Exhibition News April 2019 - Page 53

Tech Curing a headache Lineup Ninja aims to cut out the stress and propensity for error from session management at conferences and exhibitions, EN learns more about the fledging tech startup A s with many companies in the exhibition industry, the idea for Lineup Ninja was born from a perceived gap in the market. Co-founder Joe Atkinson had spent time at a tech company before leaving to join a charity as an event organiser. The company had an annual event with numerous speaker sessions spread over various stages. “There were a lot different things happening simultaneously,” he tells EN. “Scheduling all the different speakers at different times could become quite complex. I had to make sure that they weren’t simultaneously giving a practical workshop and on a panel somewhere else. “There were all these different considerations to think about. I was doing it on spreadsheets and sticky notes, finding it was really easy to make mistakes, and I was constantly worried about scheduling something at the wrong time – and of course eventually it did happen.” Atkinson accidentally moved a speaker’s session to a day he couldn’t attend, and needless to say the speaker wasn’t too happy. “He was shouting at the reception staff in front of loads of other attendees. It was really embarrassing,” he recalls. “My chief exec was trying to cultivate a strategic relationship with this guy, so it was a massive failure on my part. “I thought, ‘there must be a better way of doing this, surely there has to be a product out there that could help with this problem’. I searched and searched and couldn’t find anything.” And so the idea for Lineup Ninja – a conference management software company – was born. Atkinson seemed up with Gordon Johnston, an ex- colleague from his time working in the world of tech, and they set about building the platform. “Gordon was working as a solutions architect, which means he did all the design for a whole platform,” continues Atkinson. “In his spare time his hobby is programming and writing software, so he was the perfect person. He’s got the technical skills and I had an understanding of what it needed to do and the domain knowledge.” It quickly became apparent that, along with scheduling speakers, it made sense for the software to begin at the ‘call for papers’ stage of speaker/organiser interaction, which would provide organisers with more data, save time and connect up the whole process. “We take it from the point at which you design and publish your call for papers right through to scheduling all the sessions and deciding who’s on which stage at what time,” explains Atkinson. “It’s evolving all the time as we speak to new clients and they say, ‘it would be great if it did this’. “We’re always conscious that the world of events is quite diverse, there are lots of different kinds of use cases and different feature requests and we want to build something that’s useful for people. We’re always really open to hearing what people need and then building that into it and trying to give it as much value as possible. “One of the principles of how we designed it is to try and keep it as flexible as possible, so that it puts you as the event planner in charge. It’s a challenge to give users what they need without completely overwhelming them.” Lineup Ninja was first conceived in late 2016 and Atkinson and his co-founder spent around 18 months building, vetting and then beta-testing the product, although the company has already attracted interest by winning the ‘Launchpad’ start-up competition at Event Tech Live 2018. While the industry is often seen as over-saturated with new event tech companies, EN at least will be watching this space. EN April — 53