by Introvoke Founder and CEO, Oana Manolache
Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, said in April that we’ve seen years of digital transformation in the course of just two short months—and that was only at the beginning of the pandemic!
Call us Nostradamus. 2020 just reinforced the paradigm shifts Introvoke had already been working on even before the pandemic. 2020 was defined as the year organizations jumped to adapt to sudden digital transformation, but 2021 will be defined as the year those organizations rose to the occasion and defined the future of business.
Pinterest cancelled their $89.5M plans for a new San Francisco office. REI announced that it is selling its brand new 8-acre corporate campus in Bellevue, Washington. TIME hired experts like Bharat Krish as CTO (and luckily, our mentor) to lead digital transformation. Like CSG states, pandemic quick-fixes might create headaches later, so organizations of all sizes are now strategically implementing long-term solutions for their digital transformation.
2021 is a year when companies define the future of business — in real time.
The pandemic made virtual interactions the norm. That will continue in 2021. We’ve gotten used to getting the global team together in the morning, attending a major virtual conference in the afternoon and still having dinner with the family at home in the evening. After the pandemic ends, our reliance on software to help power experiences simply cannot go away. Per McKinsey’s report on the post-pandemic effects of digital transformation, virtual components augmenting real life interactions are here to stay and it’s just the beginning.
But one size does not fit all. And this is why the landscape for CPaaS (Communication Platforms as a Service) is seeing explosive growth lately. CPaaS is at the heart of digital transformation. In 2016, the CPaaS market was already worth $2B. As we head towards 2022, IDC predicts that this market will increase to $10.9B with 71% of companies already committing to deploy more digital engagement tools in the next few years.
We’ve been feeling this trend taking off at Introvoke from the very first time our clients started to ask us how they can integrate our technology within their own enterprise systems. From a random question a year ago to now dozens of organizations of all sizes—like Comcast, Ritual Motion, Wharton, Legal Accelerators and many others—who are using our technology to communicate with their clients, employees and partners, all within their own branded environment.
Why? Because it’s secure, reliable, engaging and now an integral part of their customer journeys driving the bottom line.
Why they chose to work with us? Because it won’t take months and lots of resources to get it up and running. In a few minutes using our no-code plugin to a couple short weeks using our APIs, any company can digitize their communication and events. All our tech is built in house by our mighty experts, so quality and stability are guaranteed.
Think of us like the “Intel Inside” of any organization’s digital presence.
I’ve never been a believer in virtual-only programs – since I started Introvoke before the pandemic, my vision was that hybrid programs are the future and before we know it, that will actually become a reality. “Hybrid programs” does not necessarily mean “hybrid events”. Hybrid programs means that organizations will create a strategy that perfectly combines virtual only, in-person only and hybrid events (in-person events with a digital audience) to create a seamless customer journey. Virtual events are a great way to reach a larger audience at a lower cost, while in-person events will become a lot more exclusive and will focus more on closing deals.
At Introvoke, we’re “hybrid-first” – this is why our core product was originally a hybrid component that powered hybrid events in 30+ countries, for organizations like Venture Lane, Founder Institute and even NASA!
In the near-term, however, conferences and events will stay mostly virtual. As the pandemic wanes, they’ll become hybrid events with some in-person attendance and some virtual. That will lead to the democratization of content with a powerful social impact. 70% of event marketers are planning for a hybrid marketing strategy in 2021 and 2022.
“Introvoke is perfect for this environment and I believe that not only will it become standard during Covid, but in the post-Covid world, where many events will be hybrid.”
—Barry Hinckley, CEO, yot.me
The events industry is already massive, worth over $1T globally with double-digit growth every year. It touches literally every sector — spanning music and festivals, sports, industry conferences and corporate seminars.
In 2021, expect workforces to keep their virtual components, even after a vaccine is successfully distributed. A recent Gallop poll showed remote teams’ growing affinity for at-home work weeks, and we’ve even seen “Head of Remote” become the trendiest new title in HR.
