Exhibition News March 2019 - Page 41

Feature What does it take to succeed in event tech? A small, medium and large company each give EN the lowdown on what it takes to thrive in event tech Words: Stuart Wood W e are living in an interactive age of event apps, drones and augmented reality. We’ve seen companies racing to capitalise on technologies such as cashless and blockchain, and in exhibitions there seems to be more tech solutions than ever before. But how do companies break into this thriving and creative area of business? To investigate, EN spoke to three event tech companies of varying sizes to hear how they got started, what did and didn’t work, and what advice they would give to others. The SME: Venue Search London Venue Search London offers a venue- finding service in the Greater London area for various event types. VSL was set up in January 2014 by Dominique Gill [founder of Story Events], Sam Gill and Sarah Kay as a start-up with five employees. Now, it has 26 full-time employees working in Central London. When asked if the event tech sector is a difficult one to break into for start-ups, Gill says: “As with any industry-specific B2B technology, the barriers to entry are far smaller than in B2C. A great idea that is well-funded from the outset has a good chance of success, as long as the funding includes a launch budget that is sufficient to fully test the market.” For VSL, that money came from £150,000 raised using a Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS). SEIS is intended for very early-stage companies, allowing individuals to invest small annual amounts, and receiving a 50 per cent tax break in return. “Smaller companies, especially those that are owner-managed, are better incubators of new ideas. They can move faster, and private owners generally have a more entrepreneurial approach to risk,” continues Gill. “This, combined with an increasingly open business funding market keen to invest in new ideas, means that small businesses have great opportunities to introduce new technology to the events industry.” The evolving company: DBpixelhouse DBpixelhouse supplies tech production services to events, from interactive apps to LED walls, event analytics and Wi-Fi networks. EN asked DBpixelhouse marketing manager Matt Rakowski how being a mid-sized company can give them an edge. “It is an advantage for us. Being one of the largest tech suppliers in Europe gives us the ability to deliver on all sizes and scales,” he explains. “However, our entrepreneurial streak allows us to identify new opportunities and deliver them to market, whilst working intimately with clients to exceed their marketing objectives.” DBpixelhouse is currently in the midst of an expansion phase as it grows out of its UK home into North America and expands its ability to provide high quality content alongside its comprehensive equipment offering. When asked what advice he would offer to burgeoning companies entering the event tech sector, Rakowski says: “If you have the right idea, a passion for what you do and a good business model, you can make it work. The app and content world is built on good ideas, and it only takes one to make you a success.” The major player: Cvent Cvent, a global market leader in event tech, is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2019, having undergone a long and perilous journey to success. What began as a two-person start-up co-founded by Reggie Aggarwal and Chuck Ghoorah grew through venture capital funding. The company almost went out of business during the dot com crash at the end of the 90s, before finding a second wind in the last decade. In 2016, the company was acquired by private equity for $1.65bn and now employs more than 3,700 people. “In 2018, we acquired three event tech companies (Social Tables, Kapow and QuickMobile) that were delivering exceptional solutions,” Ghoorah tells EN. “We are constantly on the lookout for start-ups that are offering a unique value proposition.” When asked what advice he would give to tech start-ups, Ghoorah says: “Find a pain point that no one else addresses and solve it. There an oft- repeated business truism here at Cvent – be the aspirin, not the vitamin. Be the ‘must have’, not the ‘nice to have’ solution.” EN March — 41