Last week, the Event Tech Podcast hosted Kyle Kocinski as a guest of honor and went over event technology trends and predictions for 2022. Today, the dynamic tech duo picks up where they left off last week, focusing on one 2022 event trend in particular: mergers and acquisitions in the event technology world.
It all started in 2020 and continued with full steam head in 2021: we saw huge investments in event platforms and multi-billion dollar valuations of some of the largest players in the field. At the same time, there were so many mergers and acquisitions that we could barely keep count. What about this year? Is this trend going to continue or will it slowly die out?
At first, they were skeptical, but Brandt and Will believe that the era of mergers and acquisitions isn’t just over yet. They discuss where this trend is leading us and what the event tech market might look like further down the line. It’s a must-listen for everyone interested in the financial aspects of event technology as well as those who like to have a pulse on the state of the events industry in general.
Mergers & Acquisitions Are Here To Stay
Let’s see how the story of mergers and acquisitions began. “There were about five incumbent online event platforms two years ago. Then, all of a sudden, there were 200 of them because everybody pivoted. Afterward, we went into the mergers and acquisition phase: people started buying each other out,” explains Brandt.
He predicted that the trend will subdue in 2022. However, he changed his mind sometime around the MeetingPlay and Aventry merger. “I think that mergers and acquisitions are going to tick back up. We’re going to start seeing more mergers and acquisitions in the event tech space.”
Will shares his opinion. “All these companies that got so many investments are now getting breathed on by all their. Private capital companies want them to make more returns. These event tech companies either have to start making them massive amounts of profit, or they need to get ready to look so good that investors can sell them. I think private equity companies are starting to notice this really hot trend slowing down. Therefore, they need to make their money while it’s still at least lukewarm.”
Brandt reminds us that event tech as an investment opportunity is a relatively new thing. “Back in the day, we were blown away when DoubleDutch saw $50 million in investments. It was so much money compared to what was being put into such products. But in these last two years, we’ve seen several investments that were also much higher. Investment companies have definitely woken up. They see event tech as an investible technology. They’re putting money in it just like every other startup that’s out there.”
“To your point, Will, there was massive growth in all of those platforms,” Brandt continues. “Zoom went up 900% in the first two weeks of the pandemic. That growth is unsustainable. The fastest way to get those numbers up is to change your business model. Start pushing it out in a different way, trying to get people to sign up, or acquire someone else. With mergers and acquisitions, you’ve doubled your user base in one fell swoop.”
And what better way to double your user base than to expand your services? “We’ve had conversations in the past about the juggernaut versus the individual parts and pieces. In the event space, that juggernaut is Cvent. They’ve got all the modules and their own training certifications. It’s the one-stop shop for event planners – and they like that. I can just cut one check at the end of the day. However, there are pros and cons to both,” says Brandt.
“People are recognizing the power of the all-in-one, especially after two years of this stress being put on the plate of the planner. Event tech companies ask themselves how to grow their user base. They’re trying to take on the likes of Cvent. That MeetingPlay Aventry merger is a perfect example of that. They want to have all the parts and pieces – to be that one-stop shop.”
What we’ll have then, in his opinion, is a clash of the event tech titans. “We’ll see four emerge, all vying for that space of where they’ll have everything available: your registration platform, event management platform, online engagement platform, ticketing platform, room diagramming platform, etc.”
The Role Of Industry-Wide Exhaustion
“When it comes to these mergers and acquisitions, I think we’re also seeing a lot of exhaustion,” adds Will. “Founders of companies grow a company 200% and then, they have to grow it even more. Maybe they’d rather take a vacation for two years or travel again. Not just founders, but also VPs and employees that work there. Now, in Q1, Omicron is hitting everybody and it feels like 2020 all over again.”
“It’s all part of the great resignation,” says Brandt. “It’s across all sectors, markets, demographics, and levels of income. People are re-evaluating what they want to do with their lives. Two years of a pandemic will do that to a person.”
“You talk about the exhaustion side of it. Not only does that go for the C-level and people who want to sell out, but it also ties into what we were talking about before. At the end of the day, event planners just want the one check, the one company, and the one support staff. They’re tired of it too,” he concludes.
Brandt is curious to know what Will thinks about AV and production companies – do mergers and acquisitions even apply to them? “Are we going to see what’s left of the independent AV companies becoming part of Encore? How is it going to affect the AV world?”
“There were several things AV and production companies did in 2020,” says Will. “Some did the hard pivot, kind of how Endless Events did. Those were successful and replaced their revenue at least. Then, others hunkered down and rechanged their company. The third ones tried to wait this out. I didn’t hear about a lot of big companies merging, but I bet that companies sold equipment to each other or sold off assets.”
“2021 was supposed to be this year of release: moving back to hybrid events,” he adds. “But I don’t think anyone truly felt truly amazingly successful at the end of 2021. Then, the Q1 of this year hits. We see waves of cancellations again.”
Mergers & Acquisitions Are A Double-Edged Sword
To conclude, Brandt thinks that mergers and acquisitions are always a double-edged sword. “It’ll be interesting to see how this trend flushes out for customers. Will people be happy because it’s a relief to use only one company? Or, will it be the other way: I used that platform for that one thing and now they got bought. They’re a part of this other company. Are they going to have the same support system that I had before?”
“Hopefully, they’re smart mergers and acquisitions,” says Will. “The biggest success we can see is a higher quality of the tools, data, and support. We would happily celebrate mergers and acquisitions if that were the case. But, the quality can also decrease. A tool gets acquired and the cost goes up, but there’s no change in quality.”
“Or worse: when they shut the product down, which happens all the time in Silicon Valley,” adds Brandt. “And we’ve been very fortunate in the event universe that hasn’t happened yet. But again, with downward pressure from investors, these things can start to happen in our world as well.”
Stay tuned for more episodes and keep up to date with everything that transpires in the ever-evolving event tech world – mergers and acquisitions included!