Michael Bleau of EventHub: “Know what problem you are trying to solve”

Stand out from the competition in a meaningful way Pre-Covid, we differentiated ourselves because we weren’t just an event management software, we offered a sponsorship marketplace that generates revenue for customers and is supported by a helpful management tool suite. Now, we differentiate by being a full-service, virtual event platform, that is supported by both […]

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Stand out from the competition in a meaningful way

Pre-Covid, we differentiated ourselves because we weren’t just an event management software, we offered a sponsorship marketplace that generates revenue for customers and is supported by a helpful management tool suite. Now, we differentiate by being a full-service, virtual event platform, that is supported by both our sponsorship marketplace and management tool suite, and as live events start coming back online en masse, our virtual product becomes a fantastic digital enhancement to live event programming.


As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Bleau, Co-Founder & CEO, EventHub.

Michael Bleau co-founded EventHub with business partner Jamie Nassar after realizing a major need in event sponsorship. Today, Michael serves as chief executive of the sponsorship and virtual expo platform that works with hundreds of endurance races, fairs, festivals, and expos nationwide. EventHub’s sponsorship tool suite helps events to increase booth and sponsor revenue and reduce management costs, while the virtual expo provides organizers with a virtual venue to host a main stage and booths with live video chat for attendee engagement. Prior to co-founding EventHub, Michael held positions at Lionsgate Entertainment and cloud analytics powerhouse, Applied Predictive Technologies (APT). Michael grew up in Philadelphia, and attended the American University Kogod School of Business in Washington, DC. Michael resides in Los Angeles, CA


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Thank you for having me. I got started in the events industry in college, working part-time doing brand activations at festivals and sporting events around the Washington DC area. After college I spent about a year working for a predictive analytics company called Applied Predictive Technologies (APT), a Mastercard company. Following that, I pursued my passion for entertainment and spent some time at Lionsgate Entertainment. Naturally, I kept finding myself in brand marketing programs for live events and soon realized that was what I wanted to do long term. Shortly after, I produced marketing tours for brands full-time and began co-producing tours (and charity festivals in between) with my now co-founder Jamie Nassar. Those experiences led us to the realization that event sponsorships could be done more efficiently and effectively, both from a discovery standpoint, and from a management and execution perspective..

What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

I can’t recall the exact “aha” moment that led us to yearn for a new way to handle event sponsorships but it was one of two things that likely contributed to; I was up past midnight one day, sifting through event sponsorship webpages devoid of meaningful decision making information ahead of a pitch due to a client the next day, and separately, there was a time when my cofounder showed up to an obstacle race in the rain at 4am (when it still was pitch black!), with no one in sight and insufficient contact and setup information from the event organizers.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

When we first started EventHub, there were a lot of hard lessons learned, and some took longer than we would’ve liked. However, the most challenging was easily early this year when Covid-19 halted all events, packing it in was never really on the table for our braintrust, my cofounder and our CTO Jerry Harrison. We saw our customers struggling and had to quickly pivot to meet their needs. That’s when the idea to build out a virtual expo product was born. We needed a product that accommodated large, live consumer events to create virtual programming experiences, while also delivering best-in-class virtual sponsorship fulfillment and one that would complement our sponsorship marketplace.

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Since our virtual pivot and launching our platform in May, things have really taken off. In August we were up 70% in revenue month over month, and our MRR was back up over 30k dollars despite two months of near-zero revenue as we built out the virtual expo. We are continuing to see a massive amount of interest in the virtual expo, and our marketplace is filling up with virtual sponsorship opportunities that are being buoyed by live event sponsorships as those start coming back online.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

When we first started out, we naively assumed that once word got out for a sponsorship marketplace, both sponsors and events would automatically flock to our platform and start finding each other. However, we were faced with a chicken and egg situation where events didn’t want to waste time with no sponsors, and sponsors didn’t have enough relevant events to hunt from. We quickly realized we could also fill a huge need on the management side and that events would pay us to use our tool suite — built from our own in-the-field wish list — and bring all of their sponsors with them to the marketplace in the process. That started kicking things off in a major way.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our industry expertise with consumer events, both from a sponsorship and events perspective, sets EventHub apart from other competitors in the space. We truly understand people who make up the events industry, and are constantly finding solutions that will enhance the events experience. A customer mentioned just the other day-and this happens all the time- that they vetted a ton of other event platforms but that our platform is the only one that “checks all the boxes” for them. We pride ourselves in being a company comprised of event industry experts and solving problems we encountered ourselves so that our customers don’t have to.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

