On paper, this deal makes perfect sense. Hubilo is keen to move beyond virtual events and build a strong offering for in-person events. Fielddrive brings innovative badging and on-site solutions. Now the challenge is gaining market share.
Virtual and hybrid event technology company Hubilo announced on Wednesday the acquisition of Fielddrive, a Beligum-based company that specializes in on-site event technology, including check-in, badging, and access control.
Hubilo leadership describes the move as a strategic acquisition to strengthen in-person event offerings. The financial details of the deal were not revealed.
This is the first significant acquisition announced in 2023; although Skift Meetings knows the deal was in place in November of 2022. This acquisition continues the pattern of virtual event companies bolstering their in-person capabilities. The merger of MeetingPlay, Aventri and Eventcore to form Stova and Hopin’s acquisition of Boomset are two examples of this.
“When the pandemic started residing, we were always on the lookout to either build or partner up with someone who has very deep expertise when it comes to handling offline events,” said Vaibhav Jain, founder and CEO of Hubilo. “There were a couple of companies that we came across. One of them was Fielddrive, and we had a few filters in our mind before we actually came to a discussion.”
Established 5 years ago, Hubilo has become one of the largest virtual event technology companies, raising over $150 million in the process. Over two million attendees have used the platform to date.
Despite the funds raised and impressive growth, Hubilo has not been immune to the harsh and uncertain market conditions currently impacting event technology companies. Hubilo laid off staff in two rounds, one in January and the other in July of last year.
The New Realities of the Event Technology Sector
In a video interview recorded for the announcement, Jain addressed the state of the event technology sector. Taking lessons from the pandemic, Jain now believes that event technology companies should specialize in specific sectors, rather than trying to service all potential clients. “Everyone was trying to do everything, and now I feel most of the event tech companies are going this route where everyone is choosing the place where they specialize in, they would want to go deeper, they would want to build that particular customer base, build specific products only for them,” said Jain.
Jain expects more mergers and acquisitions but only sees existing players as future market leaders. “A lot of consolidation is going to happen in the next couple of years where almost 2.5 billion worth of investment had gone into event space during the pandemic,” he said. “I don’t see any new company coming into this space anymore. It’s going to be the emerging players that had come during the pandemic and the incumbent players that existed before the pandemic.”
Fielddrive to Operate Independently
“Fielddrive will run as an independent entity and will continue to be platform agnostic,” said Jain.
Sophie Ahmed has moved to general manager for Hubilo Onsite and will lead Fielddrive for the parent company. Ahmed has been with Hubilo for just under a year but spent most of her career at Informa, leading a wide range of in-person events and ultimately becoming group director.
“Having led large in-person events for over two decades, I can see why fielddrive is so attractive to event organizers: from managing visitor queues, facial recognition for onsite check-in, sustainable badging, lead retrieval and analytics, new monetization opportunities and an expert customer experience team,” said Ahmed.
Fielddrive founder and CEO Danny Stevens made it clear that continuing to operate independently and integrating with other event technology partners was a pre-condition to the acquisition. “My main criterion for stepping into a potential acquisition was we want to keep our own identity. We want to keep Fielddrive, ” said Stevens. “But it’s a great opportunity to grow and scale and to deploy more staff into the actual time zones of the client, to deploy more equipment and to scale and continue doing what we’re doing.”
While Hubilo recognizes the challenges involved in acquisitions and technology integration, it is confident that this will be successful. “I’ve heard that acquisitions are difficult, but if there is trust and integrity, it becomes quite easy. So that will be our motto in moving forward in working with Fielddrive as well,” said Jain.
Focus on Streamlining Product and Operations
Hubilo is consciously looking to make using event technology and seamless experience that planners look forward to. “Event tech at the end of the day should help an organizer give them more hands to do. It should feel like you have a hundred-plus hands that are helping you solve the problem instead of creating more,” said Jain. “It should feel like it is a product that you are already using in your daily life.”
Future product plans have not been revealed, but both companies have a focus on streamlining their products to simplify processes and reduce costs.
” [We are] developing a product roadmap with them, and then serving their clients further and not just moving into new regions, but just giving more to the existing set of clients and giving them more value for their money,” said Jain.
“We’ve been working on really limiting the check-in time per second. Every second we can squeeze off that process is important because that allows you to work with less people, less staff, less equipment, and still have a fluent experience, which impacts directly the budget,” said Stevens.
Stevens is keen to continue a journey of innovation, now under the Hubilo brand. “We were the first ones to successfully deploy a facial recognition check-in. And we’ve been recognized as an innovator in the industry and will keep doing so,” he said. “That first moment you’re coming to the event and the impression you have there is so important for the experience as a whole.”