Meetings Solution Bizly Shares Expansion Plans & Tech Vision: Business Travel News

Bizly CEO Ron Shah

Bizly CEO Ron Shah talks

  • A spate of new hires
  • Scope of the small, simple, self-service meetings market
  • Bizly’s business plan


Meetings sourcing and management solution Bizly received an
honorable mention at BTN’s 2019 Innovation Faceoff, where founder and CEO Ron
Shah presented some of the changes in the works for the technology tool, which
he has dubbed Bizly 2.0. Shah sat down with BTN editor in chief Elizabeth West
and meetings editor Donna M. Airoldi to discuss the product’s new capabilities being
launched in early 2020 for small, simple, self-service meetings (SSS), as well
as six new hires for the company.

BTN: Tell me about all the hiring you’ve been doing.

Shah: We’ve brought on Denise Jacobs, James Sekab,
Jay Moore, Glenn Thorson, LiRen Zhu, and Kevin obviously. [Kevin
Iwamoto joined Bizly in October
as chief strategy officer, the others came
on board more recently.]

BTN: Those are some really interesting gets. What are
all these people going to be doing?

Shah: Denise Jacobs was at [the mobile
app platform purchased by Cvent
] DoubleDutch for a number of years doing
all their alliances. As director of business development, she’ll focus on how
we work with travel management companies and agencies. TMCs and agencies have
pain themselves around SSS meetings, so [we want to offer] an innovative bundle
for TMCs to make them more effective. We also brought in a head of customer
success, Jay Moore, who spent 10 years in SaaS companies and is an expert in
adoption and has worked with administrative assistants and others in different
roles. Hebrings a lot of credibility to the table around how we’re going to
scale customer success. Glenn Thorsen left Airbnb to come to Bizly. His first
goal is to launch us in Europe. We’re targeting that for early next year. He’s
focused on the venue side … on relationships and building our footprint and
internationalization of the product. Our vision for venues is that Bizly will
always be free. We’re not going to do a pay-to-play model. However, we
will have an ask for venues, which is, let’s make life easier for planners.
Let’s find ways to bundle more effectively around that company’s customized
specific needs. If a customer creates a template on Bizly,
there should be matching packages for venues.

BTN: That package will live exclusively on Bizly?

Shah: That’s the idea. 

BTN: Let’s go back to your new hires. 

Shah: We have a new director of sales, James Sekab.
He was a hotshot seller at Chrome River, so he was selling to this buyer
persona for a while. The thing about James is, he is a scientist in his approach.
He really approaches it from a data angle, and from the expense side, he has
that training to think like a finance buyer. And LiRen is our new head of
engineering. He was at Salesforce, then was at Mark43, a security firm. We’re
going to be the best in the world with events security and data security and information
security and from an integration standpoint.  Our vision is to be the interoperable system. Whatever
[a] company is using, we should be able to plug it in. That’s how you get to
the ROI.

BTN: That’s a lot of hiring. Was there a capital
infusion that helped you get here?

Shah: We just announced an investment from JetBlue
[Technology Ventures]. They led the round, [but it also included] Hone Capital
and Zoom CEO Eric Yuan. It was a small round but we will do a bigger one soon
[that will be] the last round of required financing. We’ve found a very
profitable space… I don’t want to say we won’t raise more. But this is our big push.

BTN: You mentioned a profitable space. What’s this

Shah: Over the last few decades, all the technology
has been built around one-on-one interactions. You can’t be on your phone today
in a group setting and really connect with the people around you. You take a
picture and everyone is like, “send me that picture.” You pay [a
dinner] bill and everyone is like, “how do we split it?” There is no
technology that includes that group dynamic. There’s a really profitable business
opportunity around SSS events [that leverages technology purpose-built to
address this group dynamic]. It goes way beyond corporate events and addresses
what we think is one of the biggest markets in business, which includes the
meetings in your office. SSS itself represents about 60 percent of meetings. If
you look at in-office meetings, we are now talking about 50 percent to 60
percent of all professional time being spent. [You should be able to] go into
your meeting technology, organize your meeting, book your conference room, order
food, link to Zoom, walk in and record the meeting, then send out a survey
after and see how it did. That’s the holy grail for us. There isn’t a company we’ve
talked to that doesn’t need this.

BTN: How did you
have to think differently about meetings technology  to fill this need?

You can’t solve
the problem for the user with an OTA model where you click and book. The
planner can’t book without knowing the format of the event, the flow of the content.
They also need to know who is coming and communicate with guests. And they need
to know logistics. There is no way to divorce these workflows. So that was the
aha moment for us. 

BTN: From what angles have you approached each of
those workflows in Bizly 2.0?

Shah: In Bizly, you basically click one button. The idea
is radical simplicity. The old way of doing it is breaking it into parts. You
go to [a traditional meeting tech platform] and you type in a meeting request form, then an RFP, then you do a
registration site, you do all these things in these buckets. It’s really
painful, you fill each button one by one. What we do in our new application is,
you click the button, it’s already filling the buckets for you, the buckets are
filling based on what you are selecting. If you have selected a team offsite, the
tool recommends programming for a team offsite. It’s giving a recommended
invite for a team offsite. It’s giving three recommended venues for a team
offsite. Depending on where [the planner] is, group size, etc. The idea is, can
we use today’s technology to be more intuitive. 

BTN: You must have flexibility in terms of
the recommendations and templates. 

Shah: Our major customers are all creating their own
library of templates reflecting their brand, their way of doing meetings and
the individual’s way of doing meetings. We don’t dictate or prescribe. We give
them the tools and the scaffolding infrastructure to be creative. At the heart
of it, what has been missing in the marketplace has been the ability to be
creative. If you take the creativity away, then why are we even doing this?
Because at the end of the day, events
are the things that employees and customers remember. Because
they are getting together. So, we’re trying to really be thoughtful about that.

BTN: How are you making money?

We are purely an SaaS platform. Our core economic engine is built around
profitability around per event creator. Our vision is to make every
professional working human being be an awesome event creator. We charge for
that and the more seats you buy, the more features are unlocked. We have a very clear focused business
model around subscription for event creators and every creator can do as many events as they want without a transaction cap. 

BTN: When does Bizly 2.0 launch?

Shah: Bizly 2.0 will be rolled
out more comprehensively in January after we complete our patent filing. 

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