I moved to London over three years ago and little I knew back then that it will be a game changer in my career. I started going to events, reading more industry magazines, learned about the different associations and thanks to attending so many events and meeting such talented and inspiring people I kept building my blog and network and providing great content, for both UK and international audience.
Over the last couple of month I met event start-ups who regularly come to London to attend local events. I was surprised by their motivation and interest in the UK market and decided to have a chat with them to see why they find London so attractive. Being non-native English myself, I can understand the challenges one can face. And it’s not only about the language, but also the new mentality and new business practice one must be familiar with.
Meet Juraj, Content and Social Media Marketeer from Sli.do, an audience engagement platform based in Bratislava that makes it super-easy for anyone in the audience to ask questions and vote on live polls.
Tal, Co-founder & CEO of Evolero, Tel Aviv based start-up that enables conference organizers combine content from all social media sites into one professional event site.
Peter, CEO & Co-Founder of SponsorMyEvent, sponsorship platforms based in Luxemburg that matches event organisers with the right sponsor in an efficient way.
I met all in person in London and was fascinated by their story and lucky to work with them on #EventPlannersTalk. Some of the things they shared even opened my eyes and made me realise how important London is for the events industry and not taking all for granted!
Where from did you get the business idea?
Juraj: sli.do’s beginnings date back to 2012, when our CEO Peter Komornik got an ambition to improve teaching methods in Slovakia by providing instant feedback to lecturers. We came up with a simple tech tool to get an instant feedback from students so they didn’t have to fill in printed surveys after each and every lecture.
After winning two start-up competitions and listening to feedback from our first clients, we implemented the features that the event organizers missed and turned sli.do into an audience engagement platform for live events.
And that’s when we realized that it’s actually a decent business idea J
Tal: I have been in the event industry since I can remember. My mother has a conference company and I used to help as a teen, and later work as a planner in her team. At some point, I started my own conference company dedicated to the biomed industry.
We work like crazy to initiate great innovative events and give the existing conferences a good fight. Our events had a strong, active community around them and valuable professional content and speakers, but we were struggling to make it great online. No social buzz or dynamic sense of community was reflected through our event websites, and even though our events repeated, we were setting up and shutting down event websites, just to start again from scratch with each new event – wasting time on rebuilding the content, community and momentum. After searching and talking to other event planners, I realized that I will just have to build the solution myself!
Peter: The idea came through another intermediate platform providing match-making for events that we created prior to launching SponsorMyEvent. The feedback we got from event organisers was that they wanted a platform that can match them with the right sponsors. We followed up and talked with sponsors to see if that is also something they would be interested in and got good feedback. That’s how SponsorMyEvent was created.
We met in London when you exhibited or attended one of the industry events. Why do you think London is the right target audience and market for your service?
Juraj: There are basically 2 reasons why we’ve decided to venture into the events industry in London.
Firstly, we were aware of the fact that London is notorious for its vivid events scene and a large number of events organized per year. We read later on that London was actually 7th largest city in the number of meetings which made it a super attractive market for us.
The second reason was very prosaic – the language. It’s incomparably easier to enter the market and be able to speak the local language with your prospective clients.
Tal: London is a hub for the world’s biggest industries – finance, hi-tech, medical, energy, and more – so it’s naturally a magnet for people and companies looking to connect with their peer groups. As a result, London has been a gathering point for the international business community for years, playing host to thousands of conferences and events. The city is easily accessible for both the European and American markets and is attractive for anyone looking to put on high visibility, high impact programming.
For these types of conferences and events, creating meaningful networking opportunities and touch points for attendees is critical. With the Evolero platform, we get to work with so many great, London based event planners, helping them better foster their own communities.
On a personal level though, as we have made more and more connections in London, we’ve found that Londoners themselves make the city a great market. We have met some amazing people in the city and developed really great relationships with our local clients and partners alike. We were in London twice in November, and we are already planning our next trip!
Peter: Firstly mentality and market dynamics – the people here are open minded to accept and try new products. Secondly is the large amount of events and sponsors and lastly is our name – SponsorMyEvent which attracts English speaking planners and sponsors.
English is not your native language. Was it a challenge? How do you overcome it, especially when recruiting or creating marketing and communication material in English?
Juraj: We’re all fluent in English at sli.do. Most of us studied and worked abroad, using English as a primary language of communication, so it came naturally to us to keep on working in this language.
