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The Future of Virtual Events

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Five years ago I had a rare and severe reaction to a medication I’d been taking, and ended up allergic to the world. That isn’t an exaggeration either. My immune system went into a seemingly permanent hyperdrive. It was so bad that for years, I could barely go outside. Which, among other things, means that I was stuck inside against my will before it was cool.

The truth is, I was lucky. This happened to me in an era where there were all sorts of ways I could interact with others from home. I could use Facebook or Facetime or Twitter or Slack. There were countless ways I could be active and connected in the world, even as I couldn’t wander freely through it.

But there was something I couldn’t do, something I missed from my previous life that I couldn’t reproduce in my digital world. I wanted to go to events. I wanted to meet people. I wanted to hear great keynotes. I wanted to go to breakout sessions where I could learn from people and interact with them. And I wanted the chance to experience those organic networking moments that can help make your career. 

I tried to find something that could approximate what I was looking for, but no such thing existed. The closest thing I could find were webinars, but as anyone can attest, those don’t exactly match the dynamism of an interactive, in-person experience. They’re not much of an experience at all.

The lack of online events, I realized, wasn’t about a lack of content or a lack of appetite. The reason they barely existed was that there wasn’t a good platform people could use to build them. Put another way, we had the virtual content and the virtual crowds, but didn’t have a virtual venue. And you can’t have a convention if you don’t have a convention center.

So I decided to see if I might be able to build one myself. I wanted to create a virtual venue that was so useful that it would transform online events into indispensable experiences. But that was easier said than done. It took a lot to figure out how to take the best elements of in-person events and bring them online without losing the experiential and interactive aspects that make events so memorable. But after plenty of fits and starts--and a year and a half of coding--I finally figured it out. I called it Hopin.

It works much in the way it would in real life. When you create an event, it’s like you have an empty venue that you can customize to fit an unlimited number of experiences. You can create a main stage for content, and rooms for group interactions like breakout sessions. You can set up “chat roulette”-style networking meetings. You can create event booths for engaging with sponsors and setting up tracked calls-to-action. And, of course, you can offer tickets at the door. Essentially, you can create a virtual event that has everything a real event does—except with more data insights and better security.

Just a few months ago, we raised a round of seed money to support our early efforts, and in the months since we have quadrupled the number of attendees on our platform each month. In the first half of this year, we’ve already hosted thousands of virtual events, bringing together nearly one million attendees. Today, we have more than 50,000 customers on our waiting list, and that number is growing by hundreds each day.

We’re enabling events for hundreds of major organizations, from the Wall Street Journal and United Nations, to GitLab and Unilever. We do large-scale tech, government agency meetings, and everything in between. And in the age of COVID-19, we’ve even helped people celebrate personal milestones, including a few weddings. 

We’ve also been excited to see that while many of our customers are first coming to Hopin because of the pandemic, they are so energized by the experience that they plan future events right away. Our customers love that geography no longer has to be a limiting factor for their attendees. And they love that Hopin is the only venue that doesn’t have a maximum capacity. It means their good ideas get heard by more people—typically three times more than an in-person event. It means they can amplify insights and learnings across borders and boundaries. And it means they can help people network who would otherwise never be in the same room.

That, it turns, means a great deal to us. It validates our vision and our mission. It tells us that there is a great appetite for what we’ve built. And it tells us it’s time to scale.

Today, I’m delighted to announce that we’re doing just that. We recently closed a Series A funding round, led by IVP and joined by Salesforce Ventures and existing investors including Accel, Northzone, Seedcamp, and Slack Fund. We now have the resources we need to meet our soaring demand, to continue bringing innovations online, and ultimately, to make virtual events a central part of the way we interact with each other--as communities, as companies, as organizations, and as friends.

We’re eager to enter this new phase for our company, and for the event industry itself. And we hope you’ll join us on the journey. For more information on how you can create your own event, visit hopin.to.