Conferize is trying to reinvent conferences with its platform that helps users find, register for, and socialize around events and conferences. With so many conferences happening around the world on any given day, the platform is a way for people to both find events in their city, virtually attend the ones they can’t attend in person, and network with attendees before, during and after the event. The company also recently debuted livestreaming features to let organizers broadcast their event live to virtual attendees, a feature that has been used by events including Media Evolution.
The website is the brainchild of founder and CEO Martin Ferro-Thomsen, who was an aspiring academic before turning to entrepreneurship and co-founding digital publishing platform Issuu. “I had learned how to build a platform for a niche but very old industry and figured out how to help them take that next step to the digital age,” Ferro-Thomsen said in an interview. “And I thought to myself, hey let’s go to some conferences and network, get in on some panels, and maybe be a keynote somewhere. And I started Googling relevant conferences, but Google couldn’t help me.”
Ferro-Thomsen originally launched Conferize at the DEMO conference in September 2011, and officially launched this summer. Users create a profile, share their interests, and based on the information they provide, it aggregates conferences relevant to those topics. However, given either the distance or financial barriers that might prevent people from actually attending an event, users can keep up to date by following a conference. Each conference page includes the event’s Twitter feed, with the ability to see people tweeting at the conference. It also aggregates videos, articles, event details, speakers, and related conferences.
Conferences are submitted either by event organizers or by individuals, and can then be claimed by organizers. The company has premium accounts for organizers, which help organizers build a community around their event, and allows them to sell tickets directly through the platform. Pro accounts also include livestreaming, and no advertisements. Currently the pricing is $499 per month before the event starts, with volume pricing for organizers holding several events. There are no plans to offer premium accounts for users.
“We can help organizers sell earlier and to a more targeted audience, it’s a multi-sided model. We know a lot about our users, like who’s in the area and who’s interested in that particular conference. Even with the free version, the match-making happens quite simply, if you’re a user of Conferize, you’ll get notifications of what’s relevant to you, but obviously organizers need to boost that a bit more, create more awareness and that’s the stuff we’ll be charging for,” Ferro-Thomsen said.
Other players in the space looking to help take the conferences industry into the digital realm include Cvent, a provider of online software solutions that lets organizers conduct surveys and plan their next event and ConferenceHound, a search engine for events. Conferize sets itself apart by focusing on the social networking element of conferences, though startup Plancast attempted to provide a similar social network for conferences and events, and it shut down in January 2012 (then relaunched in August).
Ferro-Thomson said they differ in several ways from tools like Plancast, namely they’re not just focused on showing who’s attending an event, but on livestreaming and other content, and unlike Plancast, people don’t have to leave the site to register for a conference (as long as the organizer has a pro account and can sell tickets directly on Conferize).
The company plans to focus initially on the U.S. and UK conference markets, and they are also in the process of closing their first round of seed funding. Another key product launch will be mobile apps, which are currently in the works. Enhancing the conference experience for both attendees and organizers is something several companies have attempted, with varying degrees of success. Getting conference organizers on board with pro accounts (Ferro-Thomsen said they’ll be adding tiered accounts in the future) and getting attendees to adopt it as their event resource of choice will be a tough sell, but with thousands of large- and medium-sized events on the platform, and close to one million users, Conferize has a good head start.