Connectivity and Mobile Technology Drive DoubleDutch, Says Hawkins.
EventsInAmerica.com (EIA) spoke with Jen Hawkins, Director of Marketing for DoubleDutch, about the company’s fast start and hockey-stick growth.
EIA: Tell us about DoubleDutch. When and why did the company start?
Hawkins: DoubleDutch started January 2011. The founders were at the event, South By Southwest, and were frustrated when they tried to connect with people through the paper guides, spreadsheets and location-based check-in apps that were available at that time. This frustration became the inflection point for the start of DoubleDutch. We started a business that combined three macro elements: Mobile, because we were passionate about the potential for mobile. Social, which was clearly an accepted tool for engagement. And lastly, Enterprise, something for businesses to use. That was really how the product came to be. We wanted to create a social-driven mobile app for events that could not only help event participants discover content but also discover and connect with people. Fast forward to today. We’re headquartered in San Francisco and have offices in Portland, London, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.
You have grown very quickly in the three years you’ve been in business.
Yes, we’ve grown faster than any other company in the app space. We have experienced over 30% quarter-over-quarter growth and now have over 200 employees. It’s been a rocket ship of growth and a wonderful ride.
To what do you attribute that meteoric growth?
We attacked the market with the right team at just the right time. When we started, we had to do a lot of market education around mobile event apps. It wasn’t so much: ‘Which app should I buy?’ But more like: ‘What is an event app?’ Those were the kinds of conversations we were having early on. So we got to broadly educate the market on the technology. As we’ve grown, the demand in the market has grown. Our growth has been a combination of a strong team and an incredible dedication to technology. Anybody can come up with a good idea but the execution of the technology side is critical for us. We’re in Silicon Valley, where we have some of the best engineers in the world. Many of them work in our headquarters in San Francisco. So I would attribute the majority of our success to those factors.
Are there industries besides tradeshows and conferences you provide services to?
We sell our app to anyone who produces an event. We focus primarily on 3 verticals: One segment incorporates the association market, small business, non-profits and government. Then we have the corporate team that serves companies between 200 and 5,000 employees. And lastly, we have the enterprise market, companies with more than 5,000 employees. We work with companies across a wide range of verticals like financial services, technology, consumer products and pharmaceuticals. Other clients include the large trade shows and associations that serve those verticals.
From a global perspective, what trends do you see developing in the events industry? What’s on the horizon and what do you think event organizers should have on their radar screens?
Anything that drives engagement is key. If you think about your event content and your event architecture, in conjunction with your technology, that’s where you’re going to see real transformation take place, in my opinion. The reason why the technology piece is so important is because technology can help measure the impact of what you’re doing.
Is there any kind of technology enhancement coming that could help drive that?
I believe in the power of mobile. I think beacon technology will become interesting; it’s facilitated by mobile. We can do a lot with heat mapping at tradeshows, trying to identify traffic patterns and trends in the data. Mobile makes that happen. We might see things like attendee badges within the app. More broadly, we expect to see things we’ve typically done on paper or verbally measured by technology. Every single attendee and exhibitor has a powerful computing device in his or her pocket.
How does an event manger go about choosing an app developer?
I always take a few steps back and start with these questions: What are the goals of the event? What types of tools can I put in place to measure my success? And how will I know if my event was a success or not? Once you identify what’s important to you, you can develop app parameters that help serve those needs. At the end of the day, you can go to your boss and say: ‘this was our goal and how we achieved it….or how we didn’t…. and this is how we plan to do it the next time around.’ Rather than dive into what features an app may have, think about what’s most important for your event and your audience.
Once those goals are determined and the event manager understands her parameters for success, how does she go about assembling a bid? What’s the whole process behind it?
Some people go through pretty expensive RFP processes. They put down a list of specifications and requirements, and send out bids to their top vendors. And then it will be up to the event manager to present what she thinks is the best suggestion to her management team.
But I think a better way that is less labor intensive and more beneficial is asking each of your vendors to see their app in action. Ask your vendor about getting you a pass to an event where you can explore the app hands on and see if anyone is using it. Sometimes the app may look really wonderful, but if no one is using it, it might be a signal of quality you may want to pay attention to. So, identify what is important to you, ask the hard questions of your vendors and ask if you can see the app in action.
So what’s in store for DoubleDutch in 2015?
We have an immense focus on data and analytics this year. We recently launched Event Performance, which is our analytics platform. It helps events professionals see, in real time, how their event is performing and suggests things that can improve the performance of the event while it is still in progress. We are dedicating a large portion of our resources to that product to help empower organizers to become more proactive and data driven. We’re also always working on the engagement side – creating a more engaging app and event experience.
Do you project a certain percentage of growth for 2015?
We expect to grow stronger, faster and smarter every quarter in 2015.
So 30% quarter over quarter?
We’re not looking to build a nice little business. We’re looking to build a very strong, large business that changes the way people run their events.
What do you want the events community to know about DoubleDutch?
If you’re looking for a natively social platform, we’re that company. I would say that the majority of our competitors started as digital events guides and added social elements into the application a couple years after that. But we started with social applications from the very beginning, so the social experience is ingrained in our app from beginning to end. If social and engagement are important to you, along with security and technology performance, DoubleDutch is probably right for you.
If you’re looking for a #1 provider in terms of security and power, we’re that company. We serve a lot of enterprise customers. They’re a large portion of our business. We serve a lot of security providers. They’ve consistently chosen us to be their app provider and we believe it’s a testament to our technology.
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