John Federico (@gadgetboy) talks with Dan Berger (@danberger), CEO & Founder of SocialTables.

 

Full Transcript

 

John: Welcome to the Event Tech Podcast. I’m John Federico, your host and executive producer, which means that I’m the guy who turns the knobs and posts the shows.

But more importantly, I’m the guy who finds the guests. And this week, I’m as lucky as any other week to have joining me today, Dan Berger, the CEO and Founder of Social Tables calling in from Washington, DC.

Welcome, Dan.

Dan: Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here.

John: I really appreciate it. I know it took us a while to get this scheduled a few weeks out, but I’m glad we could both keep the appointment, which is a beautiful thing. And thank you for dealing with the technical issues of recording these things. They’re not always the easiest, even though they seem easy. It’s not perfect.

Dan: They seem to be getting easier.

John: They are getting easier, yes.

Dan: Getting easier.

John: They are getting easier.

So, Dan, how I like to start off the show - this is something I’ve been doing the past four or five or six weeks. I’m going to tell you what I think your business is, and you’ll tell me if I’m right, if I said it better than you or if I was horribly wrong, and then you can tell our audience exactly how you would typically portray your business to our audience of event planners and other event tech folks. Sound good?

Dan: Sure, sounds great. This is actually a good exercise. I’m excited to see what you come up with. Hopefully you’ll go to my website.

John: Well, I did, and what’s interesting though is you and I never actually met, but we both presented at PlannerTech not last year, but the year before. So I saw your business, but since then you have matured and evolved. So it is a little test for me.

Dan: Okay, let’s do it.

John: So, Social Tables, is see this as a software application, SaaS based - sorry for the jargon folks; SaaS is Software as a Service, as many of us know - that allows either event planners or perhaps people in the hospitality industry to take care of the very granular detail work related to seating and floor plans for various types of events as well as managing guests as they arrive at these events.

And then of course all of the - I’d call it an on-site CRM for the guests so we always know everything about the VIPs and who’s here and who hasn’t arrived yet, all of that tied to the seating and the floor plans, et cetera.

Is that okay? You’re shaking your head.

Dan: That was awesome.

John: Oh, okay, good. I thought I got it wrong.

Dan: The only thing I want to say is probably floor plan first and then seating as a secondary objective, because you have to have a floor plan if you’re going to do seating.

John: Got it.

Dan: But other than that, that was awesome.

John: Good. Excellent. Wow, that’s great. I’m so proud of myself. Okay.

Dan: You want to come work here?

John: There you go. You know, I don’t have enough to do. Great. Awesome.

So how did you guys get started? Now, obviously with the name Social Tables, I found that interesting. I know early on, you relied heavily on the social graph as far as your product and how you promoted the product. As far as I know, the social graph is still tied in pretty heavily, but it doesn’t seem like you lean on that as a key point now because you do so many - again, because it’s matured. But tell us about that.

Dan: First of all, I think it’s exciting to actually have this conversation because most of the time we do events things and we don’t do event technology things, so it’s great to have that kind of conversation around event technology.

You know, I’m already talking for a couple of minutes, and I’m hearing CRM, I’m hearing SaaS, I’m hearing social graph, so it’s good to be able to use the jargon.

John: Yes, and by the way, let me just point out I try to stop myself, so we should keep each other honest when we throw out that jargon. Not everyone who listens understands that jargon, so let’s make sure we catch each other so we explain it.

Dan: Totally.

John: Okay.

Dan: So, it’s funny, when we first started, we definitely were very heavy on the social stuff. The idea was the seating chart was an opportunity for people to actually digitize or publish the seating chart before they actually had an event so that their attendees and guests could know what that event looked like.

As we’ve grown, while we still do that, the reason we’re Social Table, the reason we’re social software, is because we’re collaborative. What’s cool about that is if you think about Google Docs or Dropbox, it’s collaborative software, people working together virtually, and it’s the same thing about floor plans. Floor plans are living and breathing documents. In Social Tables, people can edit them, move stuff around, work together in a social way.

