This Startup Has Championed The Lessons From The Pandemic In Reimagining The Event Industry

Today, Hubilo is a recognized platform for high-end virtual corporate events and trade shows, having hosted more than a million attendees without the all too common screen fatigue

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By Prabhjeet Bhatla


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Even before COVID-19 put in an appearance, thought leaders advocated the need to rethink old paradigms, calling to move beyond a business-as-usual approach and instead reimagine challenges as new possibilities. In the event industry specifically, which was already moving into the digital sphere, the last year accelerated a move into virtual spaces from years to mere months.

Whether in-person gatherings are coming back sometime soon or not, one thing is certain - virtual events have forever changed the way organizations will host and engage with their audience.

Events were built to succeed hundreds of years ago but they are built to fail in the 21st century. Post-COVID virtual events and webinars will be unrecognizable. It will be like comparing traditional TV with streaming, print magazines with tablets, or music CDs with Spotify. Events will probably start online and move to offline activations to later go back online again. Communities will interact through the combination of virtual and face-to-face experiences in ways that will increase their return on investments and improve efficiencies. This trend will facilitate and accelerate hybrid events and a new generation of face-to-face event experiences, many experts believe.

Live video will remain a cornerstone of our marketing and sales activities even after the pandemic is behind us. It is suspected that the same will be true for a good number of companies that initially pivoted to live streaming to stay afloat. This is where Hubilo steps in.

Last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic struck, physical events came to a standstill. When that happened, event management platform Hubilo, which had earlier clocked INR 8 crore in revenue, began running out of money.

Today, Hubilo is a recognized platform for high-end virtual corporate events and trade shows, having hosted more than a million attendees without the all too common screen fatigue.

However, Hubilo was still not out of the woods in July 2020. The startup needed the venture capital industry to bet on its technology and the new normal. The founders tried to convince potential investors that the United Nations, Fortune, trade expo GITEX, drug firm Roche, and Informa Markets were using Hubilo's digital events platform.

After talking to more than 25 funds that rejected anything to do with digital events, the founders approached Lightspeed Venture Partners, which believed in their idea.

Bootstrapped until October last year, Hubilo raised $4.5 million in its first Seed funding round that was led by Lightspeed and also saw participation from Slideshare co-founder Jonathan Boutelle,  HelpShift chief executive officer Abinash Tripathy, former LinkedIn India managing director Nishant Rao, and Freshworks co-founder and chief executive officer Girish Mathrubootham.

The startup raised $23.5 million in a Series A round led by Lightspeed Venture Partnersand Balderton Capital, recently.

According to the founder, and chief executive officer Vaibhav Jain, at a broader level, everyone is beginning to understand the value of holding virtual events and also recognizing how insights and event analytics are critical to making more informed business decisions. Hence, he shared companies are reworking their budgets to incorporate more virtual events in their planning for the year.

Also, enterprises have realized that vis-à-vis physical events, virtual ones can be conducted on a larger scale, require less workforce and resources, are cost-effective, and with the right marketing strategy, they offer 100 times add-on value, commented Hubilo's founder.

Founded in 2015 by Vaibhav Jain and Mayank Agarwal, Hubilo until 2020 was helping streamline physical events with the help of technology. But come 2020, Jain and his team, pulsing the trend, pivoted into a comprehensive virtual platform that meets all the event-based requirements through the integration of numerous technology tools.

Jain, who in his college days used to organize multiple events, said people are beginning to comprehend the value of doing virtual events and how critical insights and event analytics have become to make important business decisions.

"Virtual events can be conducted at a much larger scale; it requires comparatively less manpower and resources, it is cost-effective and with the right marketing strategy gives you hundred-times add on value as compared to a physical event," Jain added explaining the benefits of virtual events.

Further stressing on it, he said an event held in 2019 had 4,000 registrations. However, for the same event after hiring Hubilo, the number of attendees the company registered for the virtual event was 80,000.

Sharing the highs and lows of his entrepreneurial journey, Jain said the initial two years were challenging as it required a lot of convincing and explaining for the requirement of technology in physical events. Post that, the growth was organic. However, in February 2020, their revenue went to zero teetering founders to even think of shutting the company down.

"I can say that I have learned and grown more in these last seven months of my journey than I have in the last seven years," he added.

According to Jain post the pivot, the company has grown massively and was able to achieve a two-year revenue target in six months. In this period, they have served more than 300 clients with some events having as many as 50,000 to 1 million attendees.

The San Francisco-based company is looking to set up its base offices and onboard talent in the APAC, Europe, and Middle East regions to strengthen their presence further in these respective markets.

Jain told Entrepreneur India while championing his platform as the most engaging global platform that allows anyone to plan and attend events from anywhere. "We truly believe that through our platform, we are connecting people from all cultures and geographies, one event at a time. We have hosted more than 6000 events in over 100 countries, facilitating over 100 million event engagements, creating a new genre of online engagement that we believe will be as commonplace as streaming home entertainment and social media," he stated.

According to the founder, the platform witnessed extensive commerce on their platform; in over a year, almost $400 million worth of opportunities have been created, 200,000 connections have been made between attendees that have led to business transactions.

"Our revenue had plummeted to zero in February 2020, as our earlier business model was event management for physical events. I was considering shutting down the entire operation and was working on a fintech idea for the next business. But I did not want to let go of the 30 employees, so we decided to give it one last try. I gave my technology team a goal to build a simple platform in 30 days. We had already signed and committed to Tesseract Global in advance to give ourselves a deadline to complete the platform's development. As a result, Hubilo has emerged as one of the leading global platforms serving enterprises, event management companies, educational institutions, and several others," he noted.

"We want to be the category leader that is defining the next steps of the virtual and hybrid events industry. We also want to be recognized as the most innovative company in the space, collaborating and enabling the most creative minds in the industry," Jain further shared.

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