A number of companies have tried to crack the problem of having an app at a business conference which allows you to connect to the people around you, see the agenda and make business connections. So it’s encouraging to see the official launch today of Bizzabo on the iPhone and Android, but which – crucially – provides a self-service web interface for event organizers. It’s that last part that’s key here. We’ve seen CrowdVine and Presdo (both of which I have never warmed to, and now feel old-fashioned) do this for events, but after demoing Bizzabo I can confidently say it’s one of the best conference apps I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a few, because it makes that link between the event organizer and the people around you.
I think Bizzabo’s closest contender might be Oleapark who will now be watching this Bizzabo with interest as will Shpare. Among other contenders there is Schmooze, which is pretty good but still needs more conference integration.
Eventasaur.us is a great web app but guys, where is the mobile app? And Yasmolive went into more of a service business alas. If you’re in Russia you might be using Omyconf. Then there’s the clever Lanyrd, but it doesn’t do the location-based networking thing.
Meanwhile mostly people at events have been using apps built for more general location-based networking like Highlig.ht, Sonar and Ban.jo, or ones built with LinkedIn in mind like Intro. Not ideal.
But still, I’ve not seen an app that is really deeply integrated with a conference I go to, outside of apps built bespoke, such as the Le Web app from Mobile Roadie. And who wants to download a brand new app for every conference they go to? Not me.
First up, the entire Bizzabo service is free because they want to built traction first. An event organiser from anywhere in the world can add an event and create a mobile social network for their attendees. It’s been trialled a lot in Israel where it’s become quite common and is the official app for the MLOVE conference in Berlin this week.
The app cross-references your LinkedIn profile with other event attendees and identifies who will be the most beneficial contact for you. Attendees can message each other inside the app and it keeps a database of people you met at each event – very handy. Plus you know when you got a LinkedIn invite from within the app, so you can put faces to names from the event you just went to. It may even revitalise my use of LinkedIn, which I barely visit these days.
Conference attendees can network on the app before the event but then check into the physical location of the conference. That way you can tell who actually made it or not. Event organisers can set a private code for people to use the app to prevent others from ‘virtually’ attending. If the code gets shared to people not at the event, then you just look at who has physically checked-in to sort the wheat from the chaff.
Event organizers can enter the agenda and speaker profiles of their event. Crucially, organizers can change the event timing and content and send push notifications to attendees. This could be a godsend for event organisers who just know the event will run over-time. In fact, it’s a killer feature.
But there’s more.
An “Offers” feature (available in the iPhone version) allows exhibitors or sponsors to create Groupon type offers and generate business leads. This sounds to me like their potential business model. They could do rev-shares on this basis once they have scale. And in theory sponsors could send messages only to CEOs or to target groups. Quite powerful.
Plus, event analytics and polling features will be released in the near future. There go all those dumb feedback forms – real data is what events organisers need.
Founded in 2011 by Eran Ben Shushan, Alon Alroy and Boaz Katz, Bizzabo is seed funded by angel investors and Jeff Pulver, the serial entrepreneur and founder of ‘140 Conf’ event series.