Even corporate events have a social component to them. We’re an event software, so everything should be social.

John: We’ll talk about that last part, even corporate events, because I know plenty of people who work in corporations who despise doing anything social with their coworkers. I’m joking of course, but corporate events always seem like mandatory functions that people have to go to, and they’re all strategic and less social, right? If that makes sense. So what do you mean by that?

Dan: Well, social events can be strategic events. If your goal is to retain employees or to hire future talent, there needs to be a social component because people are social beings. We need to be engaged with other people. We have to network, even internally in big companies. So everything has a social component. Even the five minutes before a meeting kicks off when you’re talking to your neighbors, that is a social event, so to speak.

So, I understand - I mean, obviously meetings are serious and there are objectives and all the things that come with that, but even the most serious three-day, five-day annual sales conferences have some sort of social event tied to it.

John: Sure. Of course. By the way, I was expecting that you would answer that way, but I had to ask that question.

Dan: You’ve got ask it. Most of the stuff planned in our software is actually corporate. Most of the stuff planned in our software are meetings. The meetings and events in our software - and there have been almost 100,000 of them, 100,000 events and meetings planned in Social Tables - it’s up to the two-thirds of the customers that we serve, hotels, facilities and venues, it’s up to them to plan the events. So they can be social events, they can be corporate events, we don’t say what you can plan in our software.

John: Right. You want to give them the tools and the framework, but not necessarily say you have to use it for this purpose.

Dan: Yeah.

John: All right. Let’s start there then. So you said most of them are corporate, and two-thirds of your customers are, as you mentioned, hotels and other hospitality venues. So let’s start with that audience. What can you do for a hotel? What do you do for a hotel and their catering services for conference services?

Dan: We have 1,700 customers. Just to give you some perspective, a year ago, we had about 100. So 1,700 customers, and two-thirds are hotels and venues. I like to think of them as suppliers. And then one-third are planners, corporate planners, university planners, and caterers. I like to think of them as the buyer, so to speak. One man’s buyer is another man’s supplier, and vice versa, right?

John: Right, right.

Dan: So what we do for a hotel, for example, they have a venue library in our software, just like Dropbox; a shared folder with all the different rooms and layouts they have. They create events in our software, and for every meeting and event that they organize that has more than 20 people, they need a diagram and floor plan, and so they create it in our software.

Just the other day, we did a short case study with the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, a 150,000 square foot property…

John: I’ve been there.

Dan: Great. So one of the convention services managers said, you know, we used to cringe when we had to do diagrams, and now we say, ooh, we get to do a diagram, we’re excited.

So it’s really bringing the intuitive graphical user interface that we use every day to the enterprise and letting people use creativity to make things that they can either sell their product with or their hotel with or plan the next better events.

John: I just want to - as a side note, I’m going to put a pin in that for a minute, as the consultants say. What I love about where we are right now in the age of technology is that you can take problems that were so niche, right, and suddenly make a huge impact on people’s lives by just making things so much easier for them day-to-day. And there is a perfect example. If you were to say to someone, well, we helped these folks do this, because this was such a challenge. And someone would say, really? Just use a pen and paper. But no, it’s a real challenge. And I love the fact that you have that sort of company where people can just jump online and it solves a big need for potentially tens of thousands of facilities around the world. And I love that.

Dan: Yeah, I totally agree with you. I’ll kick it up one notch further and say, you know what, one of the things we believe in is that the floor plan is a living, breathing document, like I said earlier, but it contains data and contextual data for different people. So in other words, if you are a banquet manager, you need to know what to set up and where to put it. If you are a catering sales person, you need to know how to sell your product the best way possible. If you’re a meeting planner, you need to make sure everything fits and you need to know where people go. So we kind of take floor plans, make them living and breathing documents contextual to the people looking at them, and we help you think about meetings in a different way so you can design them more effectively.