Many non-natives might be scared of creating and sharing content in English, as they don’t feel fully comfortable with English. But I say that when it comes to creating content, it’s all about sharing information that is valuable for others. Don’t think about grammar mistakes you might make. Think about the value you provide to others.
And then find your “heroes” to inspire you. Since starting sli.do blog, I’ve been largely inspired by two non-native bloggers who are doing an incredible job with their content –Julius Solaris from Event Manager Blog and Leo Widrich from Buffer.
Tal: Great question! For us, it’s the other way around actually. Our team is made of native English speakers, and as like that from day one (not UK originated, but mainly US and Canada). So we are an English first kind of company, and we don’t have a Hebrew service and therefore our clients in Israel or international and English speaking events. Actually, this is the case usually with Israeli tech companies. Since Israel is a small market, they are “born global”. We are very strong in technology so it’s fantastic to build your tech here, but when it comes to user-interface, marketing and target audiences – we’re born global.
Peter: We have an international team so we communicate in English. In the short term we can do it ourselves but in the medium term we need professionals with fluent English. But not only the language, we’ll be looking into localising our business activities and making sure the ones dealing with local customers also know the local market well.
Before going global, did you first position and establish yourself as a local player or from early on decided to go global?
Juraj: Since our very beginning, we’ve had an ambition to go global. But of course, we needed to start from somewhere. We can’t be grateful enough to our first local customers who not only used our services but also gave us invaluable feedback on how to improve our product. So we’ve gone global by first growing roots locally.
Tal: See answer above. Even at Beta mode we had Israeli but also UK and US clients. I will add that Israelis are fantastic beta users, as they usually give you a in-your-face blunt feedback, that is crucial in these early stages.
Peter: We started locally but from the beginning the ambition was to go global, Luxemburg is too small. With SponsorMyEvent we also want to give the local sponsors global exposure. We believe in the principle “Think global, act local”.
How do you leverage your product and position yourself as a global brand?
Juraj: If you want to go global, you need to make your service scalable. So people in the Philippines can use it as easily as those in the UK and with no additional costs.
We work hard to make the use of sli.do as simple as possible so anyone in the World can implement it at their events. We believe that technology needs to be nearly invisible in order to bring value. It should be so unobtrusive that users don’t even realize that they’re using it.
For attendees, interacting with speakers should be as natural as typing a text. And that’s what we’re aiming to achieve with sli.do – that seamless experience.
Tal: Evolero is a small company operating in Tel Aviv and taking meaningful clients off of huge brands in an extremely competitive market. Here are some methods in which we’ve accomplished that:
Word of Mouth – We arrived to this milestone with a lot of (sweat) word of mouth – we’re lucky to have a B2B product that is very visible and is also getting a lot of buzz at peak moments through great content (hey – that’s what events are all about!) So everyone sees our logo and the main source of inbound traffic is coming from our clients’ event websites.
Repeat usage – Additionally, repeat usage by existing clients and organizations is very strong and brings in more and more events.
Segmenting and focusing – We went for specific business segments and made sure our growth is focused there. The repeat and WOM factors helped here as well. We believe in going after specific segments so you are “big in Japan” for these segments. So from a very early on stage, people saw us everywhere and we were viewed as some kind of an empire.
Our event prof. background helped us get personal with our clients and users – What I’ve learned is that being personal is hugely important and is very helpful. People like it when you really care, especially event planners, with such stressful lives. We never looked at clients as “users”, always as people and got amazingly personal with who they are and what they need. We expanded our context – we’re not afraid of getting personal, even our cold marketing is personal. Our client’s lifetime value is high for a SaaS B2B2C, so instead of investing time in flashy ads, we invest it in exploring our potential clients, talking to them, looking at their online presence and on social media and learning the style of their events, content, and community. Trust is big because people do not want to get screwed so we had to overcome that we were not a huge company. One thing that sticks out to you that we did that was above and beyond personal…I reach out to companies that sign on and I even help them get speakers and sponsors.
Peter: We use different channels – SEO, online marketing and blogging – all tech channels to build relationships with our clients. We also focus on business development to ensure growth. We don’t want to be a niche player but the leader on a global scale.
To conclude, I’m highly motivated to see these guys hustling and making the effort to show presence, network F2F with event planners and potential and existent clients. It doesn’t matter if you have a blog and thousands of Twitter followers, people want to do business with people – and that’s what only matters, especially in the B2B sector. Next time someone asks me whether online will replace live events, I’ll show them this article. People buy from people.