Photo: Founders of Events.com Stephen Partridge and Mitch Thrower
Q1. Tell us about Events.com
Mitch: Events.com is a single platform to manage all aspects of event management by providing a wide range of software and services to event organizers and participants. The Events.com business model is robust and scalable, with a cloud-based (SaaS) platform that combines relevant technologies all on one platform.
The company supports hundreds of thousands of event organizers across the U.S. with a variety of services that support ticketing, registration, marketing, discovery and sponsorship.
No matter what, humans will always find a way to connect around shared experiences. Part of the mission at Events.com is to help the world get back together to experience the most meaningful moments of our lives. When COVID hit, events transitioned to virtual platforms. Events.com is taking advantage of the dissonance caused by COVID to turn a once-in-a-lifetime challenge into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. 2021 may very well present the possibility for live events again, or a hybrid of live and virtual events, and we’re ready to disrupt the industry with our vision.
Here’s a synopsis of what we provide:
FIND : Event discovery and advertising
PLAN : Event planning and logistics
MARKET : Event marketing and branding
TICKET : Venue and ticket management
EVALUATE : Market analytics and reporting
SOCIALIZE : Participant and community affinity
SPONSOR : Sponsorship management and activation
COLLECT DATA : Business intelligence and data aggregation
Photo: The multi-day Wonderfront Festival is powered by Events.com
Q2. What made you dive into the event management space? What were the challenges that you faced?
Mitch: Stephen Partridge (Events.com COO and Cofounder) and I met through sport in the triathlon circuit. We would run into each other at athletic events and got to know each other socially and then professionally as time went on. One of Stephen’s companies, EventsOnline.ca, used to run triathlon events in Hawaii. We realized we had a complementary skill set and vision, and we both shared the desire to do something bigger that would change the world. We decided to go into business together in 2011.
I’m a 22-time Ironman athlete and serial entrepreneur who previously co-founded Active.com, a company that went public and later private…selling twice for over a billion dollars. Stephen is a former Olympic swimming hopeful and coach as well as a successful entrepreneur with an impressive track record. He ran one of the world’s largest equipment sites and magazines and was a pioneer in the web-to-print movement. Stephen is also an integral part of Startup Canada, which supports entrepreneurs across Canada.
We realized the event space is really a symbol of our social construct — how we interact with others, how we find joy, how we connect with the world. We wanted to be an integral part of a system that brings people together to experience the most meaningful moments of their lives. That’s why we started Events.com. When Covid hit, all live events shut down and the whole industry froze in its tracks. Everyone was asking, what do we do next? A lot of money had already changed hands for events that were not going to happen. That was a huge challenge for every company involved in events.
We chose to take a deep breath and come up with a crisis plan that focused on the following:
- Over communicate with our team, our investors, and our clients
- Focus on our core values
- Support the health and well-being of our team
- Build a system to support our clients before they even knew what hit them. We built tools for providing refunds, for virtual events, for postponing events, for communicating with attendees. We called our clients and offered to help them through this.
Stephen: We had to make some tough decisions in the process. We furloughed all our employees to a percentage of their salary in order to maintain health benefits for everyone during the uncertainties of the pandemic. We identified what was critical and what we could scale back on for each and every project. We focused on our values and our principles to make decisions that our investors would support. And we came up with data-driven solutions to navigate through the pandemic successfully.
Mitch: Focusing on data helped us peer around the corner, so we built relationships that allowed us to do that. We had great planning, great preparation, and amazing responsiveness on behalf of the team. And we were (and are) very sensitive about protecting our shareholders. We have a corporate policy that Stephen and I are not even allowed to fly on the same plane together or stay in the same country during a pandemic — a ‘designated survivor’ policy.
Stephen: So I headed back to Canada to our Ottawa base at the beginning of the pandemic in March. It was like a scene out of ‘Mad Max.’ I needed to get back to Canada before the Quarantine Act took place, which was basically a million-dollar fine for anyone who violated it. Within two days, I packed up my house, put my family on a plane, and left in a van packed to the hilt to drive five days across the country. I got out of my van three times in five days. It was such an unknown, insane period.
Mitch: When we realized that Covid was going to be a massive global challenge, we knew the most important thing for us to do was support our customers through the initial period and during the recovery phase safely and effectively. We wanted to maintain those relationships so we could grow through the challenges together. So we launched virtual and hybrid event technologies along with features that helped organizers postpone or reschedule events, communicate with attendees, and transition events to a virtual experience.
Stephen: We also saw the pandemic as an opportunity. Hundreds of thousands of event-goers will now be looking for new solutions as their legacy contracts expire and technologies advance. It’s the perfect time to bring forth best-in-class innovation to make organizers’ lives easier and help them generate more revenue. And it’s an opportunity to offer event-goers a new hybrid of live and virtual events for a layered experience never before experienced.
