MICEit Wants To Make MENA Event Planning Seamless
MICEit's co-founders were inspired by a problem they've faced working for over a (combined) 23 years in the hospitality industry. "We have firsthand seen and identified the troubles of managing an event both as service providers and event organizers," says co-founder and COO Rola Fayyad. Fayyad, alongside founder and CEO Mohammad Turki Khalil, claim that MICEit "will streamline the long and hectic event planning process". Khalil has been active in the hospitality industry for 13 years, mostly in marketing and sales with vast experience in MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing, and exhibitions). Fayyad has been involved in the hospitality and aviation industries for over a decade, primarily in marketing, sales, and commercial management.
Here's the thing though; even after reading all the online material I can about MICEit, I still can't wrap my head around how extensive this portal is. You can tell that their experience in the industry has played a huge role in making sure that they cover just about everything. It's not just booking venues, and sorting out plane tickets and hotel rooms; you can sort out A/V services, registration and ticketing services, and even florists. Having all your needs sorted out through one portal is very helpful, especially given that you have the rates and options right in front of you. Fayyad mentions another benefit when she points out that "one of the biggest pains for event organizers is collecting various quotations from multiple vendors." All the different costs of an event will boil down to just one bill.
Where better to launch MICEit than in the founders' native Jordan? MICEit's co-founders said that their primary audience has been "the top 300 corporate event bookers", and they've received tons of support from hosts and vendors alike. So while they are trying to bring Jordan to the forefront, Fayyad is also looking beyond its borders, as they are "focusing on international clients to book in Jordan, our service will simplify their procedure as they aren't located here." Being a web-based portal, it comes as no surprise that MICEit hasn't been a capital-intensive venture, though it does come with its own costs.
Fayyad listed "operations, administration and website development" as their current payouts, but expects their balance sheet to look a little busier once they work towards regional expansion, in anticipation of "more incurred costs for travelling, marketing and development." As they don't have any angel investors, she admitted that she is hoping to find one soon to help fund MICEit's next stage, which is estimated to cost US$150,000. Regarding ROI, Fayyad couldn't give us any numbers, but said that MICEit will "breakeven in two years from commencement."
Setting numbers aside, the portal itself is a priority: "Website development started in September and the MVP [model-view presenter] was out in November." Fayyad and Khalil took on offline events to "test the product to confirm our algorithm is correct." The website's beta version has since been launched, and both Khalil and Fayyad have been working hard on fine-tuning it since they began in early 2013, when they started conducting market research. "We started pitching to Oasis500 to get seed funding at the beginning of 2014, and successfully joined their batch one in August."
Being a web portal, it's expected that a sound marketing strategy can truly make or break your business. Fayyad further delved into their marketing strategy, whose main goal is to "increase our visibility in the market and influence bookers towards technology for events." While breaking old habits is no easy feat, she claims that it hasn't been all that difficult. "In Jordan, it's easier since we have the experience and connections," said Fayyad, "so performing sales calls closes deals and word of mouth is strong." That said, she did say that their approach would have to be different in newer markets that they expand to, giving the UAE as an example.
Social media also plays a huge role in helping MICEit bring in as many potential clients as possible from as many sources as possible. MICEit currently has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the ever-popular Instagram. Their most effective platform? "Twitter gives us the best results as we can target our audience." A subtler feature of MICEit that I noticed (and appreciated) that I thought played a positive role in marketing is having a product or service Arabic-enabled. It sounds like something trivial for a venture from the Middle East, but you'd be surprised. Having an Arabic-enabled MICEit is a standout feature. "All booking engines are in English and rarely support Arabic; we want to break that habit and go local," referencing a 2012 Google report that claimed that Arabic-only web content only makes up 3% of all web content.
Despite the fact that MICEit is still at a nascent stage, it appears that they've achieved quite a bit. They've organized events in Jordan for Google for Entrepreneurs, Google for Developers, and Startup Grind Jordan, and they have already signed eight memorandums of understandings with companies to be their exclusive portal for event planning. "Our sales pipeline consists of up to 35 events for the upcoming year, impacting on revenue of $40,000!"
MICEit will be making its way into the GCC in Q2 2015, though Fayed didn't confirm which country will be first, as they are trying to find solid partnerships to make the transition smoother. "We are still working on which country to penetrate first, noting top MICE countries are UAE, Qatar and Oman." They also hope to diversify the types of events on their roster, with Fayyad hinting at opening the platform up to social events after the third year. The co-founders want to make seamless events a reality- MICE and easy!