just today, Inc. magazine named the Somerville-based company No. 2 on its annual “Inc. 5000” list of the fastest-growing companies in America.

In a world of digital and virtual, we bet on actual.

“Paint Nite is a platform that empowers creative entrepreneurs – people who have the passion and the drive to be their own boss, but not the traditional financial means to strike out on their own – to get started earning real money while sharing their creative passion with their community,” founder and CEO Dan Hermann told me. “We don’t charge any upfront fees to start a business on our platform; anyone can get their own businesses up and running with no money out-of-pocket.”

Through an online application and interview process, qualifying licensees can open their own Paint Nite anywhere in the world. It’s a system that seems to be working – Paint Nites are active in more than 1,600 cities worldwide, with roughly 5,000 events taking place every month. And a spinoff, Plant Nite, is now enjoyed in more than 35 cities and counting.

It’s a clever idea, to be sure. But events are big business in cities like Boston, with lots of competing parties vying for our attention once we punch out of work.

So how did Paint Nite pull in $55 million in revenue last year and see growth over the past three years of 36,555 percent?

As Hermann describes it, he and co-founder Sean McGrail recognized a tactile void in an increasingly digital world. “In a world of digital and virtual,” Hermann said, “we bet on actual. Actual in-person fun, connection and the childhood joy of creating things.”

That thing is art. But you don’t need to be an artist to have fun at Paint Nite, a point the company seems to stress at every opportunity. The real “thing” they’re offering is an experience to connect with friends on a human level – no phones, no email, no bullshit.

“As all the big VC money rushes toward mobile and digital business models, Sean and I recognized the negative space the digital bloom is creating,” Hermann explained. “The rising premium on time with friends – where everyone isn’t texting or messaging on Facebook. Instead, we created a movement that enables people to get off the couch, come together to do an actual activity, to create something, while having a few drinks at a local bar.”

Image provided.