What if your company's revenue is all but wiped out by the corona crisis? Fast-growing Groningen startup EventInsight went from plan A to plan B, C and even D, all focused on damage control. Until the entrepreneurs started thinking around: how do we turn this crisis into an opportunity? What do our customers need now? They worked very hard on a digital alternative to allow large conferences to take place. With success: the first bookings have already been made.
Focusing on conferences of 100 participants or more, EventInsight was one of the first companies in the event industry to be hit hard by measures to contain the COVID-19 virus. 'It was raining cancellations,' says technical director Bas Krijgsman, who along with Ruben Haring lifted the startup off the ground. 'While we were just in a huge upward spiral. Partly because in the spring of 2019 investors hooked up - including the NOM - we were already working with a team of 16 people on our growing order book. And then suddenly 95 percent of the turnover fell away completely. What a tragedy.
More impact than thought
As early as February, EventInsight had arranged work time reductions. 'That's because we were reasonably prepared,' says Krijgsman. 'My twin brother works in China and his experiences made us aware of the possible impact on our business if the virus were to spread further. Still, we hadn't anticipated that it could go so fast and so wrong. One doomsday scenario after another followed. Our event app and additional services are deployed at major conventions throughout Europe and beyond, but in all countries the same issues arise. Our first reaction was damage control. Coming up with contingency plans to limit the damage as much as possible. Until we asked ourselves: what problems do our customers have and how can we help them, so that we all come through the crisis stronger?
Focus on networking
By way of background, EventInsight does business with clients such as AFAS, Bosch, Chamber of Commerce, the UMCG and Unesco in the organization of large exhibitions and conferences. Krijgsman: "With our event apps and service packages, we offer customized solutions. Our clients can use various innovative tools to generate meaningful data themselves on the one hand and to help visitors spend their time at the event as efficiently as possible on the other. We use our technology and curiosity to improve large professional events, with a focus on networking. That's what sets us apart and why we got off to such a flying start. An event is also all about making the right contacts, and our apps contribute to that.'
Let's Get Digital
Krijgsman and consort realized that the mandatory cancellation of professional events would remove an important platform for meeting and knowledge exchange for their clients. 'This is true in the short term, but also in the longer term, because there is still so much uncertainty about the impact of the virus,' states the technical director. 'So we came up with the idea of developing a backup for trade shows and conferences scheduled after the summer. So that our clients run less risk of those also being cancelled, with all the financial consequences. Livestreaming or videoconferencing falls short at events of this level. Then you miss the experience that belongs to a conference. That is why we have developed a platform with which we can offer large groups of event participants an inspiring digital experience: Let's Get Digital.'
Taking visitors online
EventInsight went around the table with northern Dutch companies Bano Event Technology, Martiniplaza, TCKL and software partner Aanmelder.nl to further develop the platform. 'We linked all the existing possibilities and thought about how to really bring digital visitors into an online event,' explains Krijgsman. 'For example, letting people check in to a digital lobby and guiding them to the various digital rooms. From keynote speakers to workshops and from business speed dating to networking lunches: all the elements of a live event are virtually incorporated into our platform. With all the necessary automatic connections. Only coffee and refreshments have to be provided by the participants themselves; although we are busy investigating with a globally active party whether we can deliver a lunch at home on the day of the event.'
Animosity is high
Technically, everything is in place and the platform can be virtually dressed up in customers' corporate identities. EventInsight is all set. 'Since we launched our plan last Monday, we have received nothing but positive feedback. The demo agenda is already packed and on April 7 an already planned conference in America of one of our clients will still go ahead via Let's get Digital. That is great, of course. For us, it means switching to a different way of working and that is undoubtedly a process of trial and error, but we are eager to serve our clients in the best possible way. We are there primarily for the corporate market and can set up digital events for 50 to 1,000 attendees. In the meantime, we will continue to scale up and add value with additional digital tools as needed.'
Strong example of flexibility
Investment manager Klaas Kooistra of the NOM is proud of EventInsight's initiative and quick action. 'This company was on the rise until that big coronagraph hit. How they have recovered in such a short time and turned negative developments around in such a positive way shows a strong example of flexibility and resilience.' The perspective that the startup has created with Let's Get Digital is giving the company renewed energy. 'We hope to be back on track as soon as possible and have our entire team back to work,' says Krijgsman. 'Moreover, we are very curious to see how this turns out. As soon as the virus danger has passed, people will start seeing each other live again, because human contact is irreplaceable. Still, Let's Get Digital can remain of great significance for congresses. As a backup, but also as an option for participants who cannot attend live. Certain elements we will probably use more often in the future.'