April 17, 2024

(Air)meet-ing customers to 24X ARR

Breaking down the product and growth strategies that fuelled Airmeet’s ARR growth by 24X in 1 year and led to a user base of 120,000 event organizers.

Aditya Bhattacharyya

Remember life before the pandemic? Pulling into work, meeting colleagues you had grown to like, and capping the day off with a beer or two at your favourite bars. Life was good. 😇

Life was also pretty good for the events industry, valued at $1.1T globally in 2019. Companies lined up every year to engage in speaking events, launch new products at conferences, and these events served as a hotbed for networking opportunities.

Enter 2020. With travel and movement restrictions worldwide, most event venues were forced to close. Rather than halting an industry entirely dependent on face-to-face interactions, organizations are now embracing virtual events.

According to research reports, the virtual events market is expected to be valued at over $400B by 2027 while growing at a CAGR of 23.2%.

This story is about the virtual events platform leading this transition, Airmeet, with a lofty goal of democratizing access to live events.

Build, Validate, Repeat 👷‍♂️

In August of 2019, the three co-founders Lalit Mangal, Manoj, and Vinay, worked together from different cities in India.

They had prior history with one another at their previous real-estate startup CommonFloor (also co-founded by Lalit in 2008), which ended up selling to Quickr for a neat $200M in an all-stock deal 😎.

Looking for the next big thing, the 3 intrinsically knew that remote was the future of work and got cracking to understand the remote working space.

Actual footage of Airmeet team getting ready to dominate virtual events

First on the agenda was to get in touch with people in this field, but events, conferences and meet-ups in this space were hardly organised. They came to the broader realization that all niche topics would have difficulty finding a community. It is communities and events hosted around them that make niche ideas mainstream 🛫.

This led to exploring the “virtual events” space. The benefits of a virtual event were quite clear:

  • Flexible. Not restricted by physical capacity.
  • Cost-effective. For not just the organizers but also the attendees (savings on venue, travel, hotel, food, and other overheads). Virtual events typically cost less than 1/10th that of in-person events. By lowering the cost barrier 📉, Airmeet is making traditionally expensive events accessible to the upstarts.
  • Effortless Analytics. Quickly analyze metrics 🔎 like the interaction level of participants, which speaker garnered a larger audience, etc giving a better sense of the Return on the Event.

The next step was getting validation. In typical lean fashion, they created a low-fidelity mockup and showed it to some potential customers to get feedback.

Getting the green light 🟢, they built a very small 5-6 member team to start development on the prototype. Within a month, they hosted their first fireside chat. What really gave them confidence was when people came out on Twitter calling Airmeet “the future of conferences”. It was time to kick things into high gear.

Picking your Customer Segment 🧐

When the pandemic hit, Airmeet started seeing a lot of inbound across event types, organization sizes, etc. They couldn’t build everything for everyone. The key here was to focus on a specific customer segment and delight them.

So how did Airmeet go about deciding who to prioritize? They chose to focus on what they internally call “Digitally native customers”. These are customers who are extremely excited about the virtual format, because of the possibility of hosting a global audience 🤩.

Identifying these customers was something as simple as the organisers saying, “We’re glad to see people join us from across the globe”, in stark contrast to those who say “I’m sorry we couldn’t meet in person” to their attendees.

How did this work out for them?

  • Their active customers host 2 events every month (for context, events aren’t typically hosted this frequently, 2/month is high)
  • 70% of repeat customers refer potential customers to Airmeet 🤯
Pick the right customer, and you can delight them and convert them into an advocate. - Lalit Mangal, Co-founder and CEO at Airmeet.

Social lounge: A 10X webinar experience 💯

Wait, hold up. This just sounds like people gathering on a video call. Can’t we just use Zoom for these virtual events? 🤔

Well, technically, you can. But there’s one major problem with video hosting platforms. Attendees on these platforms have minimal ways of interacting with each other. The networking aspect of in-person events is completely absent.

Airmeet solves this for community managers & event organizers and provides an experience 10X better than webinars. Airmeet’s “Social Lounge” feature delivers rich networking for an engaging and immersive experience.

The social lounge is where the audience interacts during breaks, before, and after the event. Instead of a bland “Waiting Room”, the Social Lounge helps you spend this time getting to know other attendees and build connections. It looks like a top-down view of a banquet hall. Attendees can choose a table to sit at and even move around tables.

In this way, it simulates interactions between participants and speakers in an offline conference.