The biggest anti-burnout tactic I’ve built into my routine is micro-stress management. This is essentially taking offline breaks from what is often 6+ hours on a computer, and using those breaks to take a walk outside, wash dishes to John Coltrane, or fitting a short yoga workout in.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I completely agree. I’m very grateful for Ryan Kuder, Managing Director of the Techstars Anywhere accelerator. Ryan believed in our company and our vision, and helped us learn how to take that and scale it. He was also instrumental in helping us define our branding and storytelling, and connecting us with the immeasurably, valuable Techstars network that brought in experts in every area, led us to find our CTO, and helped us identify the right tools to build out our business.

One story of this network in action is that we deploy a backend framework called Daily.co to power our white label video chat app that we use for our virtual exhibitor booths. Daily.co’s CEO Kwin Kramer was one of the expert mentors from our Techstars cohort.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?

We work with over 175 event production companies that produce more than 600 annual virtual, hybrid, and live events on the platform. We have more than 20,000 marketplace buyers hunting for sponsorships.

What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?

We charge annual licensing fees based on the volume of events an organizer produces and the platform products they need for those events. We considered a transaction-fee based model similar to ticketing companies, but opted against it because our main goal is to grow the number of events on our platform community, and populating our marketplace. During Covid, this model helped us avoid the chargebacks that affect other companies in the event space.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or a SaaS? Please share a story or an example for each.

1. Know what problem you are trying to solve.

When we made our pivot into virtual, we knew we needed to solve virtual events for a consumer experience vs b2b and be a true virtual venue versus another video conferencing platform. That primary challenge identification drove all of our development strategy and design.

2. Know how to tell the story of your product.

Before our rebrand and better honing our company story, sales and traction were slow. Once we rebranded and figured out how to incorporate the main challenges we were solving into a story that resonated with customers — first helping to grow sponsor sales while saving bandwidth with management tools and now offering a true virtual venue — our messaging resonated and we started to feel the sacred “product-market” fit momentum.

3. Understand the sales funnel for your product.

Initially we thought we should operate our sales funnel with an outbound strategy commonly seen with B2B SaaS companies. However, since we shifted to an inbound strategy more aligned with our SMB SaaS ACV size and customer organization, it has been night and day. Our head of sales Jacob Wells also has a knack for optimizing PPC channels and since we leaned hard into this, our pipeline has been growing strongly month over month. We’ve met some awesome new customers from Facebook ads that we’d never been in front of before.

4. Stand out from the competition in a meaningful way

Pre-Covid, we differentiated ourselves because we weren’t just an event management software, we offered a sponsorship marketplace that generates revenue for customers and is supported by a helpful management tool suite. Now, we differentiate by being a full-service, virtual event platform, that is supported by both our sponsorship marketplace and management tool suite, and as live events start coming back online en masse, our virtual product becomes a fantastic digital enhancement to live event programming.

5. Identify the core skill sets key to launching your SaaS and recruit founding members who are rock stars in those areas

We’ve gone through some growing pains with early hiring. Bringing on our current CTO in October of 2019, who had the skill set and experience we needed and immediately took on the responsibility of our stack like it was his third child, was a game changer. We’ve also gotten pickier and more patient across the board in identifying candidate traits and mindsets that will allow someone to be successful across all departments of the company.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

When the pandemic first hit the US hard, I co-founded a charity project called Feed Hero Nurses, an all- volunteer run project that brings hot meals to Covid-19 frontline workers. While the project is wrapping up in a few weeks we raised more than 125,000 dollars and delivered nearly 20,000 meals to nurses in Covid-ICUs in hospitals across the US.

If I could start a movement, it would be to continue helping those in need and prompting city officials to make it a requirement to provide housing and services for local homeless populations. As advanced as our society has become technologically, it still feels like we’re in the dark ages in some areas — such as how we care for less fortunate members of our communities.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eventhuboff

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/event-hub-official

Twitter: @eventhuboff

Instagram @eventhuboff

YouTube

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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