John: Yes. Great. Love that. Solid talking points, by the way. So let’s talk about some of those constituents. How do each of them - so you mentioned a number of people, participants, in this situation. So how do each of them interact with your software? Actually, let’s take a step back. Who’s the decision-maker? Who says, we’re going to use Social Tables? Who makes that decision?

Dan: It depends. It depends whether hotels or corporations are forward thinking enough to realize that we are a critical purchase. So if they recognize that we’re a critical purchase, then it’s usually the systems people that make the decision to purchase. If it’s the forward thinking, kind of technology-loving staff person who executes operationally, then they carry the mantle and plead the case to their boss.

John: Okay, got it. But even so, you could take it at a higher level, so systems and processes at a corporate level, but any of the planners listening to this who say, wow, I want to - that may work for some of these organizations, they can go to your website, arm themselves, and say, hey, we should look at this.

Dan: Oh, yeah. One of the things we really believe in is the fact that A) knowledge should be shared and free, and B) you should know things before you make decisions and try it before you buy it. So therefore, we try to position ourselves - and I think we do a pretty good job at it - as thought leaders in the meeting design space and meeting effectiveness space. We write a lot about it, we talk a lot about it, and then we also give you the tools to succeed.

We have a meeting design generator that suggests to you how to set up a room. We have a meetings dictionary to help you speak more knowledgeably about meetings and events and use the right lingo. We even have a free trial. Anybody can sign up for a free trial for a full week, try our software, no credit card necessary; nothing but a quick sign up.

We really believe in that, and we try to let people use it and try it out.

John: That’s great.

Okay. So now we’ve got - someone made the decision; they’re using your software. So step one would be what? I guess, creating your floor plan? And who would typically do that?

Dan: Right. Believe it or not, in the 1,700-plus customers that we serve, not once have we had the issue where they didn’t have something. We work with 100-plus year old zoos, and they find something. They draw it on a napkin, they bring in the blueprints from the architect, they even give us dimensions and we work with that. All we need is, you know, we need to know the size of one wall or one door, and we can work off the rest.

So we take that information in whatever kind of format it comes in - that’s the input. And then we have a proprietary tool that is very similar to CAD, it’s web-based, and we design it. We design your room in our software. And by the way, that’s open to our customers. Any one of our customers can create a new room using this lightweight CAD software.

John: That’s great. So if they’re comfortable doing that, they do it. If they’re not, they can ask you.

Dan: That’s right. So they set up a room and it’s only a one-time thing - the walls, the windows, the fire extinguisher, the columns, the sprinklers, even - we call them fixed assets, you know, like, lighting fixtures or screens. You do that, and that is your template. And you can always create layouts inside of that.

John: Got it. So you might think of your floor plan as your canvas because it’s fixed; it’s a room, and then how you use that room of course then becomes the element you can move around.

Dan: Exactly, exactly.

John: So then what is step two? Step two is filling in the canvas?

Dan: So step two is you take the canvas and you start dragging and dropping items. So think about it as a layer. Layer number one is your brick-and-mortar. Layer number two is objects for that specific meeting and event. And then layer number three would be maybe podiums and place settings and all these other things that are objects, but they’re not as critical as tables and chairs.

John: Right. Easily moved, more easily replaceable, that sort of thing.

Dan: Right. What we’d have to bring out of inventory, out of the basement. And then the next step is if there are people and they go to tables, then the next step is table seating. The next step after that is meal management. The next step after that is maybe drawing a walking path if it’s a trade show or a big event to actually show the flow using arrows and directional assets. And then there is electric and trussing and lighting in all those different layers. Just think about it like Google maps, you’ve got satellite and you’ve got terrain, just like that.

John: You so read my mind. I was going to say that. You stole that from me.

Dan: Sorry.

John: You stole my thunder. It’s exactly what it reminds me of. It very much reminds me of Google maps in terms of the lay of the land, literally and figuratively. Or even any other application, even any other design application. But what I really like about it is…

Dan: Like Photoshop.