Managing a team remotely
Since the beginning of my career, I’ve been a big believer that talent trumps geography. I consider myself a citizen of the world and, even before the pandemic, I’ve been working from coffee shops, hotel lobbies and airport lounges with only a laptop and a pair of headphones. I brought the same culture to Introvoke. We now have a distributed team which allows us not only to dictate our own work style and choose where we work, but also support our clients in every time zone, which has been such an incredible advantage. However, having a distributed team brings some challenges with team cohesiveness, but we tackle them head on. We make the most of our own networking hub, virtual experiences from platforms like Seshie and flexible workspaces from services like Workchew.
As we grow Introvoke, we’ve been hiring more and more remotely. One key hire was our Chief of Staff, Jon Neff — and yet, I’ve only met him in-person once. He now runs our Customer Experience and Operations programs single-handedly. It’s in our plan to at least triple the size of the team in the next few weeks… completely remotely. We’ll continue to grow a distributed team if it means finding the best talent like Jon.
It’s a win-win situation for both founders and VCs.
Founders now have the opportunity to meet with venture capitalists around the world without ever leaving home. They can meet with VCs in Silicon Valley in the morning—and New York at lunch. That will democratize the entire fundraising process this year and beyond. Founders from smaller cities have better access to top investors. Founders who can’t afford to fly around the country can stay far more frugal as they court investment capital.
Many VCs have even told us they’re continuing virtual fundraising after the pandemic ends – it’s flexible, easy to coordinate, and gives them access to founders they might have missed. I predict that most first meetings will be exclusively virtual, while later-stage meetings as a deal enters due diligence will take place in-person, either in a boardroom or over dinner. This brings great advantages to both VC and entrepreneurs, assigning resources and effort to those relationships with the greatest potential.
We raised our pre-seed round virtually, and we’re now in the process of raising our seed round virtually, too. In that process, we learned a few things.
Build a relationship. It’s tempting to turn conversations transactional, especially as a meeting’s end time approaches. Make sure you cultivate relationships in addition to pitching your product. Get to know the person, not just the firm. Sure it’s not the same as getting coffee or lunch, but VCs want to get to know founders.
Product trumps deck. The perks of a virtual meeting is that you can share the screen at any point and give them a peek to what you’re building. No matter how powerful the slide deck is, tech demo trumps it all. We loved seeing our investors getting excited while we’re demonstrating the product and its easy integration.
Focus on the right fit. Just because you can reach any VC, it doesn’t mean that you should. We’ve been doing our homework for every firm and investor we talked to because it’s important that he/she aligns with our values and growth plans. In a virtual world, it’s tempting to just reach out to everyone. Respect your and the investor’s time.
Forbes reported that, despite a global pandemic, the first 9 months of 2020 saw a significant increase in venture deals compared to the first 9 months of 2019. Hardly a slowdown.
Using virtual or hybrid models, companies will launch exclusive experiences for select groups. Expect everyone from musicians to motivational speakers to fitness trainers to launch exclusive events for limited audiences.
We saw this first hand in 2020 during the Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator, powered by Techstars. The accelerator included sessions with the brightest minds in business like Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary, Mad Money’s Jim Cramer, and Superhuman CEO Rahul Vohra. Those sessions were not open to the public — just our very lucky cohort of 11 startups.
The accelerator led to amazing partnerships for Introvoke and we’re now powering virtual memberships for Comcast and Techstars.
Comcast is piloting Introvoke’s networking hub to create a virtual lounge for the employees worldwide and a virtual town hall for all their internal events and product launches.
LIFT Labs will use Introvoke to power all of their upcoming startup engagement events, adding our audience engagement tools and networking hubs so attendees can interact during the session and meet up virtually afterwards.
Techstars leveraged Introvoke for its Investor Showcase and is powering virtual accelerator classes around the country.
During our Techstars accelerator experience, we powered the NBCUniversal Demo Day, our cohort’s final pitch to over 2,000 investors, executives and others in the startup community. It combined virtual stages (with Jim Cramer giving Introvoke a shoutout!!), chat activity and a highly engaging networking hub where all attendees were jumping from one circle of discussion to another… like a real cocktail reception. This type of interaction is expected in 2021 and beyond — whether the pandemic is over or not.
Introvoke is powering virtual and hybrid experiences for a selected list of some of the world’s most innovative organizations of all sizes. Interested to join the innovators? Contact us for a hassle-free dem