Interview with Pedro Coutinho, Meethub
Q: What meetings industry need does your service fill?
Events bring busy people together who want to network in a single place. “Quality networking” and “guaranteed opportunity to meet key people” are 2 of the top 3 reasons people attend events (Convention 2020 – The Future of Exhibitions, Meetings & Events), but it is often hard to meet the right people at the right place and at the right time without having to have exchanged several messages, peered at participants’ badges and have been ruthless with your time. To increase the ROI of participating in events, organisers often prepare business-matching activities to promote 1-2-1 meetings between delegates and this usually requires a high effort to coordinate. Organisers’ in-house tools can have high maintenance costs, while solutions based on social networks or direct communications are ineffective and require a high user effort. Organisers that (semi-)manually schedule meetings on behalf of businesses (e.g. hosted buyer events) will recognise the high effort involved. Meethub solves a specific problem with an innovative, cost-effective approach, automating and optimising this process, scheduling smartly and respecting delegates’ availability and security.
Q: What are your goals for the end of 2014?
With the recent launch of our Organisers Portal, Meethub clients manage the usage of the platform themselves, which allows us to decrease the direct support effort we need to dedicate to each event, instead providing support only when needed. Meethub is ready to scale up – massively. In parallel, we are preparing another release of Meethub that will allow our clients to gain insights into networking behaviours and the platform performance, better profile matching for the event delegates, and more flexibility in the product, allowing us to effectively address more diverse types of networking. Finally, we are currently actively looking for investment and are already in conversation with some Angels and Venture Capital Firms.
Q: What do you see the future use of event applications as being?
Before creating Meethub we used to develop branded apps with updated information about the event and personalised agendas for the participant. After having this product being used by hundreds of people in different events, we noticed that the usage was much below our expectations. At the same time, we realised that having to install/use yet another app every time you attend an event is a real barrier to adoption. Our clients were happy but we decided to stop selling a product that had no relevant reward for the users. Here’s the crunch: event apps are mostly focused on a single event, on keeping the organiser happy and on generating sponsor exposure. We believe in a better model. By focusing on the delegate and their experience, we believe our product offers longer-term value, but does not compromise on supporting the organiser. If the people that invest in attending events have a positive experience, they are more likely to return. In our opinion, event organisers should focus more on solutions that improve the whole experience and/or solves a real problem and not just on repackaging content.
Q: In your opinion, why is it critical today and for the future to “Think like a start-up”?
The reality of most start-ups is that they are aiming at something huge with minimal resources. This forces their founders to be very resilient, agile and creative in order to survive. Everything needs to happen quickly, even failing and dropping the idea or pivoting the approach, market or business model. Big organisations get resilience, but they are less creative, and are seldom agile. That is fixable: think like a start-up.
Q: What mistakes have you made along the way and what would you change if you could go back?
Many people ask me this, but this is something I don’t think about much. It would be weird to not make mistakes. This is where we learn. Mistakes happen, everyone makes them and of course you think you could have done it in a different way, but this conclusion only comes if you think you failed. So, basically, I wouldn’t change anything, because I want to learn from the errors. Decisions need to be made fast and I prefer taking the path that seems to be the best in a specific moment rather than not deciding anything and sitting rabbit-like in the headlights of business. To arrive somewhere you have different routes that take you through different scenarios and I think it makes no sense thinking what would have happened if you had turned left instead of turning right. The energy should always be centred on the path in front. Making mistakes more than once is still stupid though.
Q: What will be your biggest challenges over the next three years?
We have invested considerable time and money building our platform and the best product-market fit. Now that we have a very good knowledge of the market and have proved that Meethub can change the game for many event organisers and participants, we want to grow exponentially and make Meethub a reference solution for the scheduling of 1-2-1 meetings at events. Since we started, we had clients and events in eight different countries without doing much marketing. In three years, with the proper focus and investment, Meethub will be present at events worldwide, will be successful, and will be working with the largest event organisers in the business to help them enhance quality and innovation in networking meetings.
1. Craziest destination: Mozambique
2. Craziest event: Christmas day party, 2011
3. Hotel to return to: Long Life River Side Hotel, Hoi An, Vietnam
4. Best Concert: Faith No More, Porto, Portugal, 1998
5. Best Rock band: Soundgarden