Vaibhav Jain, CEO and founder of Hubilo speaks exclusively to Paul Colston, as the company raises a further $125.35m in investment funding
Fast-growing global virtual events platform Hubilo recently announced a new £92m ($125.35m) Series B funding round, led by Alkeon Capital and including Lightspeed Venture Partners and Balderton Capital. This investment brings the total of PE funding put into Hubilo in less than 18 monthsto £113m, testimony to the attractiveness of the event technology sector.
Hubilo believes the new funding will supercharge its continued international growth by allowing the company to develop new business functions, advance innovation of its platform, and strengthen its engineering and design teams in India, and go-to-market teams in the US, UK, EMEA, and APAC.
“The potential ahead of us with this investment is massive,” says Hubilo CEO Vaibhav Jain, adding that, “what we’ve learned over the last six years is that an intuitive platform is just table stakes”.
Hubilo was founded in 2015 and when the pandemic hit in 2020, the company moved quickly to rework its technology in 26 days to produce the first version of the Hubilo event platform. Now the company works with some of the globe’s largest brands such as Blackboard, Walmart, United Nations, Roche Pharma and Maersk Shipping.
To date, Hubilo has supported over 10,000 events across more than 100 countries and one of the key investors, Lightspeed Venture Partners’ Guru Chahal, says he expects Hubilo to be a market leader in the event tech space within a few short years.
I asked Hubilo CEO Vaibhav Jain about the latest investment boost for the company and what the future now holds.
“Alkeon had a very strong thesis about this space and were already working in the background assessing Hubilo and its customers,” Jain explains. “They knew we had a very strong product.”
The Hubilo head count is around 350 with vacancies for around 200 more, says Jain, and the hiring is not just in India where the software development and research activity is based. There are many sales and marketing roles opening up in Europe and the United States, where there is also a small but growing product team.
Balderton Capital’s main reason to get involved in Hubilo was to open a talent play in the UK, Jain explains, and says the company has big plans for the European region, where the first hires have been recently made in Germany. New people are coming on board in The Netherlands and in Barcelona, areas seeing high corporate virtual event activity.
The Hubilo reach is also gathering pace in the APAC region where a collaboration with Constellar Venues in Singapore has been launched. “We want to empower our partners and give them superpowers so that they could serve clients better. Singex (now Constellar) became a close partner to Hubilo. We gave them a sneak peek with our product roadmap and have been using Singapore as a test ground for products,” says Jain.
“For their part, they want to be at the forefront of innovation in this space. Venues also want to move ahead with tech,” he continues.
A strong partner in Germany for Hubilo is Hirebox, although Jain is keen to point out that 40% of the company’s clients are in the US. “It is our big home base,” he emphasises, “but we are growing across all regions.”
The new product vision, Jain says, “encompasses not just event managers and what they want, but the entire marketing team. All the marketing team can use our products.
“We are also placing additional focus on pre- and post-event as well as during it. This can help clients get more people to their events and help them with analytics which can be connected to their existing systems,” he adds.
Jain continues: “My main aim is to wow my clients. I want to hear the words ‘Where were you guys six months ago, why did I not find you before?’ I want to give them the ability to have 100 hands helping them out.”
So, how does he see Hubilo differing from other big names in VEP land?
“Everyone is searching for that one card which could be an ace in the pocket which differentiates them from the rest of the platforms. We have two or three bets that we are going to make in the coming year. We have a different way of approaching problems at Hubilo. Just because we have spent a lot of time in this space, about five years as founders, we have a lot of context around what are the different solutions and features that different stakeholders would require,” he says.
Race for talent
Event tech was never a hot space for investors, Jain notes. “But it now has its own set of companies to take the industry forward. When we do that a lot of young folk will get inspired and want to jump in. Tech talent is not that difficult to find, but we need a lot of people who truly understand the problems that event managers face. That can only come from people who have been part of that space before. Those people are going to be the think tank of start ups,” he says.
Hubilo, Jain adds, is playing its part to train the new recruits. “We collaborate with research institutes and masterclasses. We have launched our own Submerged series where we teach the 101 of event management,” the CEO notes and, when asked to give his overview of the events market, has this to say:
“In 2020 virtual events were just a replacement for physical events because nobody had any option, but now people are equipped with [new] skills and will be running first-time virtual events which don’t have a physical event as a predecessor. When that happens your entire event strategy changes. If you are doing 10 events in a year you may do four physical and six virtual. If you are an attendee you will attend, say, two physical and eight virtual events.
“In the next few months there will be a lot of noise around physical events… that the entire industry is coming back, but then there will be a mixed bag strategy which will include physical as well as hybrid and virtual.”
Funding is clearly not a challenge but what is keeping VJ awake?
“I have to ensure all 350 staff have a common mission and believe in the mission and move forward. How to create a scaleable culture in a remote based environment is the challenge facing many pandemic-born companies.”
A key word Jain uses to describe the event tech market is ‘restlessness’. “When a company releases new funds or releases something in the market it becomes like a table stake feature. Because the space is so new, there is no one company that you can emulate a lot of features from. Event tech is like a knife fight between companies. Only after developing features that everyone will need, will event tech companies focus on differentiation.”
Jain’s vision is not just to be an event management software company but to create a ‘venue’ that can generate a lot of business opportunities and where almost a thousand events can happen in parallel. “That is the power we would want to give to our organisers,” he says.
What does he expect the industry to look like in 10 years’ time?
“We are seeing a lot of augmented reality, virtual reality, product launches, and tech showcases. In the next 10 years, I foresee a blurring of the lines of the physical and virtual, where people at home would be able to experience how the physical audiences will experience the event as if they are actually present.”
Does he see large technology companies moving into the traditional event organiser space?
“I don’t think that they’ll move into the organiser’s space because they’re going to be looking at tech platforms. At the end of the day, all event organisers try to collaborate with people who provide platforms.
“Now there’s a different scenario where players like YouTube, Vimeo, Cisco would want to move into the virtual event space, because that in itself is an entire tech play. Video has become a very important part of the collaboration. One of the collaboration forms is organising virtual events for your internal employees or your external prospects or audiences, and that is where I think they are going to play.”