A few years ago, Daphne Hoppenot noticed a serious gap in the events space. When it came to the $70-billion weddings market, the planning tools available in the tech space were copious — Zola, Wedding Wire, The Knot. But when it came to experiential marketing and corporate events, little was available.
“We set out to solve that,” she says.
After raising $2 million in venture capital, in April 2019 Hoppenot wrangled a team of four and launched The Vendry, a professional marketplace for the events industry. After months of looking at websites of small businesses in the industry, Hoppenot noticed that almost all of them had some kind of visual portfolio displaying their work. Hoppenot made this the focus of their site, leading with venues’ and vendors’ event images much like Pinterest does, and making it easy for users to search inspiration by event type, industry, and theme. The end goal? To offer event planners a marketplace where they can source the best venues and vendors for their events.
One day, an event planner for Instagram e-mailed Hopponot and asked if she could receive credit on a photo of an event she produced. There was just one problem — their system only allowed for a vendor or venue to be credited. “So, this was a bit of an ah-hah moment,” said Hoppenot. When her team went about changing the system to allow for individual credit, they realized that giving individuals the ability to display their work in this way would be a huge asset — they could turn it into “something that looked like IMDb for event pros,” said Hoppenot, referring to the popular online film and TV program database. In early 2020, they launched “Credits and Pro Profiles,” a feature that allowed event professionals to create and display a visual portfolio of their work as well as take credit when their work was featured on the site.
Unbeknownst to them, this would help save their business when just weeks later, the COVID-19 pandemic would all but shut down the live events industry. “We had to go back to the drawing board and rethink our mission and what we could do to continue growing as a company, when the core offering that we had been planning for 18 months was irrelevant,” said Hoppenot.
After listening to their vendors, they created two new offerings — a marketplace where vendors who pivoted could advertise their virtual/digital offerings; and a network for members to access job postings, discussions boards, news, and virtual networking events. The move was a success — they doubled their growth rate.
To learn how Hoppenot and her team applied the “7 Change Actions to Transformation” to continue driving her business over the past year, tune in to her on-demand session, “The Origin Story of an Event Tech Startup,” at Convening Leaders.
Jennifer N. Dienst is managing editor at Convene.