Conferences have become – for better or for worse (and if you've ever been trapped in a cavernous CES exhibition hall, you could say worse) – a major cornerstone of how industries treat their audiences, whether they're comic book superfans or iOS -Developer acts or insurance broker. This year the existence of these conferences has undoubtedly changed a lot. The Covid-19 health pandemic has drastically curtailed travel and the way people spend time in crowded places, and decimated the entire events industry, which is valued at more than $ 1 trillion a year before Covid.
Today, however, there is news of a significant round of funding for a startup that is showing a way out of the chaos. Bizzabo, which provides a platform for planning and conducting virtual and in-person conferences, from the initial stages of designing and handling sponsorship to managing the interactions between attendees and delivering the conference itself, has a $ 138 million round of funding $ Closed It will fuel the growth of its business, CEO Eran Ben-Shushan (who co-founded the company with Alon Alroy and Boaz Katz) said in an interview after seeing this year's business boom and conferences for large corporations and companies Planners had held events. (His clients include companies like Uber, Gainsight, Github, WeWork, Accenture, and indeed – Disclosure – TechCrunch.)
Revenue has increased by 100%, with the number of events organized through Bizzabo increasing by 65%, the number of attendees registering for events with Bizzabo increasing by 500% and total usage increasing 150 times .
"With a vaccine likely and more hybrid events in the future, we expect even greater growth," he added. “Bizzabo led the category and saw hypergrowth both before the pandemic and during the virtual transition. We look forward to continuing to advance the market by doubling product, technology, and user experience to help companies unleash the power of hybrid experiences. "
He said this will include building more technology to integrate virtual and personal experiences, tripling the engineering, product and experience teams, and adding two new offices in Europe for the startup in Tel Aviv-New York.
This Series E is led by Insight Partners, the VC known for its large growth investments. Previous supporters Viola Growth, Next47 and OurCrowd also attended. Viola led Bizzabo's preliminary round, a Series D valued at $ 27 million in April 2019. Ben-Shushan did not disclose the rating for that round, except that it has grown 400% since then. The company has raised around $ 195 million to date, and for another valuation context, it's worth recalling that Hopin – another platform for managing events online – last month raised $ 125 million on a valuation of over $ 2 billion -Dollars collected.
Bizzabo was founded in 2011 and positioned itself as "Salesforce for Events". Starting with the cloud architecture and integrating with the numerous productivity and communication tools an organizer could use, the idea was to provide a platform where all of this could be put together and to give organizers the ability to use apps and Use online services to expand touchpoints between them and with participants. This can take the form of registration software that can be used to register people and collect payments for potential attendees. Chat rooms for people in specific meetings, better ways for exhibitors and sponsors to connect with visitors, and for those visitors to connect with each other during and after the event.
All of that changed this year when important personal events were canceled. At first these simply disappeared into a black hole without being replaced, and then, as the year progressed, the organizers gradually began to look for virtual alternatives.
"The virtual conference market was almost non-existent before 2020," said Ben-Shushan. “Before Covid, a fraction of the events were virtual, less than 2% of all events. The “virtual transition phase” began in March 2020, during which live events were no longer possible in most parts of the world. "
This move came with a major shift in communication in the workplace: a huge increase in video usage, led by Zoom, Google, Microsoft, and many others who had created platforms where people could not only talk to one another over the Internet but also see one another also each other. While video conferencing has been around for years, much of it has been based on very expensive hardware and software packages that are mostly used by large companies. The big innovation was leveraging the growth of the faster internet, better base computers and cameras, and the cloud to make video conferencing accessible to everyone.
The organizers seized the moment and the larger events that had already offered streams of their live events to those who couldn't attend in person began to think about how they could move the entire experience online. That was a whole new set of requirements for the organizers and attendees at the conferences, but it turned out that this was just one more thing that Bizzabo should add and consider. It has not rebuilt its platform, just expanded what it does in itself.
For example, it didn't offer streaming as a core part of its service, but it is now an essential part of it, in partnership with Kaltura, which offers live streaming technology as a service.
Interestingly, Bizzabo doesn't think the live event should be considered dead, although much of it has tried to "make up the difference" and has produced some interesting approaches to creating new, and sometimes better, bridges between people.
"Our data shows that while virtual events offer significant benefits (increased reach, lower production costs), organizers and attendees want to return to live events," said Ben-Shusan. "2021 marks a new era in the events industry – the hybrid era that integrates remote and live participant experiences."
Hybrid will indeed be the name of the game, even if we still have a lot of question marks about how big the game will be after all of this is over. Some events may never happen again.
"COVID-19 has changed the category of professional events forever," said Matt Gatto, managing director at Insight Partners, who will join Bizzabo's board of directors, in a statement. “Bizzabo's impressive growth and momentum began before the pandemic and accelerated during the adoption of the industry's first end-to-end event technology solution. Because of their lineage in both in-person and virtual events, and their impressive execution skills, they are well positioned to run this rapidly evolving space. We look forward to working with your leadership team and supporting you in this new phase of growth. "