Success Story: Eventtus Co-Founder And CEO Mai Medhat On Her Company's Acquisition By American Enterprise Community Event Engine, Bevy "I built a business for a reason. I wanted to help event organizers to host amazing, successful events. Joining Bevy will help us continue our vision, and scale this even bigger."
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If you study the backstories of many of today's successful entrepreneurs, one pattern will emerge- it seems to take 10 years to become a so-called "overnight success."
By the same token, it is almost a decade -it was in 2012, to be precise- since Mai Medhat, CEO, and Nihal Fares, Chief Product Officer, founded Eventtus, an event management software company, in Cairo, and this year, the MENA region is celebrating the duo's entrepreneurial success.
Bevy, a US-based enterprise community event engine, recently acquired Eventtus, adding more than 20 engineers to its team, including Medhat and Fares. "I think we are still processing this," Medhat says with a shy smile, when asked how she felt when realizing that her startup was indeed being acquired. "The past few months were a rollercoaster, we didn't have time to really realize what was happening, but it hit me the most when I announced the news to the team, and saw their reaction and how happy they were with the achievement of our work."
Mai Medhat and Nihal Fares, co-founder, Eventtus. Source: Eventtus
Medhat and Fares met while studying computer engineering at Ain Shams University in Cairo, eventually winning a top prize at the Imagine Cup, Microsoft's annual competition for young engineers, held in Egypt in 2009, for their joint graduation project, a technology solution to the traffic jam problem in Cairo. In 2011, the duo attended a Startup Weekend Cairo event, where they first developed a concept that would eventually grow into Eventtus.
Over the years, Eventtus has become an all-in-one platform that caters to events ticketing, event management, and apps for events. It enables event attendees to customize their event schedule through an interactive agenda, and also offer them instant updates through a social media feed and opportunities to network with other attendees. With Eventtus having had such a momentous journey over the years, it is not surprising to hear Medhat admit to the emotional toll of selling the business she founded. "It was not an easy decision at all, but it is for the best," she says. "I built a business for a reason. I wanted to help event organizers to host amazing, successful events. Joining Bevy will help us continue our vision, and scale this even bigger."
After a year in which most businesses suffered a financial hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those in the events space, Medhat is grateful for Eventtus' good fortune. "Finding an acquirer who is a perfect fit for the business, team, culture, and the growth of everyone in the team made the decision way easier," she says. "We were lucky with Bevy, and the journey of Eventtus will continue, but on a way bigger scale." The US-based Bevy has been designed as an end-to-end community event engine that helps businesses to build a community by enabling them to have a 360-degree view of their event attendees, and to also measure the impact of their efforts. "What's unique about Bevy is how they thread events together," Medhat noted, in a press release about the acquisition. "They've built a powerful community event engine that helps enterprise teams create a sense of community among their customers, prospects, partners, and employees. This is what all other event platforms are missing. And it's the key to unlocking global scale and growth."
Mai Medhat, CEO and co-founder, Eventtus. Source: Eventtus
Medhat reveals that Bevy's conferences, Startup Grind and CMX Summit, have been Eventtus' customers for the past four years, meaning that the two teams already know and work well with each other. In addition to having developed complimentary products, being aligned in terms of values and company culture has been a plus that contributed to concluding the deal, Medhat adds. "It took us two to three months to complete the whole transaction, and the fact that Bevy and Eventtus were not strangers prior to the deal discussion was very helpful and accelerated the deal a lot," Medhat says. "It took us couple of weeks to ensure that we are aligned on the vision, the opportunity ahead, and to confirm that it's in the best interest of both companies to join forces and continue working together."
However, she highlights that proper communication was key for ensuring that all stakeholders were on board with the decision. "The way it [the proposed deal] was communicated to the team and investors was important," she says. "I knew they would have a lot of questions and being prepared with answers makes it easier to accept and understand such a big change."
In acquiring Eventtus, Bevy extends its event technology stack with the addition of a mobile in-person conference app, and several other engagement tools for attendees. Once Eventtus is integrated with Bevy's enterprise community event engine, customers will have the most comprehensive, end-to-end event management solution to manage and scale their virtual, hybrid, and in-person event programs. Medhat and Fares will be joining the Bevy leadership team- Medhat as the Vice President of Innovation in order to support product and business growth across all functions and departments, while Fares will be Director of Product Management and will be responsible for growing Bevy's products for in-person, hybrid, and virtual events.
