Cvent Founder & CEO Reggie Aggarwal
By Jarrett Banks
Cvent Inc., a leading meetings, events, and hospitality technology provider, plans to merge with Dragoneer Growth Opportunities Corp. II (Nasdaq: DGNS), a SPAC.
Exec Edge sat down with Cvent Founder & CEO Reggie Aggarwal to find out more about the company.
Exec Edge: Tell us a little bit about Cvent—how the company was founded, what the company does? Why this is the right time to re-enter the public markets?
Cvent is a pretty classic start-up story. I founded a non-profit organization, and I was organizing 20-30 events per year while also working full time as a corporate lawyer. I was essentially the Secretary, the Event Planner, and the Executive Director, and it’s hard to believe now, but my event management tools were Outlook, Excel, and yellow sticky notes….and boy, was it painful. I knew there had to be a better way. So, I did what any good entrepreneur does. I simply found a pain point, which was organizing events, and in 1999, I created the aspirin – that was Cvent.
We started out as one of the first Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) event technology companies, and the dot com boom fueled our early success. We quickly attracted some great customers and grew from 6 to 125 employees. But then, the perfect storm hit. The dot com meltdown and September 11th drove Cvent to near-bankruptcy – we had to cut 80% of our staff, reducing our headcount to 25 employees. For the next several years, it was an extremely difficult time for the company, but this was when the Cvent culture was formed. We essentially raised no capital and focused only on supporting our customers, delivering best-in-class products, and hiring great people. We turned things around because of our incredible leadership team – and I’m proud to say that 9 of the 11 original management team are still leading the company today. We built this business the old-fashioned way, through grit, hard work, and passion. It’s in our DNA to know how to scale a business….and do it profitably. From 2013 through 2016, we were a public company on the NYSE, and then Vista Equity took us private in 2016, and we’ve continued to grow and expand our platform.
Today, we have more than 20,000 customers across nearly all vertical markets who use our technology to market and manage their meetings and events, drive attendee engagement, and increase ROI. What makes Cvent a bit unique is that our platform offers a robust suite of solutions for both sides of the meetings and events ecosystem – the planner/marketer, and the hotelier/venue. For event organizers and marketers, our platform powers the entire event lifecycle – for virtual, in-person, and hybrid events of all size, and hotels and venues use our supplier and venue solutions to win more group and corporate travel business through our sourcing platforms.
Now, let me address why this is the right time for Cvent to re-enter the public markets. Because of the pandemic, people had little choice but to embrace technology to fill the void that was left, after in-person events were cancelled. And now….there’s no going back. With the advent of virtual and hybrid events, organizations now have more opportunities to connect and engage with their customers, prospects, employees, donors, and alumni. These new formats created a tremendous market opportunity, upwards of $30 billion for event technology. The pandemic has been a catalyst for innovation that I believe will literally change the face of our industry. As a result, there is a tremendous greenfield opportunity ahead, and Cvent’s return to the public markets represents an important inflection point in our company and industry putting the pandemic in the rear-view mirror, and getting back to meeting whether in person, virtually or both with hybrid. We’re excited to continue to innovate and help propel the industry forward in this new digital chapter.
Exec Edge: How has the events industry evolved over the past few years and what has Cvent done to respond?
Prior to the pandemic, the meetings and events industry had grown to a $1 trillion business; and at the enterprise level, 1-3% of their total revenue was spent on meetings and events. As a result, marketers and event planners were under immense pressure to optimize their budget spend and prove ROI. We responded by building an end-to-end platform that automates and simplifies the entire event management process and helps users maximize the impact of their events.
Then, in 2020, COVID hit us like a freight train and almost overnight the entire world had to shift how it did business. When in-person events were practically non-existent, none of us were feeling very optimistic about our industry. But then, the industry pivoted. Business leaders, recognizing that events were critical to their topline revenue, realized that the show still had to go on. Marketers and planners began to deliver virtual events to keep their businesses running. At Cvent, our agile, resilient team also responded quickly to support our customers. We developed and launched the virtual solutions they needed to not just survive the downturn but thrive during the pandemic and after.