John: Like Photoshop, exactly. You have layers and you can move them around.

But what I really love about it is you refer to it as the data, because it’s true, at a certain point, once you move away from fixed assets, now you’re talking about metadata. You’re talking about information about objects, information about people, information about seats and who is going to occupy that seat and all the things that go with that. That’s very different than sketching on a napkin, right? Suddenly, you’re not just a tool for layouts, you’re literally layering data on top of that original canvas.

Dan: Absolutely. It’s a metadata container, without a doubt. And what I’ll say is it’s not only that, but it’s also - so two things, 1) it’s contextual. So in other words, it depends on who’s looking at it, they need different information. I mentioned that previously. I think that’s really, really important. If I’m a server, I need to know which tables I’m assigned to.

John: Yes, and I wanted to get to that. Thank you for coming back to that.

Dan: If I’m a VIP, I need to know where I sit, or if I’m the planner, I need to know where my VIPs are.

The other piece of it though is that - we used to think about floor plans, it’s like, okay, step one is a floor plan, step two is this, step three - it’s no longer that case. It’s a process. So you put it in the cloud, you make it collaborative, people can work on it at the same time, different stakeholders can work on the same thing, and it’s a collaborative effort that is no longer just a linear process but it’s holistic in that way.

John: Right. Well, I would imagine now - I’m just being pedantic for the moment - but we also have software that we work with every day and we’re always trying to improve, so there are some things that are linear, right? You need a canvas before you can start painting on it, that’s obvious. So some things are linear, but then I would imagine there are other things that can be less linear. So while someone is doing the seating arrangement, someone else can be planning lighting, let’s say, which isn’t necessarily dependent per se on the seating.

Dan: But what we’re doing is we’re centralizing that data.

John: Right, yeah, that’s it. That is the one thing is that everyone is working within the same data set. It’s the same document, the same map, if you will, and it’s purely collaborative, so people can get multiple things done within the same document and still collaborate on each of their respective responsibilities.

Dan: Bingo.

John: Love that. Okay. So let’s go back to the people now. You said there would be different views depending on your role. So how many different roles typically are involved, and what do each of them experience? And by the way, we don’t need to get granular down to the informational level, but just generally speaking, how do these people interact with the system, and what do they each get from it?

Dan: Sure. So from a very high level, there’s two roles. Well, there can be many, but the way we think about it is a little differently. We think about permissions, so some people can view only, some people can edit certain things, some people can edit the whole thing, so that’s one way of looking at it.

The other way of looking at it is the different jobs related to setting up the event. The first one could be a salesperson; here’s what the space looks like, here’s how your event might look like. Next is convention services, so setting up the space; this is what it’s going to look like. Next is the banquet team, actually taking that floor plan and bringing it to life. Then the next one is the captain and the wait staff. So that’s on the hotel side.

On the planner side, it’s, okay, does it fit? So our software, we actually have a product called On-Site which is independent of Social Tables. Any facility or hotel can put On-Site on their web page and it’s a plan or on site which on the website but also on site, like a site visit. And the planners can come into the website and actually start planning their event in any one of the rooms without even calling and picking up the phone.

On the other side is a planner and they can make sure it fits, and then they can bring their event to life. And then it might be a host committee or your stakeholder, internal or external, who decides certain things. It might be admins to make sure that the right people are sitting next to the right people, maybe there are some things we need to be aware of, maybe some meal requirements, et cetera.

So just in summary, it’s the hotel salesperson, it’s the set-up people, sometimes it’s the same team, sometimes it’s different, and it’s the banquet people. That’s on the hotel side. And then maybe some vendors as well - let’s not forget the vendors. The lighting vendors, DJs, bands, et cetera. And then the planner, the stakeholders and anybody else involved in putting the event together.

