Event tech startup Virtuvent to ‘set industry standard’ and ‘spark copy-cats’

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If you’ve ever watched a stable, HD webcast of a product announcement, easily registered for an event or enjoyed a high-speed internet connection while venturing around a trade show floor, you’ll appreciate the companies that work behind the scenes to make it all work efficiently. Virtuvent, an events tech company with a strong South African connection, has a unique, integrated approach and some notable events under its belt.

Officially launched in October last year, Virtuvent is a B2B startup that targets large or enterprise events, with cloud-based software to manage the logistics, communications and video of the events. It’s a broad solution, so it extends to providing additional user-facing functionality like comment components, or session resources. Take a look at this TEDxSeapoint event for example.

The guys behind Virtuvent, Devin Drake, Justin Slack, Hanno Bean and Saul Sutcher says that the company was started to answer calls from event organisers who required integrated tech solutions for their events. Event organisers are often forced to source products from multiple suppliers. Sutcher tells Ventureburn that his team worked closely with a number of event organisers and marketers to design Virtuvent’s products.

Virtuvent’s products cover aspects such as event registration, file distribution, live interaction and user permissions, as well as live and on-demand video. Its integrated solution can be broken down into apps which are offered in its app store and priced using a scale. For example, its attendee-facing apps are priced per-attendee, per-month.

Virtuvent is based in New York, with a presence in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The company is self-funded, with a number of undisclosed partners both in the US and South Africa.

Devin Drake, CEO, graduated from The University of Cape Town (UCT) and gives a nod at the Silicon Valley cliché by saying that he “failed at several startups” before founding Virtuvent. Drake is based in New York. Justin Slack leads front-end development and has an MA, also from UCT. Slack, based in Cape Town, has worked for the likes of New Media Labs, Avusa, Platform 45 and Princeton University. Hanno Bean heads up back-end development and is a Stellenbosch University graduate. Sutcher is Chief Marketing Officer and studied Economics at Occidental College in Los Angeles where he focused on using regression analysis to drive insights for businesses. Before Virtuvent, Sutcher founded his own startup, worked in the world of marketing consulting and has most recently opened his own digital analytics company.

Sutcher says that Virtuvent’s platform is able to consolidate users, analytics and workflows across many applications. “Our key feature is our integrated dashboard and platform app-store. This allows customers to enable one or more of our apps for an event, and see all of their data, updates and apps within one central location,” says Sutcher. Its trump card? Virtuvent is able to help increase the number of channels from which an event sources revenue. For example, Virtuvent’s offering includes the ability to re-cut event video into different formats for marketing and case-study purposes.

Sutcher believes that Virtuvent offers a more intuitive, aesthetically pleasing, and generally easier to use interface than those of its competitors. “We come into a market that lacks simple, integrated solutions. We are able to provide cloud-based alternatives to current market offerings that often rely on proprietary hardware to be installed on-site. Since users can log-into our dashboard from any internet-enabled computer worldwide, we have superior support for an increasingly global economy that requires multi-continental solutions.”

As Virtuvent offers an integrated solution, it competes with a varied array of services. Some of the notable ones include Eventbrite, Cvent, Thomson Reuters, Ticket Leap, Regonline and Slide Share.

Sutcher is bullish on Virtuvent’s outlooks: “In five years, Virtuvent will be the most sought-after events technology company. Our platform will set the industry standard and spark many copy-cats along the way.” Virtuvent currently operates in South Africa and the US, but as it is a SaaS solution, Sutcher says that it can support a global market. Virtuvent will be expanding to the UK and UAE in early 2013.

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