In retrospect, Medhat believe that the collaborative company culture at Eventtus that Fares and her nurtured zealously over the years has enabled them to attain this success. "We have managed to put together a great team and raise the quality bar very high, but we have also always gathered around different things, such as food, activities, fitness and of course events," she says. "It's hard to maintain the company culture while scaling, especially with diverse teams spread across different cities, but sticking to our values and a good hiring process has helped us in maintaining our culture."
The enforced pause faced by event organizers, including Eventtus, due to the COVID19 pandemic proved to be one more proof that investing in one's team always pays off, she says. "We had a great business, but overnight, the whole events market (and the world) turned upside down," Medhat adds. "After one or two weeks of panic, we had to act and act fast. We went back to the drawing board, all the team was involved in brainstorming, trying to figure out different ways to keep our customers in business, and to help events stay connected with their communities. We didn't invent virtual events, but we reimagined what virtual events are, how they can work, what we can offer to our customers, and how to educate the community about it. It was one of the most challenging and interesting phases of the Eventtus journey, and in just a few weeks, we hosted our first virtual conference with 1,500+ virtual attendees and speakers from 16 different countries. It wouldn't have been possible without the team, their innovation, and commitment. This is the output of the great culture we built over the years and I'm very proud of this."
The Eventtus team at an event. Source: Eventtus.
Even before building a company that has attracted the attention of international investors, and now acquirers too, Medhat had already established herself as one of the symbols of the MENA region's renaissance in entrepreneurship by joining a panel discussion alongside Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and US President Barack Obama at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2016 at Stanford University, California.
On the basis of a decade of experience of doing business in the MENA region, she is confident to state that the business climate and the entrepreneurial ecosystem in 2021 are definitely different than five or ten years ago due to more support, funding, and experienced entrepreneurs. "I think we can do better," Medhat continues. "When it comes to the ease of doing business, it's still difficult and expensive to start a business, and scale it across the borders of each country. We still have to register a company to do business across the Arab world. Then, infrastructure and support services, like internet stability and voice over internet protocol (VOIP) services, are now a necessity for doing business specially with remote work. Also, we need more support for software-as-a-service (SaaS) businesses, which usually need different setup and support services, because their financial models are different, and we don't have a lot of knowledge in this space to be shared in order to help more of these companies to grow and scale."
But when it comes to entrepreneurial opportunities in the MENA region, Medhat still considers them to be limitless. "The majority of populations are youth with very high internet penetration, so it's a heaven for internet companies and consumer based products," she says. "Governments across the MENA region are realizing the importance of startups and small businesses and we are seeing huge support from governments and a lot of events and initiatives to support entrepreneurs and startups."
In conclusion, Medhat's most important piece of advice for fellow entrepreneurs is to always keep in mind that the startup life is a marathon, not a sprint. "We read that a lot in books, but I can't stress how accurate it is," she says. "If the founders burn out, they will not be able to continue the journey and handle the never ending startup pressure. In the early days, we used to work around the clock, no days off, no weekends, but this can't go forever. Having a healthy lifestyle and taking few days off every now and then makes a huge difference in keeping the momentum, especially because of the mental roller-coaster that any entrepreneur can have. For example, one day I was on the stage with President Obama and Mark Zuckerberg, but the next day I still had to manage cashflow, fundraising, hiring, customer satisfaction and everything else, including all the stress and pressure that come with that."
However, Medhat might have had an advantage in dealing with all this- and that is centered on her gender, in that she believes female entrepreneurs are generally more compassionate. "This is a great skill for leaders in dealing with their teams, customers, and individuals who work with," she declares. "People appreciate this, and it turns out to create a great culture within the team."
'TREP TALK: Eventtus co-founder and CEO Mai Medhat's tips for entrepreneurs
DON'T GO AT IT ALONE "Find yourself a co-founder, or co-founders, to build the business with. They will be your support system and complete your skills. I couldn't have made it without my support system. My co-founder, my family, and my husband who understand how it is to build a business and work around the clock, help me deal with all the emotional stress that comes with this package too."
FIND YOURSELF A MENTOR "A mentor is not important just for the business, but for the growth of the entrepreneur him/herself. It should be someone you can trust, and with whom you can share all your thoughts, challenges, and fears."
MAKE LEARNING A PRIORITY "Always read and educate yourself in different topics. Being an entrepreneur or a CEO means that you need to wear multiple hats, so you don't have to be an expert on each topic but you do need some basic knowledge in many different areas."