John: Got it. So let’s just use some of those last folks a moment. There’s no issues, right? You just give them a limited set of permissions where they can view things and they can say, okay, I’m going to set this up here and this up here, and we’ll put speakers here, whatever it is. So this way, they’re prepared when they show up, or maybe they’ll even say to the organizer, you know what, we should get this on the map, we should get it on the canvas so that people know that our speakers are going to be here and our DJ booth is going to be here, you know, whatever the physical items might be.

Dan: Right, right.

John: Got it. Okay. They wouldn’t necessarily have access to edit it, but they could just say, Mr. and Mrs. Organizer, let’s get this on the map, if you will, and they’ll make that happen.

Excellent. So let’s talk about the other side. We keep saying this side, because we started with hospitality and I ran with it.

Dan: I mean, that’s our core business. Hospitality is our core business.

John: Oh, okay. Because I’ve also seen, correct me if I’m wrong, here or there I thought I have seen the use of Social Tables as a means for planning conventions or a trade show or expo floors.

Dan: Yeah, what I mean by our core business, I mean, the floor plans is what we do really well. And then conference managers that are forward thinking and their hotel or the convention center might not be using Social Tables, they can use it on their own, and actually, they’re the ones telling their supplier how to set things up.

And by the way, in my opinion, that’s amazing. When the planner - and my background is special events, and before that, I was a programmer, so I come from both technology and events. So that’s the way I think it should be. Planners are the ones that bring these new things to bear and calling the shots. Everybody else has to adapt because we should know the latest and greatest things that are going on and be able to use them.

John: I couldn’t agree more. I mean, they’re the boots and the brains on the ground. You know, they’re the generals, they’re the quarterbacks, they’re the ones who make everything happen. And by all means, their lives should be made easier. It’s a stressful situation.

Dan: Right. And to that point, by the way, what we’re seeing is a lot of planners who used to be operational and logistical are now becoming strategic. I mean, we’re part of the meeting automation movement. We’re automating a lot of the processes that used to be manual. Planners are going to be more important than ever when it comes to making strategic decisions and aligning their meetings to organizational goals and objectives. All of those things are around the corner. And I like to think that we’re helping them do that because we’re automating the easy stuff and letting them focus on the important stuff.

John: That is absolutely something that - that is a perspective we definitely share both individually and as companies. We like to take the mundane, codify it and make it so that it - and even though it can be a thorn in someone’s side, we want to make it so that it’s just so simple that it’s something that they know once they’ve done, they’ve checked two boxes, they don’t have to worry about it and they can just rely on the fact that it’s ready and working when the time comes.

Dan: And that right there, you know what that does? That mitigates risk.

John: Exactly.

Dan: And that’s what strategic meeting management is all about is risk mitigation, for the most part. Knowing where resources are, having a plan, all those things are related to strategic meeting management, and it’s happening.

John: Yes, it is happening, both top and bottom. The planners are taking it into their own hands, and maybe they’re feeding it up to management, and vice versa. You know, management, forward thinking management is saying we have fewer people, fewer resources, let’s make sure that they’re more efficient, and here, you should use this tool.

Dan: One of the great things I think about software is that it opens doors to things that we didn’t even think about. So for example, by looking at the data of the event, by looking at what you’re doing, you can actually - our software can now make recommendations of how you should set up your room. Our software can make recommendations of who should meet who. You know, our software can make recommendations on making sure you’re compliant with different rules and regulations, whether they’re industry regulations or whether they’re governmental regulations, fire, safety, and things like that. Our software can help you get there, and that’s what I’m talking about risk mitigation is making sure you adhere to rules, making sure that you have the right number of screens, making sure that you are using the right room set up that aligns with your objectives. All those things software can help do, and it’s a burden lifted off of the planner’s shoulders.

John: Absolutely. Let’s talk about that, because I did not know that. So some of them are obvious, I guess. I’ll say, like, okay, if it’s a banquet, you should allow four feet between tables because that’s what fire code calls for. So I could see figuring that out. But the other stuff, like recommending…

Dan: I can tell you in New York, because in New York, they do four feet, but it really should be five feet. But you’re in tight quarters…

John: New York real estate, yeah, they scrimp a little. It’s just a foot, what’s the big deal?