Q3. What does the future of tech look like in the event space?
Stephen: When it comes to event management technologies in the US and globally for that matter, Events.com is not really keeping abreast of developments; we’re developing them ourselves. We’re developing innovative technologies that are changing the industry as we speak. We have developed a platform that helps organizers with every aspect end to end to put on virtual — and eventually live — events including hybrid versions that include both. It’s a win for both the organizers and the event-goers because it allows organizers to consolidate what they offer under one platform and it allows participants to find events more easily, interact within events, and expand their event experience.
None of us knows how 2021 will play out when it comes to live events, but we’re preparing for all possible scenarios now, so when the starting gun goes off, we’ll be ready to go.
Photo: Events.com is unquestionably, the most iconic brand for the space.
Q4. What are the factors that make Events.com stand out?
Stephen: For one thing, we believe in branding as a key element of our success. That starts with our domain name, Events.com. The greatest brand names match what they do, and we want to be the best brand in the space. When you look at companies that have great domain names like Hotels.com, Realtor.com, Match.com, and Cars.com for example, all of them have four things in common:
- They define the category in which they compete
- They have strong underlying business models
- They have well-funded underlying technology
- And they have created billions of dollars in equity value
Last year, Voice.com sold for $30 million. When Doorbot upgraded to Ring.com, they became a billion-dollar company. Gannett acquired the Cars.com business at an enterprise valuation of $2.5 billion then valued the Cars.com domain name itself at $872 million. One-word branded entities are powerful. We want to be the best brand in the space, and we’re positioned to do so.
Q5. How does research and analysis influence your business?
Stephen: We’re constantly studying growth projections in event management and we invest a lot into researching all product features before we launch something. When we look at the data for COVID, most of the data points to the fact that live events are coming back toward the end of 2021; it’s not a matter of if but when.
We also look at the human side of things and know that all our recent isolation and social distancing has created a global, pent-up demand for events. We’re building and enhancing that technology now to help the world get back together when the time comes.
Photo: Events.com powers the Rise Lantern Festival in Las Vegas.
Q6. Tell us about your clients, how are the changes emerging in event management influencing the way you serve them?
Stephen: In a way, the Covid pandemic gave us an opportunity to sit back and take a good look at what’s happening in the events industry. We realized that right now, event organizers are using too many disparate systems that really don’t talk to each other so they’re wasting a lot of time plugging in information in different places. Events.com uses a SaaS platform that allows organizers to save time by consolidating information and services in one place, with one solution. It also helps organizers generate more revenue through sponsorships and additional revenue streams that other event-related platforms cannot do. In that way, we’re becoming industry game-changers.
Q7. The event software landscape is complex. Does Events.com address and solve for this complexity?
Stephen: Yes, very much. With our SaaS technology, we’ve combined the relevant technologies under one platform. We’ve created a single platform to power events globally by providing a wide range of software and services to event organizers and participants. The Events.com business model is robust and scalable. Through its digital technology, Events.com can support hundreds of thousands of event organizers across the U.S. and globally with a variety of services that support ticketing, registration, marketing, discovery, and sponsorship.
Q8. How do you deal with uncertainties? How did you alleviate the challenges of the pandemic?
Stephen: Our first rule was to over-communicate. Over-communicate to our employees, to our vendors, to our partners to make sure no one felt left out of the loop. We also decided not to play defense, but to jump into offense mode. We saw the market disruption as a chance to adopt new solutions and come up with some bold moves toward virtual events until the live ones came back. We remained agile in order to adapt to the evolving situation.
We executed three highly accretive acquisitions that increased our revenue by 7X. We rapidly deployed a virtual events directory and created a virtual events team. Along with that, we released new product features to facilitate virtual events and coordinated our teams to seamlessly work from multiple locations because of lockdowns. We reduced our monthly operating expenses, and we refined our self-service products, adding new features to help the consumer and business client alike. We also looked to the future to re-imagine what live events might look like. So we invested in research and development with companies to come up with technology that could be used in the “new normal” for events that were eventually going to come, like rapid testing for event entry, spraying event sites, and safety services.
Q9. What are the qualities that help you as a leader in guiding employees through tough times?
Mitch: Each of us brings a complementary set of skills to the table, but we can also interchange roles when the situation necessitates it. First of all, we have full trust in each other, which is really rare in business and in life. And we’re both incredibly optimistic. We both have more than 20 years in the industry of events, software, and technology, and our companies were some of the earliest in the industry that birthed online registration and transactions in sporting events. In that way, we can jump to the crux of a matter to make a decision. We both know the industry because we both lived it and built it, in many ways, we’re architects of the space.
