On the one hand, music festivals and sports championships being postponed. On the other, conferences, trade fairs and congresses canceled until further notice. If the event industry has been one of the sectors undergoing the worst consequences from the social distancing measures, videoconferencing tools have seen an unusual rise in this period.
With an eye on this change, InEvent, an event management startup founded by Brazilians and based in the US, announced in late March the launch of Virtual Lobby, a platform that allows corporate conferences with up to 100k people at the same time.
“It is a safe way to connect without having to download any application on the computer – and on a large scale. That was the goal of creating the platform,” says Pedro Góes, CEO at InEvent, in an interview with LABS. Since its conception, the startup has held more than 5k events attended by about 3M people, recording an annual growth of 100% in the last three years.
Focused on data security, ensuring authentication, encryption and data protection through security policies such as AICPA and other privacy bodies, the startup is giving access to software licenses for companies in more than 100 countries by the end of May, as an effort to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in the sector. And Góes guarantees that the demand, so far, has been great.
With players like Amazon, Ambev, Embraer and XP Investimentos in the portfolio, InEvent has already received more than 300 requests to use its solution–including one from the French government, states CRO Vinicius Néris. “In 45 days, more than 28 countries showed interest–much of Europe. Through a public notice, we were selected by the French Ministry of Economy”. Vinicius says that, because of this, the company has been acquiring 5 to 6 new clients per day in the country.
Security at stake
As much as the discussion around data security during videoconferences has gained more attention; for the startup, which deals with crucial information from big names in the market, the topic is nothing new.
Part of the security mechanisms of the Virtual Lobby tool is the request for permission to access the microphone and the camera. “This is excellent from the user’s point of view. In addition, our authentication process prevents intruders from invading meetings in private rooms within the Virtual Lobby and avoids constraints at conferences,” explains Pedro.
But if the agenda of videoconferencing apps like Zoom and Hangouts has been gaining ground, since many companies have faced the need to quickly migrate their teams to remote work; for InEvent, the moment could be for disruption in the events sector.
“Videoconferencing is like the world’s first version without the face-to-face layer. We had to adapt quickly to a world with no connection in person, so how do we do that? Let’s put a video where everyone connects. But the second step is: when we go to a face-to-face event, we don’t just have a meeting that we sit there watching, it’s a very complex event. Nobody has ever built this to create a really complex online event, and this is our purpose”, reports the CEO.
Focusing on corporate events of all sizes, executives say the platform is specialized in personalization, hosting from half-hour sessions and training for small groups to events that last from one day to a week–with separate workshops and speakers, and segmented groups of participants.
Regarding features, the solution allows you to send satisfaction polls during sessions and download content, to engage in games and to leave a collective panel for a private chat. “It’s like the experience of an offline event: we are at a conference, I saw your badge, I want to come and talk to you only, make networking,” details Néris.
“One difficulty (with videoconferences) is to access the content in a way that you control. I want to see what the next session is in half an hour, what the event’s agenda is, who the speakers are. I want to have this on my smartphone, where I control this information. The platform brings this concept “, explains Néris. “This simplification of access is something we are seeing in many cases, not necessarily for super events,” adds Góes.
With higher demand, due to the large search for solutions that replace face-to-face at this time, InEvent has directed its efforts towards product and content development. Supported by a seed round funding in the range of $ 500,000 to 1 million, led by Californian accelerator Y combinator last year, the contribution has driven the startup to improve the experience, both for the event’s creator and the guest – and in a scalable way.
“Companies will have to manage a large number of events that would previously have been in person,” explains Néris. “We have firms in the UK, France, the United States, the Middle East, which come with the request: I don’t want to have the Zoom or YouTube brand on my website. We specialize in this: we have customers who are going to start broadcasting for thousands of people within their own sites, with their local server. The participant does not even need to access the Virtual Lobby environment to join in an event.
Focus amid the pandemic
With a team of 30 people in Brazil and the US working in marketing, sales, products and customer success, the company’s efforts are currently focused on the promotion and constant improvements of the product. “We have been focusing a lot on improving user entry on the platform, so that our customers enable income in this delicate moment. And the second thing is the ease of use – we encrypt everything but at the same time we think: how can I create something to be easy to use, to click and go.”
Besides noticing greater search for some European countries, executives say that the current situation has also raised the interest of some sectors in particular–such as education. “Education companies, colleges, and courses have been looking for us because they want something more dynamic to interact live with students,” says Góes.
Growth and expansion
Born in Brazil, InEvent has been seeing a greater volume of Brazilian companies requesting the platform in the last two weeks – but it still does not detect a fast pace in the country. “We still see Brazil a little slower to react to the moment, compared to other countries, using more solutions they already knew, such as WebEx and YouTube.” In Mexico, on the other hand, they spotted a faster response: Pedro says that they are developing a partnership in the country with a player that has more than 1500 employees, operating in several countries in Latin America.
Founded in 2015 by Mauricio Giordano, Vinicius Néris e Pedro Góes, the turning point in the Brazilian startup’s journey happened a few years later, in 2018, when a Silicon Valley company made the first contact and showed interest in the integration of InEvent with the popular CRM platform Salesforce. After a few trips to San Francisco, this first sale didn’t happen – but the opportunity to expand to the US did.
Due to the launch of the Virtual Lobby, the pandemic didn’t reduce the startup’s growth projection for 2020. “60% of our customers are willing to go online and 40% are studying, afraid of the income in this format. We are still not seeing an increase in revenue, because although we have a greater demand for the solution, there are customers who are no longer using the platform for past events, so there was a swap “, says the CEO.
Backed by Y Combinator and with offices in São Paulo, Florida and Mountain View, the startup forecasts a dramatic change in terms of technology adoption for the coming months – and believes in forced innovation. “We don’t think we’re going to resume face-to-face events anytime soon. And even when [the pandemic] is over, people will be so used to digital, that they won’t want to go back only to face-to-face anymore,” defends Góes. “Once the industry and the consumer are more used to this type of solution, we see growth not only in events but for all digital solutions, in Brazil and globally.”