Dan: In Las Vegas, it’s six feet.

John: Yes, plenty of room in Vegas, though. It’s huge.

But that’s interesting. So that - that’s a burden I don’t have to worry about because the software tells me if I don’t have to worry about that. I love that. But the other stuff I find really fascinating. So you could say, oh, you tell us what kind of event you’re having, and we’ll recommend a layout? Is that the kind of intelligence that you were mentioning?

Dan: Right. That’s exactly what we’re working on right now. So if you’re having a continuing education meeting for 300 people, then you should consider doing the room this way with this many screens in this kind of setup and this many rectangle tables or whatnot because it’s more conducive towards learning. I mean, all the way down to lighting and other things that you might not think about or you may not have time to think about.

John: That’s amazing. I love that. Let’s talk about that for a second. You know, it’s so funny because here we are - I am - getting excited about all this stuff, and there are probably some people on the road going, you guys are getting all excited? Why are you so excited about that? In my mind, this is total geek-out stuff. This is amazing. So it won’t only make suggestions on the set up for the room, but you also mentioned that it will tell you who are the best people to group together possibly. Now, how do you do that? Is that the core of Social Tables where you use the social graph to do that?

Dan: So we have social graph integration that pulls from about 40 or 50 different social networks based on the e-mail address, and then that populates - if you have a guest list. Most of our events - not most, but some of our events just use it for floor plans, not seating. We’ve seen kind of a shift. We started with - heavy on table seating, and now it’s heavy on floor plans with optional seating module in it.

So in other words, not everything is seated, right? They just do their own set up and that’s it. Many events are just general seating, especially meetings. So you have a guest list, you have a floor plan, and then you have the e-mails for each one of those guests. Our software can pull information - the photo, the gender, all these things from publicly available information - very important to mention - and only things that you allow to pull in, pulls that information, populates that person’s kind of profile, and then based on tags that you’ve assigned people, VIPs, Junior, Senior, we can either disperse or concentrate seating arrangements in that room. So it’s one step above manual, and as customers ask us for more and more things like this, we’re building them out.

One thing, for example, is never repeat the same table seating chart more than once.

John: Oh, okay.

Dan: Another one is alternate genders. Another one is maybe make sure you have junior and senior people at different tables. The State Department, for example, one of our customers, the State Department ranks people, and they put all the people in the same rank at the same table. So all the number ones are in the number one, all the number twos in the number two, and all the number threes - they do that when there’s cross delegations. So you have people that are equivalent to one another in different delegations sitting with one another. So that’s another example of how we’re used by the State Department.

John: That’s a great example, actually. That’s fascinating. And those ranks, they assign the ranks.

Dan: Oh, yeah. We don’t know the ranks.

John: Right. But they just include that as a field, and then they use that field to sort things.

Dan: Bingo.

John: Okay. So here - this is also just a little more geeky, which I find funny. All of a sudden, data and information, in my mind, becomes so much more of a planner’s - you know, needs to be part of their skill set, whereas in the past, it may not have been. So a simple thing - this is more of a comment, but sort of a question - a simple thing is making sure that everyone has a unique email address. You know, in our business, we’ll have, for instance, someone will register - let’s say it’s a marketing manager on a team, registers 10 people for a conference, and they’re all from the same company. Well, some registration systems will allow you to use the same email address for all the tickets, and now suddenly all the data is not correct, right? And when your job is to manage data in order to make it available for exhibitors and sponsors and other attendees and for analytics and so on, that little detail is very important. And I don’t think - I think there are a lot of folks who are still just catching on to that, like, wow, now data is part of my job? My job is not data, my job is logistics and strategic placement of people and stuff. That’s kind of a comment, but I don’t know if you’re seeing the same thing.

