Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect an interview with new CEO Eric Lochner and analysis from Smart Meetings event tech correspondent Brandt Krueger.
Event platform MeetingPlay and meeting management SaaS provider Aventri announced today that they will merge to create a full-service event software company under a new name to be determined in the coming months. The deal, backed by a growth equity investment from Sunstone Partners and Camden Partners, is positioned as a blend of technology and service to close gaps in the planning process and deliver a full-service solution for meetings ranging from 100 people to more than 200,000.
New CEO Eric Lochner, who was previously president and CEO of Steele Compliance Solutions, saw the combination as a benefit for meeting professionals looking for seamless solutions. “We have a strong opportunity to deepen the process of hosting in-person, hybrid and virtual events and are excited to be able to better support meeting planners and event organizers while offering a wider range of products and experiences,” he said.
Lochner has extensive experience in scaling companies organically and through acquisition. He said the meetings industry as one that is in need of a clear leader. “There are some 800-lb. gorillas out there, but a company that offers the value proposition of customer service with innovative technology can leap frog ahead,” he said.
MeetingPlay and Aventri powered a combined total of more than 50,000 events each year for more than 10,000 companies and 7 million attendees. Washington D.C.-based MeetingPlay has been developing its virtual and hybrid technology for more 10 years. Joe Schwinger, co-founder and former CEO of MeetingPlay, shared with Smart Meetings in November that he was focused on enabling meaningful interactive content on all platforms with robust reporting. He will remain with the company in an executive role.
Aventri, which was founded in 2008, had grown into a global provider of data-driven solutions for event sourcing, marketing, registration, onsite technology, data security and reporting. Former Aventri CEO Jim Sharpe will remain a shareholder and advisor to the new company.
The combined company now employs 350 people in the United States, United Kingdom, India and Australia. “Each has different cultures and time zones,” observed Lochner. “Our job is to bring the best of all these worlds together because we are more than just our product, the people doing the work are just as important.”
Combined Solution Set
The two companies will integrate their software platforms to create an array of products to fit the needs of technology, financial services, travel, hospitality, health services and association clients. Lochner sees an opportunity to simplify Aventri’s robust offerings and deliver what he calls digestible solutions with white glove service. “We need to quickly deliver a solution that works for all types of meetings [hybrid, virtual and in-person], automates pre-conference tasks, holds their had during the conference and takes care of everything that comes after,” he said.
- Event Marketing Website and Registration to create a seamless attendee journey from beginning to end.
- Virtual and Hybrid Event Platform using technology to create lifelike experiences for virtual attendees. The platform will provide virtual and onsite attendees with unified engagement features like chat, Q&A, network matchmaking, and video conferencing that enables participants in the same room and across the world to connect instantly.
- Mobile App to boost engagement and deliver ROI metrics, while keeping participants safe.
Last August, event-tech consultant Corbin Ball predicted that the robust landscape of virtual/hybrid companies would eventually be whittled down. “The problem is that there are more than 100 virtual/hybrid event platforms out there—many having started up during the pandemic. Not all will survive,” he said.
Smart Meetings event technology correspondent Brandt Krueger agreed. “I’ve lately started thinking we’re going to see an accelerated growth in the number of mergers and acquisitions this year, rather than a tapering off. I think more companies will be looking to take on the likes of Cvent by becoming “one stop shops” for event management, registration, online/hybrid, audience engagement.”
Some started making their moves last year. Videoconferencing company Zoom purchased contact center technology provider Five9 for almost $15 billion, Intrado (now Notified) acquired event management company Hubb, Hopin acquired Attendify and Cvent Holding Corp. and Dragoneer Growth Opportunities formed a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) to go public.