Posted on

Hubilo raises $4.5 million, led by Lightspeed, to focus on virtual events

Earlier this year, the founders of event analytics platform Hubilo pivoted to become a virtual events platform to survive the impact of COVID-19. Today, the startup announced it has raised a $4.5 million seed round, led by Lightspeed, and says it expects to exceed $10 million bookings run rate and host over one million attendees over the next few months.

The round also included angel investors Freshworks chief executive officer Girish Mathrubootham; former LinkedIn India CEO Nishant Rao; Slideshare co-founder Jonathan Boutelle; and Helpshift CEO Abinash Tripathy.

Hubilo’s clients have included the United Nations, Roche, Fortune, GITEX, IPI Singapore, Tech In Asia, Infocomm Asia and Clarion Events. The startup is headquartered in San Francisco, but about 12% of its sales are currently from Southeast Asia, and it plans to further scale in the region. It will also focus on markets in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Vaibhav Jain, Hubilo’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that many of its customers before the pandemic were enterprises and governments that used its platform to help organize large events. Those were also the first to stop hosting in-person events.

In February, “we knew that most, if not all, physical events were getting postponed or cancelled globally. To counter the drop in demand for offline events, we agreed to extend the contracts by six more months at no cost,” Jain said. “However, this was not enough to retain our clients and most of them either cancelled the contracts or put the contract on hold indefinitely.”

As a result, Hubilo’s revenue dropped to zero in February. With about 30 employees and reserves for only three months, Jain said the company had to chose between shutting down or finding an alternative model. Hubilo’s team created a MVP (minimum viable product) virtual event platform in less than a month and started by convincing a client to use it for free. That first virtual event was hosted in March and “since then, we’ve never looked back,” said Jain.

This means Hubilo is now competing with other virtual event platforms, like Cvent and Hopin (which was used to host TechCrunch Disrupt). Jain said his company differentiates by giving organizers more chances to rebrand their virtual spaces; focusing on sponsorship opportunities that include contests, event feeds and virtual lounges to increase attendee engagement; and providing data analytic features that include integration with Salesforce, Marketo and Hubspot.

With so many events going virtual that “Zoom fatigue” and “webinar fatigue” have now become catchphrases, event organizers have to not only convince people to buy tickets, but also keep them engaged during an event.

Hubilo “gamifies” the experience of attending a virtual event with features like its Leaderboard. This enables organizers to assign points for things like watching a session, visiting a virtual booth or messaging someone. Then they can give prizes to the attendees with the most points. Jain said the Leaderboard is Hubilo’s most used feature.

Read More

Posted on

Virtual events startup Run The World just nabbed $10.8 million from a16z and Founders Fund

Run The World, a year-old startup that’s based in Mountain View, Calif., and has small teams both in China and Taiwan, just nabbed $10.8 million in Series A funding co-led by earlier backer Andreessen Horowitz and new backer Founders Fund.

It’s easy to understand the firms’ interest in the company, whose platform features every functionality that a conference organizer might need in a time of a pandemic and even afterward, given that many outfits are rethinking more permanently how to produce events that include far-flung participants. Think video conferencing, ticketing, interactivity and networking.

We’d written about the startup a few months ago as it was launching with $4.3 million in seed funding led by Andreessen partner Connie Chan, who was joined by a slew of other seed-stage backers, including Pear Ventures, GSR Ventures and Unanimous Capital. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the current climate, Run The World has received a fair amount of traction since, according to co-founder and CEO Xiaoyin Qu, who’d previously led products for both Facebook and Instagram.

“Since we launched in February — and waived all set-up fees for events impacted by the coronavirus — we are receiving hundreds of inbound event requests each day,” Qu says. More specifically, she says the startup has doubled the size of its core team to 30 employees and enabled organizers from a wide variety of countries to oversee more than 2,000 events at this point.

Qu says that a lot of event planners who’ve used Zoom to run webinars are now choosing Run The World instead because of its focus on engagement and social features. For example, attendees to an event on the platform are invited to create a video profile akin to an Instagram Story that can help inform other attendees about who they are. It also organizes related “cocktail parties,” where it can match attendees for several minutes at a time, and attendees can choose who they want to follow up with afterward.

That heavy focus on social networking isn’t accidental. Qu met her co-founder, Xuan Jiang, at Facebook, where Jiang was a technical lead for Facebook events, ads and stories.

Of course, Run The World — which takes 25% of ticket sales in exchange for everything from the templates used, to ticket sales, to payment processing and streaming and so forth — still has very stiff competition in Zoom. The nine-year-old company has seen adoption by consumers soar since February, with 300 million daily meeting participants using the service as of April’s end.

Not only is it hard to overcome that kind of network effect, but Run The World is hardly alone in trying to steer event organizers its way. Earlier this week, for example, Bevy, an events software business co-founded by the founder of the events series Startup Grind, announced it has raised $15 million in Series B funding led by Accel. Other young online events platforms to similarly raise venture backing in recent months include London-based Hopin (whose recent round was also led by Accel, interestingly) and Paris-based Eventmaker.

Still, the fresh funding should help. While Run The World has grown “entirely organically through word of mouth” to date, says Qu, the startup plans to grow its team and will presumably start spending at least a bit on marketing.

It could well get a boost on this last front by its social media-savvy investors.

In addition to a16z and Founders Fund, numerous other backers in its Series A include Will Smith’s Dreamers VC and Kevin Hart’s Hartbeat Capital.

Read More