Dan: Yeah, you know, we don’t get down to helping you pick where people should sit, we give you the tools to help you make those decisions or let the system do it for you based on what you’ve told the system. So the problem with really big companies, you know, most of the planners don’t even know the people that are going. So you need to give them some information about the folks that are going. So, you know, when I’ve seen emails, they’ve usually been unique, but we’re still scratching the surface on this kind of social seating trend.

John: Yeah, and I can obviously see it as a big deal. The way I look at it is it’s kind of taking some of the capabilities of let’s say some of these conference apps like Bizzabo or others like them that try to connect people based on their social graph, but this is different because you’re actually saying, no, no, no, we’re going to take these people with this social graph and these interests and put them in this physical space as opposed to what something like Bizzabo which says, hey, these would be good people to meet while you’re circulating. This is very specific.

Dan: Right, and you know, that’s where we started. We started with the idea of publishing seating charts. And one of the things we realized was people were using this for creating table seating arrangements, but nobody really used this for publishing the seating chart. There was a couple of reasons why that might have happened. One of them is we may have done a pretty poor job in explaining the benefits, the other one is people didn’t want it, which is likely. So we built on top of that and when people said, let’s move a table, let’s move a chair, we started actually moving into floor plan design software. And now we’re kind of coming back to this. People are realizing that seating is another way of doing events. So now, Social Tables is used to show a digital seating chart when people arrive to an event. So as you walk in, you see where you are and you know who’s with you. But before we do that, you have to break the mold of selling tables, which is like a really big thing that’s done at big fundraisers. You buy tables. So we have to rethink how we do sponsorships before we can rethink how we do seating because it’s so - they’re very much related to one another.

John: That’s a great point, actually, because it’s easy to sell a table. You know there’s a fixed number of seats and there are a whole variety of…

Dan: You’re people are right there, so it’s very - it’s just how things have been done. So I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon. I totally understand why it’s done that way. You want to hang out with your friends, but we want to give you the tools to be able to think about meetings a little differently than you have in the past, so at least it’s an option. That’s why we have it.

John: I think it’s a great option, and I hope it’s one that you’re successful in spearheading, because I could just see even simply saying, okay, a table holds 10, so you should start selling your sponsorships based on 10 seats. But don’t necessarily put them all at the same table, right, or something like that. There are lots of ways I guess if it were considered that people could slice and dice the sponsorship, as it were.

Dan: That’s [indiscernible 32:26] objectives, right? If the meeting’s objectives are for people to network, then you might want to think about it differently. If the meeting’s objective is a celebration, then you might not want…

John: Right. Familiarity might be better in a celebratory environment.

Dan: [Indiscernible 32:39] the meeting planner and we just want to give you the tools to be able to execute more effective meetings.

John: Yes. Got it. Excellent.

So let’s just touch on that quickly, by the way. You said you started out with something in mind, and you shifted. So what I’m noticing is a lot of the innovations in event tech are coming from startups, and you guys are one of them. So tell us a little bit about the company in general, and I’m curious just to know, so that people understand - we’ll use some start up jargon now - typically called a pivot, I wouldn’t call this a full-on pivot…

Dan: Do you have like little definitions…

John: Definitions that I could display?

Dan: Yeah, like Sesame Street.

John: P is for pivot. Yeah, exactly. But I wouldn’t call it a full-on pivot. It wasn’t necessarily. In my mind, that’s more of a refinement than anything else. But tell us about that. So you guys are - how long in the business, tell us a bit more about the specifics of the product as it was then, because we’ve talked very much about what it does now. Because I think some people would be interested in the evolution of your company and event tech, in general.

Dan: Sure. I started the company three years ago. It was initially just a side project for me. I never thought about starting any company. It was just a side project. There was a website - I’m a web developer by training , so I was just building it as a side project. People started using it, and then people started asking for more things that we didn’t do or even think about. I thought I knew a lot about events, but it turns out I didn’t know anything. I’m learning every day from hotels, from customers, from various successful event planners. And we’ve just been building what people have asked for.

