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Hopin CEO on the growth of virtual events amid pandemic

Hopin Founder and CEO Johnny Boufarhat joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss why the virtual events platform is seeing tremendous growth amid pandemic and discuss the company’s acquisition of mobile events app Topi.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Another company, though, here that we're discussing in 2021 in this debate around shifting back to the new normal, of course, Zoom was Yahoo Finance's Company of the Year in 2020. But a focus on events is raising the specter of one of the other companies in that same virtual event space, that would be Hopin, a virtual events platform that launched in February of 2020. Obviously, seeing quite the growth since then here, recently raising $125 million in a round that valued the company at more than $2 billion.

For more on that, we're joined by the founder and CEO of Hopin, Johnny Boufarhat joins us right now. And Johnny, I appreciate you coming on here, man. I mean, there are limitations. Everyone experiences limitations of Zoom, Google Meet, what have you, when it comes to events. So what's Hopin trying to do differently to make an event, like a concert or a conference, maybe a little bit more interactive here on the internet?

JOHNNY BOUFARHAT: Well, absolutely. So what I would say is software like Google Meets and Zoom is great for 0-20 people, in a traditional talking heads form. But when you're on a hundred-person-plus event, there's a lot of intricacies that actually make the event valuable. So bumping into people, being able to network, having multiple tracks, and maybe interacting with vendors and sponsors more. And so we don't necessarily sit in the same space. So Hopin, it's more targeting specifically those virtual events. And so the events industry is a massive industry as you know.

I mean, like you said, concerts weddings, a 20-person dinner could be considered an event, but so does fairs, and conferences, and expos, and all hands meetings, and workshops. And really the main market for us are those conferences, trade shows, fairs, and expos that really need a lot more than a traditional meeting would for their event. We like to say that anything that's really about 25 people is where Hopin really provides the most value.

AKIKO FUJITA: And on that point, certainly the company doubling down on the live video streaming place with your recent acquisition of StreamYard. What's your expectation on how things are going to look post-pandemic? Are we talking about the second half of the year where maybe some of these events will be 50% in person, 50% online? What's your calculation at this point?

JOHNNY BOUFARHAT: Well, it's a great question. And so if we're specifically talking about that space, that we're talking about conferences and trade shows and expose, our prediction is that the world is going to look very hybrid and online. I think there's been so much value that's been brought from being able to connect people, because a lot of the companies or communities that are running these events are global. And so traditionally, only 5% to 10% of the people they actually want to show up are able to attend these events, these conferences, or whatever else.

And so being able to-- even if you're having let's say 3% of the total network on the ground in person, you still want to engage the rest of the people. And having a strong tool to do that online just makes it too valuable. So our prediction is that we think that events that are only physical are going to be rare, or only on site and there will be more dinners or experience-based events like a concert, which is very difficult to replace online. However, for conferences and trade shows and expose, as we said, I think the prediction from our side is that it's going to be majority hybrid and online. So either online or hybrid.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, it's a very good point when you think about maybe that debate around cannibalizing a person who would have attended the conference in person versus virtually. And obviously, you guys would be there to maybe help some of those conferences or concerts monetize that. But what have you seen on that front when it comes to making money here with Hopin? Because that seems to be-- what Zoom was able to do is bring on corporate customers and really focus on that side. But for you guys, what does monetization look like? Profitability-- what's that look like?

JOHNNY BOUFARHAT: Yeah, so Hopin has been profitable from day one. Obviously, because we haven't spent a dollar on marketing. We have people that use the platform and convert into organizers once seeing how different the experience is and how much it stands out compared to anything they've experienced. So we've had a great viral engine for converting people. Now, that allows us to be profitable. Our monetization engine really, we have a bottom level free plan that is great for consumers. So anyone, whether they're thinking of streaming an event for a birthday party that's 50 people or having an event online for 50 people, all the way to a large conference of 100,000 people.

We have pricing plans that hit almost every single one-- based on the amount of branding, the amount of support you need, what sort of features. Because that's the thinking. Events need to be extremely flexible because there's so many different types of events out there and so many different things are needed. And so from Hopin's side, really, anything that's above 25 people, whether it's hybrid or in person, and you're just streaming anything online from a wedding to a large conference to show, all the way to an online only event, we're able to find a plan that works.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, no question. A lot of people really hoping for a change in engagement for a lot of these online events. I think there's a lot of sort of Zoom online fatigue that's been kicking in with so many of us doing this for a while. Johnny Boufarhat, Hopin founder and CEO. It's great to have you on today.

JOHNNY BOUFARHAT: Thank you so much. It was a pleasure.