For example, we unveiled our all-in-one virtual and hybrid engagement solution, the Cvent Attendee Hub
just six months into the pandemic. We launched it at our annual customer conference, Cvent CONNECT® – which was hosted completely online on the Attendee Hub in August 2020 – for more than 28,000 people around the world.
With in-person events again becoming a reality, we’ve completely reimagined our product strategy to support this new events landscape, creating a unified platform for virtual, in-person, and hybrid events – events that target both a virtual and in-person audience. As a result, Cvent can power, and drive engagement across an organization’s Total Event Program – internal or external; small or large; simple or complex; recurring or once a year; domestic or global. In short, our efforts over the last 20 months have positioned us to where we are today – embarking on a new chapter and well-suited to capitalize on the opportunity that lies ahead. We’ll continue to identify new ways to enhance our solutions and exceed our customers’ expectations in the years to come.
Exec Edge: We’ve seen a number of new entrants to the event tech industry – as a result, an increase in start-ups and funding. What makes Cvent different?
Cvent has been a leader in the event tech space for over two decades. Our leadership team is 300 strong, and for the last 20 years, we’ve focused on hiring the best people to support and drive our growth. We have some of the most experienced, passionate employees in the industry. The international accolades we’ve received over the year across client services, sales, marketing, HR, and more, are a testament to our people. Our deep commitment to service, and our ability to develop and launch solutions quickly – we have more than 1,200 people in technology alone – continue to set us apart. In addition to our people, we have a long history of sustained growth and profitability—over 90% of our revenue is recurring, with almost 80% coming from software subscriptions; and nearly 60% of our customer contracts are for multiple years.
But beyond our people and the business metrics, at the end of the day, the meetings and events industry is built on the power of the human connection. When we come together, barriers are broken, communities are strengthened, business gets done, and we drive positive change. And at Cvent, our focus has always been on delivering the technology that facilitates and supports deeper engagement across the entire ecosystem. In fact, one of our most significant differentiators is our multi-billion-dollar marketplace – the Cvent Supplier Network or CSN. CSN is the core of our Hospitality Cloud business, connecting event planners to hundreds of thousands of hotels and venues around the world that offer physical space for meetings and events. It’s where event professionals collaborate with venues to create engaging, impactful experiences. It is through this powerful network dynamic that gives us a somewhat unique vantage point because we can connect both sides of the ecosystem.
Lastly, as a long-time leader, our customers know that they have a partner that understands their business, the complexities of their roles, and the pain points that they experience. Customers come to Cvent not just for our software solutions, but also for guidance, advice, and to be part of the rich events community that we can bring together. I genuinely believe that these differentiators strengthen our positioning against the competition, allowing us to capitalize on the large, growing market sparked from the industry’s massive digital transformation.
Exec Edge: There is currently a lot of talk about the future of events – and how to bring certainty to the uncertain in the wake of the pandemic. What do you think is ahead for the industry?
Digital transformation has impacted every industry, and because of the pandemic, the meetings and events ecosystem experienced it on a vastly accelerated scale. The pandemic forced event planners and marketers to get creative in how they delivered their messaging and engaged with their customers, and virtual events became the ‘new’ event format. Essentially, 2020 and 2021 were all about virtual. But we believe 2022 and beyond will be about delivering a smart mix of in-person, virtual, and hybrid events.
We’ve reached an inflection point, and it’s the combination of these event formats, that we believe will lead to even greater success for our industry because we now have the technology and expertise to deliver events that can reach and engage more people than pre-pandemic. This opportunity means an expanded total addressable market, one that didn’t exist pre-COVID. The extended audience reach, the robust engagement data and analytics, and the powerful impact marketers can make digitally are critical reasons as to why we believe we’re entering a time when more events are being organized, more attendees are being engaged, and when events become an even more critical part of the business landscape.
We’re excited for this next chapter and for the opportunity to lead during a time when, we believe, our industry will be stronger than ever.