So 75%-plus of our features come from customers. We just released, for example, a place settings app where you can actually design your place settings and buffet. That’s something that people requested.

John: Wow, really? Okay.

Dan: Yeah. So I would never have thought to build that. So that’s an example. So really have been building the company organically ever since. A year ago, we had 10 employees. Today, we have 31. We’re based in Chinatown. D.C. is a great place to be for a company, not only because of its tech resurgence, but also because of its hospitality center, if you will. So big changes quarter to quarter, year to year, you’ve got a big convention center, you’ve got a lot of associations, you’ve got a lot of events, you’ve got a lot of non-profits, you’ve got a lot of conferences here. The National Association of Cardiologists was just here for example this past weekend, 10,000 people.

So that’s kind of how it started organically, and we’ve been really fortunate to bring some amazing people on board. Like I said, we have a team of 31, and each one is relatively young, eager and passionate about this industry and about technology. We have great advisors, as well. They’ve been very helpful. Like Gary Vaynerchuk, the guy who introduced us…

John: Yes, Gary introduced us.

Dan: So that’s really - it’s just been a very long listening process, and it continues to be that.

John: I love to hear that. And I don’t mean this to be self-serving, you know, it’s - the whole iteration process is a beautiful thing these days. It wasn’t like that in Web 1.0. You know, you had an idea, and you just built. And maybe you made some changes, but, you know. But now, the iteration is beautiful. And we’re the same way. We started out because we were doing one thing - I don’t even want to get into what we were doing. We were doing one thing, though, and a customer called us up and said, you know, we like what you guys are doing, but could you do this for us, because it would really dovetail well with this other thing you do. And we were like, okay, and that was the start of our business right there. That was our first paying customer, and they’ve been with us ever since. And we just keep listening to customers and listening to customers and making changes. And, God, if there’s anyone with strong opinions on how things are done, it’s event planners. So they’ll tell you. I think you can appreciate that. They’ll tell you if they want something in a particular way and why they want it. So it’s nice to hear that and to see how the product has grown.

Dan: Totally.

John: Excellent. Well, Dan, I know I said I would keep this to about 30 minutes, and we’re just about there. Is there anything that I didn’t ask that you were hoping I would ask, or thought I might ask, that you wanted our listeners to know?

Dan: That’s a good question. I don’t think so. My e-mail is [email protected] I welcome any feedback, any ideas. If you see me at a conference - I’m traveling a lot, going to different conferences to speak, so if you see me, I’d love to chat, buy you a cup of coffee and talk about the industry and see how we can be helpful to you or not. Any other way other than educate you about technology and talk about it. I’d love to do that.

John: That’s obvious, by the way. So thank you for spending the time with us. And you took my last question, which of course is how can people thank you for doing this? Where can we find you on Twitter? I always like to get that.

Dan: My handle on Twitter @danberger.

John: Okay. Great, thank you. And of course, anyone watching the videos, there will be supers. I don’t think I’ll have definitions there, but I’ll put Dan’s Twitter handle and email address on screen. But most people listen to us in the car. About 90% of the folks who listen in…

Dan: Oh, really? That’s interesting.

John: Yeah. Some people like talking heads, they like to see your expression as you answer questions, and so that’s why we do the video.

Dan: Yeah, they actually see you and they just turn it off. Are you on Stitcher?

John: Yes, thank you very much. That’s a perfect way to wrap up the show. So thank you for joining us today. If you’re watching us on YouTube, that’s awesome, thank you. But you can find us - you can subscribe on iTunes, you can find us on Stitcher or on SoundCloud, and we actually have some announcements coming up with a few other services, other podcast directories and applications, they’ll be distributing the show. So more listeners is good. We just want to get the word out about, as Dan put it, meeting automation and other types of event tech. So we hope you’ll tune in.

So until next time, I’m John Federico. Of course, you can find me on the [interwebs 38:49]. I’m @gadgetboy pretty much everywhere. We’ll see you next time. Thanks.