Archive for October, 2010

A few words about EventVue

It’s now been 8 months since we decided to shut down EventVue. One thing that has surprised me is the number of emails I get from people interested in launching similar companies. I usually get one email or phone call a week asking about what I learned and what I would do differently if I were to do it again. I really don’t understand why there is so much interest in this particular space, but I can tell you there are an awful lot of people thinking about building social networks around events. And as far as I can tell from my perspective, the interest is only accelerating. I try to be helpful and am always willing to share what I’ve learned, but since I’m getting asked the same questions over and over again, I figured it’s time I post my answers somewhere I can easily link to.

If you’re thinking about launching an EventVue clone and are wondering if it would be a good idea or not, this post is for you.

Here are some of the top questions I’ve been asked lately regarding EventVue:

What reeeeally happened?

If you haven’t read our EventVue post-mortem, that’s the best place to start. We tried our best to be as transparent as possible in our writing and so it’s disappointing when people call and ask “what really happened”. Sorry to disappoint you, but there really is no back story to be told. No crazy founder drama between Rob and myself. No crazy pressure from our investors. We simply ran out of money before we managed to find a product valuable enough to conference organizers that they would pay us enough to keep us in business.

What was the “nice to have” problem that EventVue waited too long to address?

EventVue was always a vitamin instead of a pain killer.  Conference organizers typically liked our product but none of them said they needed it.  It didn’t make their lives easier, make them more money or cut any of their expenses — it was just “nice to have”

How do you go from being a vitamin to a pain killer?

If you want to solve a conference organizers pain, help them make more money.

There are basically two ways conference organizers make money: ticket sales and sponsorships.  Which revenue stream they care most about depends on where they fall on the spectrum between a conference and a trade show.  Conferences typically have a low number of attendees, a high ticket price and the value of the event is mainly around the attendees.  Conferences care most about ticket sales because that’s where they make their money.  On the other end of the spectrum are tradeshows.  Tradeshows have a large number of attendees, a low ticket price and the focus is on the sponsors / exhibitors.

EventVue experimented with 3 different products. If you did it again, which one would you focus on?

Discover and social promotion tools in general.  Things that are interesting about this angle:

  • Conference organizers are HAPPY to pay hefty affiliate fees (often up to 30%) for any ticket sales that you drive for them.
  • No one has done a good job yet of turning attendees into marketers for an event.
  • Personally, I’m more likely to go to an event if I hear that someone I know is attending.  With Twitter, Facebook, etc, it should be easy to share that info and track affiliate links to show conference organizers which of their marketing efforts (or attendees) are the most effective.
  • Conference organizers are usually willing to discount tickets or give free hotel rooms to attendees who bring a crowd along with them.  Currently there is no good way to track or manage this data.
  • You will have way less friction signing up customers for a promotional tool than for a social network product.

Your post-mortem mentioned that Discover actually ended up losing money for customers. Can you explain why?

One statistic that is true for almost every event: 80% of ticket sales come in during the last 2 weeks.  This meant that showing the list of people attending the event actually had the opposite effect than intended. Instead of seeing their friends that were attending, they saw that no one had registered yet and assumed the event was a dud.

Who are the other players in this space?

Here are a few of the companies you should check out. Please don’t launch something new until you’ve looked at what they offer and have an idea for something new and innovative to bring to the table. The event industry doesn’t need more clones, it needs innovators. And by the way, I’ll let you in on a little secret they won’t tell you — none of these guys are making much money. Some are doing better than others, but none of them are getting rich off this yet.

Who are the event registration companies we should know about?

There are more but these are the ones we ran across the most.

Do you have any other advice for us?

Don’t assume that just because conference attendees want a way to network at events that conference organizers will jump to provide it. Conference attendees who used EventVue loved it! We wrongly assumed that since we were obviously improving the conference experience, organizers would want to pay for it. One of our customers memorably said “If I wanted to improve the conference experience I would buy everyone steak dinners. I don’t care about the conference experience. I care about selling tickets. What can you do to help me do that?”

I started EventVue because I thought it was crazy that people would spend thousand of dollars to fly across the country to attend an event to meet people without having any way of knowing in advance who those people were. Conferences are really just communities of people who are interested in similar things. I believe more today than ever that those communities deserve a place to communicate online. I want every conference I attend to use an EventVue-like product. And while there are some pretty big business challenges to be overcome, I appreciate your courage in wanting to try. For me personally, I want to stay as far away from the event industry as I can. But if after reading this you’re still crazy enough to try yourself, know that I’ll be here cheering you on.