GoMobile.Pro: Monetizing Virtual Space, And Breaking Out Of The Walled GardenBY: Jon Christian | June 5, 2012
Virtual spaces that interact with real life events have existed for some time. Facebook, which became a web titan plotting the social relationships between people, is one of the most visible. Others have succeeded in commerce, like Yelp, or in trip planning, like Google Maps and Mapquest.
Two entrepreneurs and veteran event planners want to distill the notion down even further, with a virtual space – made possible by increasingly common smartphone use – for attendees, expo vendors, and tradeshow managers that exists simultaneously with a physical conference. And the cache of information gleaned from user actions on that platform, they say, will be eminently monetizable.
“Trade show organizers are hard-pressed to update their model,” said BusyEvent co-founder Brian Slawin, a week after the company launched GoMobile.Pro, his latest attempt at a conference-centered virtual space.
Financially, Slawin and CEO David Schenberg’s idea is that actions by conference attendees have value to a number of parties. In addition to subscription users who use the software to operate events, BusyEvent sees another market of vendors, speakers, sponsors, and other groups who are interested in data. And in the long term, they believe their aggregate data will be of interest to research firms.
Slawin contrasts the model, which he says is inspired by Google’s efforts to collate internet content, with the traditional conference model, which he calls a “walled garden.”
“Everything contained within the walled garden was managed by a single system,” Slawin said. “So what we’re attempting to do is provide tools to any of the participants to discover the information available inside that walled garden, and then based on the actions they take, turn that data into a product.”
Users can opt out of their data being tracked, Slawin said, though he suspects that for the purposes of networking, many attendees may prefer not to be anonymous.
A lot of the action takes place around the idea of virtual booths, which vendors can populate with literature, agendas, and social profiles. And if they’re interested, for example, in which physical attendees also spent time poring over online data, that’s information that BusyEvent can sell.
“Our focus is not on enhancing the number of people who go to your physical booth,” Slawin said. “Our focus is to make sure that anybody who has an interest in your materials has easy access to that.”
Will the virtual sensibility of the platform – which is web-based, so it works on a variety of devices – catch on at events outside the technology community? Slawin says the first event to use the new platform was for Domino’s Pizza in Las Vegas, and they were pleasantly surprised to find that 96 percent of exhibitors and 85 percent of attendees used the software.