A new era has officially started in event technology. Are you ready to join in?
I am not sure if you noticed, but things are changing pretty fast in event technology. Nobody seems to say anything about it. The perfect scenario to drop a very, very long post on you with an analysis of what the hell is happening.
It seems times are mature enough to sit down and look back at the past couple of years and ahead to the next two, to understand what is happening.
While every year we deliver the most popular, successful and imitated trends report in the industry, this does not seem to be enough to give a more in-depth overview of the factors driving change in the industry.
Event Technology = Change
If you've met me at an event around the world, I may have dropped the Tour Eiffel story on you. I don't want to spoil it if you want to see it live, but it has something to do with the fact that events have been pretty much the same for the past 120 years.
We have experienced a massive amount of change in the last 10 years amid reluctance of the status quo, mainly driven by technology. In fact, five years ago we published an infographic that probably has gone down in history as the most imitated, unquoted infographic ever. The changes we highlighted back then are a tiny fraction of what we see today.
Technology is FORCING change into the industry. Thanks to pioneering and smart event professionals that opened the gates to embrace innovation, technology has finally put the ball back where it belongs - in the attendees' hands.
The impact of having mobile apps for feedback, Twitter to bitch about crappy events, and live polling to engage with speakers is creating a new set of problems for the industry.
What I've been waiting for for so long is finally happening. Awful events are getting busted. For too long we have said 'oh awesome' to something that wasn't. It seems like as attendees we ingurgitated a massive red pill and we finally see all the green in the Matrix (I should stop using this blue pill/red pill metaphor).
So all of a sudden sponsors are no longer willing to pay for big banners, nobody attends sessions made of bullet points, speakers show the middle finger to exposure.
How do you deal with that? Exciting right? Not the matter of this post though.
I am primarily writing to let you know that the new Era of Event Technology has finally started. I am pumped for it, and I am going to tell you what it is in a second. Before then, I need to share what is driving change in event technology.
The Key Forces Driving Change in Event Technology
I am going to go against our editorial policy and name here some technology companies. Be aware that we have worked with most of them, they advertise on the blog; I have no interest in any of the companies I will mention nor any personal connection. I hate PR and fought a personal battle against relationships over quality content.
Here are five key forces driving change in event technology:
1. Unprecedented Investment from Outside Players
I thought this was a trend for 2017, but I was wrong. Facebook, Google, Twitter, Samsung, Apple, Microsoft investing in Artificial Intelligence, VR and AR are having a much wider and deeper impact on the industry and eventtech.
Not fashion. Unprecedented capital is devoted to technologies that are PERFECT for events. If you add voice and face recognition, the picture is complete.
The trend five years ago was wearables and 3D printers. No actual application for events. These new technologies have real depth (on different levels) in events. Events are the perfect compliment for all of them.
This level of capital to support technologies that directly apply to events has NEVER BEEN SEEN in the industry.
Just writing the statement above makes me happy. I am sorry for the over excitement but I am having a 'My Secret Identity' moment, and I just discovered I can fly with aerosol spray containers. Ignore what I just wrote if you were born in the '90s.
2. Unprecedented Interest from VCs and Funds
I cannot give you any data or facts about the incredible wave of interest VCs and investment funds are showing for event technology. You'd have to trust me on that.
I get asked from time to time for advice on where to invest. The number of inquiries has skyrocketed in the past months.
Big funds are looking into event tech. They see the market as an opportunity and are exploring the potential to invest a massive amount of capital in it.
I'll shortly cover one of the issues we face with that, but this interest is only good news for event technology companies.
Could it push the sector into a big bubble? Of course, especially if the investment is made into companies with a great sales force and little value for planners or attendees.
3. A Renewed Interest from Founders
At the beginning of 2015, I was quite depressed. As I was judging yet another eventtech competition and was going through the submissions, I was saddened by how un-innovative the ideas were. I was complaining all over the place. The chances are that if you'd met me back then, I would have looked like a frustrated teen upset with my parents.
The last year and a half have been refreshing. The frustrated teen has got a ticket to go and watch Harry Styles and Justin Bieber live concert. I am happy again.
The number of submissions we are receiving from startups is healthy but most of all the quality and innovation are at all times high.
Finally, developers are looking back at events as a profitable market to start a tech business. YAY to that!
4. Unprecedented Funding
Money is flowing in. Don't get me wrong it's cool and all to talk about interest, but interest ain't no money, my friend. The good news is that capital is coming into tech companies with unprecedented speed and quantity.
While most of us were impressed by the $45 round E funding of Doubledutch, we are seeing a solid number of $5 to $10 Million rounds in companies such as:
- Social Tables
- Ticket Evolution
Renewed interest from investors is a very positive signal that things are going well for those companies able to create value, solve real challenges and help event professionals instead of creating extra problems.