Fuelled by an incredible product, Airmeet has grown ARR 24X to $5M in just over 12 months. Here are the key levers powering its GTM engine.

Demand-to-supply viral loop 🔁

Airmeet has an interesting viral loop which is now generating more than 25% of their new users. This loop is a classic case of demand (attendees to events) driving supply (event hosts). Here’s how it plays out.

Airmeet's demand to supply viral loop
Airmeet's demand to supply viral loop

A portion of attendees to these events who love the Airmeet experience and have the need to host their own events sign up on Airmeet, continuing the cycle.

This loop is amplified by Airmeet’s free tier. They’ve made it easy for anyone to get started and host an event. Hosts using the free tier effectively “pay” Airmeet by exposing new potential hosts to Airmeet’s platform.

Evangelising + adopting community-led growth 👨‍👩‍👦

It’s 2022. Everyone is running paid ads and average keyword costs are going through the roof. SEO is not a trade secret anymore. Gmail is becoming smarter and now does a pretty good job at classifying promotional mail. CAC is up across the board for both B2B and B2C companies by roughly 60% compared to five years ago 📈.

Image adapted from Profitwell

Companies are now looking at new avenues to drive the next phase of growth for their business.

Enter community-led growth. For anyone new to the term, here’s the 80/20: The process of finding, adopting, onboarding, and championing software doesn’t happen in a bubble between you and your user. We are constantly getting input from friends, colleagues, and strangers on the internet, and this holds true for buying software too.

Image adapted from: Community-led Growth

Airmeet is in a unique space wherein its platform itself enables other companies to harness the power of a community. It follows quite naturally that they themselves have championed community-led growth and utilize it as a significant growth driver. Here’s how:

  • Product evangelism 😇. Most ardent supporters in their community drive testimonials, case studies and reviews on sites like G2.
  • Demand & Growth 📈. Crowdsource content marketing initiatives, i.e use their community for ideas on content and then distribute that content - ebooks, whitepapers - back to the community.
  • Education 📚. Hosting a series of experts to talk about topics related to community-building and event-hosting frameworks.
  • Customer support 📞. 24X7 support lounge hosted on Airmeet, extensive Knowledge Base documentation to answer queries without the involvement of customer success executives.
  • Product evolution 🧬. Looking to their community for feedback on new features, testing concept ideas, finding early adopters, getting recommendations on product integrations, etc.
  • Partnerships & Referrals 🤝. Community members becoming more active in promoting Airmeet, becoming referral and affiliate partners.

Mastering Monetization 🤑

Most SaaS companies even today have a “set it and forget it” strategy when it comes to monetization.

Airmeet has dug deep into understanding its users to set a monetization strategy that converts customers like clockwork 🕰. Apart from their freemium offering which enhances their viral loop as we covered earlier, here are two more ways they’ve gone beyond the norm:

Pay-per-use 💰

Airmeet finds itself in a space where a number of potential customers haven’t warmed up to the concept of virtual events yet. Also, by nature of being a virtual event platform, the frequency of usage will be low, as most companies don’t need to host events very frequently.

Subscriptions introduce high friction for users in this segment. They tackle this by offering a one-time event hosting option, apart from their regular subscription tiers.

Once they’ve hosted an event and seen Airmeet’s experience, they are likely to come back in the future whenever the need arises again. This offering plays a crucial role in accelerating the market’s awareness of the benefits of virtual event platforms.

Flexibility in seating capacity 👌

Event organizers are typically concerned about paying for the right number of attendee seats. Planning for seating capacity becomes anxiety-inducing. What happens if more people show up than you planned?

Organizers pick a plan with a specific seating capacity (100/500/etc per event) when choosing a subscription. But Airmeet enables flexibility in managing seating capacity afterwards, giving peace of mind to organizers. Yet another example of deeply understanding the needs of your users.

Next in line…➡️

The virtual events space is seeing phenomenal growth with thousands of organizers getting on board this shift in the events industry. To meet this demand, Airmeet raised their $35M Series B round at a $150M valuation in Feb’22.

They also appointed Mark Kilens as the company’s first Chief Marketing Officer, who brings with him a stellar record from companies like Drift, where he served as VP of Content and Community. Prior to Drift, he served as VP of Marketing at HubSpot where he founded HubSpot Academy, helping HubSpot surpass $600M in revenue 🤯.

They’ve set grand goals to hit $20M ARR in the next 12-18 months, and we’ll be following their story pretty closely. 🚀

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