Delegate Connect is the latest virtual/hybrid events platform to land funding. The Melbourne-based startup announced today it has raised $10 million AUD (about $7.3 million USD) in seed funding led by AirTree Ventures, which wrote Delegate Connect the biggest seed check in the fund’s history so far. Other participants included Skip Capital, TEN13 and Australian startup founders like LinkTree’s Alex Zaccaria and Go1’s Andrew Barnes.
The capital will be used to build Delegate Connect’s teams in Melbourne, London and Norway, which enable it to handle events around the world, increasing headcount from 45 to more than 100 by December. It also plans to open a United States-based office soon.
Founded in 2017 and bootstrapped until its seed round, Delegate Connect’s business grew during the COVID-19 pandemic, like many other virtual event platforms. Its clients have included the Edinburgh TV Festival, Sportsbet, the World Dental Congress and the World Library and Information Congress. Some of the sectors Delegate Connect focuses on include medical, pharmaceutical and industry associations.
Delegate Connect was created after co-founders Jordan Walsh and Jacob Thomas started a technical production and events business, and looked for a “technology platform that could do everything we needed at a large-scale event, including registration, live-streaming, hosting video-on-demand and integrate seamlessly with the venues.” They decided to build their own, initially as an internal tool. Then during a trip to India in 2019 to work on a symposium, the two realized that there was a wider need for their platform.
“[We] had a lightbulb moment where we thought ‘we are solving a genuine problem here.’ One of the world’s biggest technology companies was flying us to Mumbai to use our system (which wasn’t even built properly) to deliver the technical assets of their event!” Walsh told TechCrunch in an email.
The two finished building the platform at the end of 2019 and launched it in January 2020.
Walsh and Thomas were interested in hybrid events even before COVID-19.
“Hybrid events have been around for along time, especially in the medical, pharmaceutical and associations sectors,” said Walsh. “Before COVID, they typically involved someone broadcasting a live stream from the venue, recording it and then hosting it on-demand after the event. These are all fundamentals of the platform we’ve built, and we’re obsessed with creating a platform that expands the hybrid event experience to do so much more than live streaming and video on demand.”
Some features created for the medical and pharmaceutical sectors include the ability to log hours spent viewing educational or scientific content, which is useful for delegates who are attending events to earn professional development points (CPD), abstract submissions, content-restricted registrations and the ability to run concurrent streams.
Tracking professional development points is a major selling point in particular, since “this is typically super complex technically for clients, and we solve this for them by working out how they accredit, build it in, track it and then process the accreditation,” said Walsh.
If you’ve attended a lot of online events over the past year and a half, you are probably wondering how Delegate Connect is different from platforms like Hopin (which was used for TechCrunch Disrupt last year), Bizzabo, MeetingPlay or Cvent.
One of its main differentiators is that it was built with specific target audiences (medical, pharmaceutical, associations and international congresses) in mind, and plans to launch a self-service platform for them. Delegate Connect is also completely customizable, so events can use it as a white-label solution.
“Ease of use is central to the UX,” Walsh said. “For example, we have full content restrictions through our registration portal, allowing people to register for sessions, days, themes and streams. We can restrict sponsors form seeing other sponsor booths and ensure that content can’t be shared (e.g. if a pharmaceutical company can’t share info with non-pharmacists, we can restrict this) as well as allow certain delegates to view only some content if needed.”
The delta variant and resurgence of COVID-19 has forced many organizers to turn in-person events into online ones. Walsh said Delegate Connect has handled many last-minute requests and can do so in a matter of hours. For example, in August, the startup was working on a medical conference originally slated to run as a hybrid event from a venue in Japan with thousands of delegates. Just before it was supposed to start, however, the organizers told Delegate Connect that they needed to switch to fully virtual event.
“We can do this easily because the platform doesn’t change. It’s versatile, no matter the delivery method,” said Walsh. “Delegates just need to log in on the day and engage with the content just like they would if they were at the event.”