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Lawrence Coburn founder & CEO of meetings app
DoubleDutch, talks about:
San Francisco-based meetings app firm DoubleDutch has built
its business by tracking live event data and attendee engagement. Ranked 95 on
Deloitte's 2016 Technology Fast 500, the company restructured in July and
released a statement that it was "breaking hard" for profitability
after largely sustaining itself on $78 million in venture capital funds over
the past six years. While maintaining its intense product focus, DoubleDutch is
expanding its view on partnership strategies and setting sights on more
enterprise clients. To convert the business, CEO Lawrence Coburn told BTN meetings editor Elizabeth West,
DoubleDutch wants to enter client conversations earlier in the process. Here's
BTN: How is your customer
strategy developing in 2017?
Coburn: We're moving away from one-off event customers, even if it's
a big event. That's not going to be our sweet spot. Because our sweet spot is
data the ability to compare events and optimize performance and do A/B testing,
that's all a big selling point. We excel with customers that treat events as
part of a campaign, run them year-round and do the performance comparisons.
Those are the clients that really appreciate our platform. Tech,
pharmaceutical, financial services, a bunch of big banks. Insurance is another
strong area, as well as professional services. So there are a lot of
corporates. We also think that association events model corporate events. The
way we describe our ideal customer is an organization that sees events as a
strategic means to an end and, therefore, cares about the data coming out of
the event. The organizations where the event is the product are a little
trickier for us.
BTN: You worked in tandem
with American Express Meetings & Events on an app specifically for
pharmaceutical events. What was the objective for that and how is it going?
Coburn: For pharmaceutical, there's a governance and compliance
component. It's important for them to track every aspect of their meetings, and
our event engagement vision ties nicely with that. American Express Meetings
& Events has been a great channel partner for us to help us get to know
some of the big pharma companies better. We started off with Bristol-Myers
Squibb, Novartis, Sanofi. We are starting to put some more thought into how we
can better tailor our product to meet their needs. What we released with
American Express last year is just the start of what we hope to deliver.
You are not going to see DoubleDutch build something or buy something tomorrow, but you are going to see us looking at targeted partnerships with some of the upstream folks. We want to get closer to them."
BTN: Mobile meetings app
adoption has skyrocketed over the past two years, and many companies are
grasping for a piece of that business. Where do you fit in?
Coburn: We've taken the approach that being best in class is the way
to go. So we put every engineering minute we have into mobile experience and
analytics. We want to let the folks who come out of registration work on
registration. We feel the folks that try to do everything—whether it's
sourcing, registration, analytics or whatever—they're going to do a mediocre
job at all that. Some of the bigger companies trying to do that are an example
of this, in our opinion. We see the Cvent-Lanyon merger, for example, as an
opportunity for someone.
BTN: As you approach more
enterprise clients, do you see any benefit for DoubleDutch to get into meetings
registration or other meetings tech functionality in order to leverage data
captured outside the event proper?
Coburn: As our data story comes into focus, there are some really
interesting signals that are captured by systems upstream from us. So whether
it's interactions with an event website or demographic fields in registration
itself or how people respond to email campaigns or even emerging stuff we see with
companies like Feather with retargeting [i.e., grabbing up advertising inventory
around the Web to serve up promotions for events] and how interactions are
happening with those advertisements. Those are all signals. While product
vision drives everything for us, we see an opening [with these related data
signals] to increase our sales and marketing opportunities and to get into
conversations earlier in the life cycle. That is interesting to us. You are not
going to see DoubleDutch build something or buy something tomorrow, but you are
going to see us looking at targeted partnerships with some of the upstream
folks. We want to get closer to them.
BTN: With Marketo acquired
by Vista Equity Partners last year, your deepest downstream integration to date
now sits in the same portfolio as your newly enhanced competitor Cvent. Will
you develop differently now?
Coburn: Cvent may now have access to tighter integrations than we
would because they are owned by the same company [as Marketo]. We are conscious
of that, but it doesn't change our path in the short term. Live Engagement
Marketing is a way to generate audiences, to build lists of interesting audience
segments in a theme that are sending similar signals. Then you integrate that
data into marketing automation systems. The longer-term goal is to execute those
campaigns within our own system and more in real time. We are working on
audience builder functionality that shows a list of everyone at the event who
is interested in, say, analytics and travel. Users will pull data from all the
signals and filter into topics. Eventually, we want to enable push notification
from within the app: "Hey, everybody, we see you are interested in
analytics and travel. Join us for a special happy hour in two hours; let's bust
a move and go." It's the ability to move these people closer to real time.
For that, we think that Marketo is the wrong system, email is the wrong system;
no one is looking at their email during an event. So we don't think that the Marketo-Cvent
situation is a problem.
BTN: What else are you working
on in 2017 that is reflective of the market and where DoubleDutch will be
Coburn: We are getting increasingly interested in the
idea of bridging the gap between sales and marketing at events. When we talk to
our customers, marketing voices frustration with the lack of discipline in the
sales force. I'm sure sales would have a different opinion of this, but [the
view from marketing is] they've done this incredible job of bringing people to the
event and queuing them up for sales, but they see the sales people talking to
each other or standing around at the bar. So how can Live Engagement technology
help marketing people arm the sales people with the right task list and notify
them if the customer is nearby? Could that be a Marketo type of functionality?
It could be, but we think it's more a bridge technology that sits between
Marketo and Salesforce. That's interesting to us.
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