5. New Set of Mergers and Acquisitions
Where a lot of the action is happening is merger and acquisitions. The national press has asked me what I thought about Vista acquiring Cvent and merging it with Lanyon. If you don't understand the fact that a $1.6B acquisition is good news for a whole sector, then we are speaking a different language.
In fact, just right after this deal, many, many others happened, reshaping the ticketing industry.
etouches got recently acquired by HGGC, Eventbrite took over Ticketscript and just a few hours ago (at the time of writing) Ticketfly, for a whopping $200M.
Does this massive injection of capital pose monopoly and huge barrier to entry issues? Of course, it does. It's not going to be easy if you are an event registration startup to compete out there. But then again, if your plan was to make it in ticketing and registration, I believe you missed the train a few years ago.
There are challenges and as Biggie said, 'mo' money, mo' problems', but let's look at the fact that millions are being pumped into creating innovation. At least on paper.
We should be all excited about it.
The New Problems of The New Eventtech Era
There are problems associated with such rapid and incredible growth. I briefly touched on those above, let me expand on some of those.
1. Trivial Technology
I call this the new Era of Eventtech because we can expect a few unicorns to pop up in the industry in the next few years. We have just passed the inception phase of eventtech. The tech we have discussed so far was fun and great but hardly revolutionary (other than a couple of instances).
It is a problem many investors and funds are experiencing. The companies currently on the market are either too small or offer extremely simple technology.
This is the reason why I am excited about VR, AR and AI - using these tools to solve typical problems in events will lead to disruptive ideas, companies, and level of investment. But we are not there yet. We are just at the beginning.
The opportunity to disrupt is very well opened for current players, not only for newcomers.
2. Barriers to Entry
The event industry has been quite approachable as a market up until today. What I anticipate is that barriers to entry will substantially increase in the next couple of years, making it more difficult for startups to succeed.
That is pretty much reality in other verticals like e-commerce, travel, and transportation.
The good thing though is that event professionals are excellent at telling hype from value. While they may trust a sales person once, they won't repeat business if there is no value for the event or the attendees.
Such brilliant ability to discount hype is why we've seen so many companies move to other markets or simply losing against competitors. The same will apply in the new Era of Eventtech, regardless of the size of the business. Remember Nokia?
3. Increased Technology Adoption
The event professional demographic is heavily divided at the moment. There is a fringe of innovators that want to try, learn, innovate, delight, perform. Some others don't care. They don't care about their attendees, the experience, the technology friendliness of their event. They seem to be more concerned with centerpieces over value.
I love centerpieces, an intelligent use of centerpieces to deliver a message and ultimately value to attendees makes me excited. Centerpieces for centerpieces' sake makes me sad.
The new Era of Eventtech is extremely dependent on how event professionals will embrace the concept of innovation and value creation in the industry.
The power of eventtech is massive. The budget required can be massive. The amount of time needed to implement tech wisely is massive. If we don't have the right approach we may be facing catastrophes rather than developments.
The 4 Waves of Event Technology
If I had the pleasure to present to you lately, you may have seen this nice graph below.
I had a critic about it by my inspiration and industry visionary Corbin Ball. He was right. As always. I'll explain.
The graph below shows the four waves of eventtech.
1. The first wave was online registration and ticketing.
2. The second wave were event mobile apps
3. The third wave was engagement technology (polls, ARS, live engagement)
4. The fourth wave consists of VR, AR and AI.
The first three waves are gone. The technologies above have become commodities. Nobody is excited about ticketing. We accept them as basics of your eventtech mix.
Corbin made me notice I was a bit too dismissive of them. True. I don't mean these are technologies of the past. In fact, most of the action these days happen around these three types of technologies. Eventprofs are buying them, the companies who build tech in these verticals are getting funding.
But we are past them. The market is saturated with providers. The products are starting to look the same.
AR, VR, and AI are creating a new ecosystem where new players will be born. Possibly they will re-invigorate some of the previous waves, but the action is on these three technologies right now.
Based on the previous waves, I can anticipate a 3 to 5 year period where new startups will build almost exclusively in this vertical. I told you I am going Google Glass on these.
Notable Milestones in EventTech
Finally, I've asked my team to spend the last few months reviewing all the acquisitions, mergers and investment rounds happening in eventtech. We summed it up for you in an easily digestible infographic.
Here it is. Feel free to use it on your site.
If you are still with me, you probably share the same excitement I have for the new Era of Eventtech.
I hope I've been able to give you a snapshot of the significant changes happening in the industry so that you can align your education and investment accordingly.
The fact is that if you are not informed about what's going on, you'll notice that things will start happening all around you and you won't be able to grasp them. While understanding the impact of this new era may require extra effort at the beginning, the competitive advantage you can gain is immediate and long lasting.
Trust me, I've seen it happening for the previous waves.
If you have any question about the data, represent any of the companies mentioned and want to comment or if you only want to get in touch, please use the contact section.