At a time of economic uncertainty, a $136 million investment in anything is big news. But when it’s a meetings and event technology software company that venture capitalists are interested in, even The Wall Street Journal takes note.
Cvent offers online event registration tools, Web-based software for meeting site selection, event management software, and e-mail marketing and Web survey platforms. Led by New Enterprise Associates and Insight Venture Partners, the investment in Cvent is the largest one made in a private business software company this year — and the largest ever for a meeting and event technology company. Cvent CEO Reggie Aggarwal spoke with Plan Your Meetings about what that means for his company and the industry at large.
Cvent is typically described as a meetings management software firm. Do you think it will still be described as such in five years, or will it be a radically different kind of company?
Meetings are still our core. Everything we do is going to be around that. What can you be doing pre-meeting, during and after the meeting to make the meeting a lot longer experience? [Those are] the areas to invest in. You won’t see a radical change. We’ll be investing in making our strategic meetings management tool better, hiring more staff, looking at acquisitions, and expanding the functionality and the products you need.
We’re also looking at mobile technology and social media. If you look at different decades, you had the rise of the Internet in the ’90s, and five to six years later e-mail marketing was big. The next big switch is to mobile media.
Over the years, we’ve learned there are things we’re good at and things we could learn from. If we want to add a product to our suite, we can build it, partner or buy. Before, it was clear we either need to build it or partner. Now we can buy companies to add to our suite of offerings.
What kind of acquisitions and product development are you looking at?
We’re thinking in terms of social media. Events are a social media gathering that lasts for three days. They are an intense moment of community-building. It’s a perfect incubator for new technologies.
You use social media to get events rated, virally discuss coming to the events. When people go to an event, how much time is being spent on their phone? People are looking to do things — like go to educational sessions — [how] have people rated that speaker earlier in the day? You could have a lot more social media activity within an event. A lot of people hope they run into people. There are technologies that allow you to meet beforehand. There are new technologies that can peer review or allow you to identify the right people to meet at the event, or help you build the relationship pre- or post-event.
So we’re looking at things that either are community-building or have a social media element. But anything we do will be integrated into our suite of products. That sets us apart from other companies. We’re not just putting a bunch of companies together that do different things.
Why is this investment big news?
It’s the largest investment in a software company since 2007, according to The Wall Street Journal and New York Times. And it’s the largest investment in a meeting technology company in the history of this industry — $136 million. Why did it go into our industry and our space? Because there’s growth here. Now investors are looking at meeting technology, how exciting this market is. Even our competitors are excited because it bodes well for the industry. Maybe they can get investments now, too.
The second thing reason why it’s important is that it shows meetings aren’t going away. There was a lot of talk about virtual technologies getting rid of the need to meet, but that hasn’t happened. Being the biggest investment in this industry, we’re positioned as a leader in our space. Now we have the manpower and resources to execute on that.