I tend to be more front-facing from a sales and investor relations standpoint, and Stephen tends to be more back office, focusing on strategizing, modeling, planning, systematizing, and structuring.
Stephen: We share the strong values of people first. Anyone can build technology, but can you build a team that builds technology? When faced with an unfortunate circumstance, Mitch and I tend to say, ‘That sucked, what next?’ Most people don’t even see the next. So that’s where we operate from — the next. We both see the world as small and therefore anything is possible. And we share the value of fitness — that mental attitude of ‘just keep going.’ We see entrepreneurship as an endurance sport. We believe a challenge is something you move through, not something you take up residence in.
Q10. What kind of work culture do you maintain? Do you perform any recreational activities to keep them engaged?
Stephen: I’d describe our culture as dedicated, focused, and fun. Every member of our team has the ability and drive for relentless follow-through and a sense of urgency. We believe in over-communicating with our team so that everyone knows what’s going on. During Covid, we were one of the first tech companies to go completely remote because we wanted to protect our team members, first and foremost. And we also share core values of trust, honesty, and integrity.
Q11. Besides your business, do you perform any CSR activities? If So, How does it help in spreading a positive aura across the industry?
Mitch: For our CSR, we’ve done neighborhood cleanups in the past and team members participated in a team-building day at Feed San Diego to help prepare food for those in need.
We also support Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) and have registered events that support CAF. I have served on the honorary board of CAF in the past. I’m also involved in the Peers Network as an alumnus and we support a multitude of charities through the group.
Globally, Events.com supports nonprofits and charities by powering their events worldwide. Helping the world get back together (not to mention holding it together) after and during the pandemic respectively was an enormous non-linear CSR.
Stephen volunteers as a founding board member of the Canadian Endurance Sports Alliance, and we provide free software support, people support and printed products to this association. The association advocates for the support and re-launch of sporting events after COVID.
Stephen also served as a volunteer board member for many years for Startup Canada, helping shape the nation’s budget and innovation agenda.
Photo: Events.com provides technology that powers sponsorship, marketing and touchless ticketing among its many platform features.
Q12. What are the biggest milestones that you’ve achieved throughout time? Have you received any awards?
In addition to the awards below, some of the most significant accomplishments have been:
- launching a global technology brand from scratch
- purchasing more than five companies
- creating scalable technology
- thriving in a pandemic by playing offense
- navigating personnel changes through growing pains
- securing some pivotal patents and intellectual property
Here is a list of Events.com company awards:
Event Software 2020
Chief Operating Officer & President of the Year, San Diego:
Event Software 2020:
CEO of the Year, San Diego
Smartest Companies of the Year 2020:
Mitch Thrower and Stephen Partridge
Best Company Professional Development:
Mitch Thrower and Stephen Partridge
Best Company Culture:
Global 100 2019
Chairman, CEO, and Visionary of the Year, San Diego:
Q13. Where do you see Events.com in the next five years? How do you plan to expand while keeping par with industry trends?
Mitch: Each year in the tech sector can be thought of in dog years — multiply one year by seven and you start to understand the rapid pace of change. Things move fast and our goal is to stay flexible and focused as we achieve two goals:
Building great technology to help event organizers manage, market, and monetize their brands
Helping participants find, interact and transact with the events they love
We also plan to hire more of the best technologists, AI engineers, and team members – that’s a big part of our focus. We will pair that with robust research efforts to stay on top of future needs and technology developments.
Q14. Would you like to share a few words of event enlightenment as we look to the future and emerge from global lockdowns?
Mitch: We really see this decade playing out like the “Roaring Twenties” after the last Pandemic. When you look at most of the pandemics in history, there’s one common occurrence. When people are forced to face their mortality and have restricted access to human connection, it causes pent-up demand. The longer the pandemic, the more pent-up demand.
Though we heard the word unprecedented an unprecedented amount of times in 2020, this pandemic looks a great deal like pandemics of generations past. Historically, when pandemics end, there tend to be periods of exuberant celebration that follow.
A Yale professor, Dr. Nicholas Christakis, just released a book discussing what the post-pandemic world might look like. In “Apollo’s Arrow,” Christakis shares that the world could soon see a resurgence of the arts, mass rejoicing, an explosion of sexuality and the rediscovery of the joys of life — as he puts it, the “Roaring Twenties of the 21st Century.”
So if we’re headed into the “Roaring Twenties” of this century, what better business to be in than the event business?
Photo: In the roaring 20’s, a period of celebration and connection followed the last great pandemic and Events.com’s founders have well-positioned the company for the recovery of the event sector.
Excerpts of this article appeared in Business Connect Magazine. Full version is published here.