This is the first in a series of conversations with founders of Slack Fund portfolio companies to explore their growth stories and their role in shaping the future of work. Slack Fund’s mission is to partner with entrepreneurs to create the next great software companies.
It will change jobs all over the world. In the first article in this series, Jason Spinell, director of the Slack Fund, talks to Hopin founder and CEO Johnny Boufarhat about the startup’s rapid growth over the past 18 months. Hopin platform in summer 2019 and early March 2020, he led a team of six employees. The business grew rapidly. After completing a seed round, Johnny and his team were in the process of redesigning their technology stack to manage on a larger scale.
A small number of organizations used Hopin to host live virtual events, and the platform’s waiting list included 10,000 of the world’s largest organizations. Hopin’s lawsuit exploded. Johnny realized they needed to open the Hopin platform quickly, and the company moved quickly to make this possible for companies that needed a platform like Hopin more than ever. A year later, the company employs more than 660 people. and more than 100,000 organizations around the world organizing events on the Hopin platform. I sat down with Johnny to talk about his journey and see what the future holds for Hopin.
This interview has been edited to be short and clear. Johnny Boufarhat: I started Hopin to connect with others because an autoimmune disease isolated and trapped me, networking, etc. really didn’t work. to create an online networking opportunity that really creates a bond between people. I made the first version of Hopin and we saw a lot of virality. We increased our seed round and officially launched it in March 2020. We grew fast, generated revenue quickly, and had a huge waiting list, but the hurdle was that our initial platform couldn’t handle scaling. We were in the process of rebuilding our systems when COVID19 occurred. Suddenly everyone wanted to use the platform.
We originally planned to release it towards the end of 2020, but instead, we decided to open the platform almost immediately and the virus rate was insane, especially for B2B software. We had to learn very quickly because as a founder I couldn’t offer customer support around the clock, so we started hiring a customer support team. It was the same pattern across the company, so we started hiring new employees faster and faster. The company is completely remote which allows us to find the best talent in the world and bring them up to speed quickly. Today at Hopin we have over 660 employees in 45 countries and support over 100,000 organizers who use the platform.
The steady march of a hybrid future Jason Spinell:
At Slack Fund we have long had this thesis about accelerating the future of work, and you and the Hopin team were the first to believe it. What does the “future of work” mean for you and what role do you think software plays in your setup? Johnny Boufarhat: In my opinion, the future of work could go a lot of different paths, but overall I think people want the flexibility of a hybrid approach. Our first major customer before the pandemic was an organization in New York City. They wanted to reach a global audience and they knew a hybrid event could help them do that. Not everyone in their audience could travel to New York, but they still wanted to reach out to these people, sell them tickets, and develop relationships with them. We firmly believe that hybrid events are the future. Why don’t you want to attract more people to your event? Why don’t you want to make your event more flexible? Back in the office or not, I think companies need to offer a hybrid option. It’s an incredible downside if you don’t have a flexible work environment, especially for employees with family or other responsibilities. I think most will embrace the hybrid if they haven’t already.
Supporting Exponential Growth Jason Spinell:
What long-term impact do you think the pandemic will have on the way we work and collaborate, and what is the role of hopin? Johnny Boufarhat: We’re excited. Not only will we be with the promoters virtually, but also on-site now, with our recent acquisition of Boomset. We want to be the all-in-one platform for event organizers to host an event and have a great experience for attendees, whether it’s physical, virtual or both.
Our mission as a company is to make the world seem smaller, and there is no better way than giving people the flexibility to participate from anywhere.
Jason Spinell: You spoke about the scope and flexibility that hybrid work has made possible. But what challenges do you think companies have to master or address in order for hybrid work to be successful? What tools do you use at Hopin to help you with this?
Johnny Boufarhat: There are so many great products. Years ago, you could not have run a remote business as efficiently as you do today. Today I think there is an advantage in being a hybrid company because of the tools available. We use tools like Slack, Notion. , and Loom and of course Hopin to work and work together asynchronously.
They allow the world to work wherever they want. At Hopin, our big remote control trick is to have a vibe team.
It is a team of ten who sit within our people organization and are responsible for everything that has to do with bringing people together. You are incredibly important. One thing they are responsible for is our hands-free meeting, which a lot of people at other tech companies are scared of. But we run ours like a TV show – the content is amazing, we use StreamYard to create super high production value, we produce features with different devices, we play games with integrations that we have built into Hopin. Production: You work for three or four days at each meeting. Your responsibility doesn’t stop there.
They host all of our in-house events, bring great speakers, and streamline tools like Slack by adding new integrations to keep people more engaged. All of these things improve the environment at Hopin and ultimately our corporate culture. We conduct regular surveys to measure employee satisfaction in the company, which according to our last two surveys was above 90 °, above the average for SaaS companies, which is usually between 50 and 70%.
Jason Spinell: We saw a boom in virtual events last year driven by the impact of the pandemic, but even as companies begin to think about a return to the office and the future of hybrid work, we continue to see strong momentum in events. What’s next for the virtual events industry, especially as the world moves towards the resumption of personal engagements? Johnny Boufarhat: The main focus is on building a bridge between online and face-to-face. We’re digging deeper and deeper to add more features – we’ve improved the registry and just rolled out a website builder for event moderators. We are also building the Hopin platform to be an all-in-one platform for event management.
Most recently, we acquired Boomset, a leading provider of on-site event solutions, to add world-class on-site event technology and services such as badges, self-service kiosks, and follow-up management. We are excited to be Hopin users yet to offer more meaningful information for your events, whether personal, hybrid or virtual. Move around quickly and submit cool features that our users will love. An example: Our mobile application enables people to connect virtually, regardless of whether they are physically or virtually at the event.
Create that double connection – they can see what people are saying, interact with everyone else, see who is at the event, and more. It’s a very useful way to connect whether you’re attending the event physically or virtually. Jason Spinell: What customer requirements do you meet? What new features and functions has Hopin been focusing on lately to take virtual events to the next level?
Johnny Boufarhat: We’re already a multi-product company. We have event marketing support for events. Promotion, our virtual venue for virtual events, SteamYard for production and immersive live broadcasts, Jamm for collaboration and now Boomset for on-site technology and tools. Our customers’ desire for easy event management drives our mission to be an all-in-one platform. it’s pretty fragmented. A customer can purchase their event registration platform from one provider, an on-site registration solution from another, and so on. They typically use five or six vendors, but there is the option of an all-in-one platform and that’s where we come in by offering a seamless solution that includes virtual and on-premise technology and services.
Let Your Ego At The Door Jason Spinell:
When thinking about your journey, what’s the most important piece of advice you would give to a budding entrepreneur or founder? Johnny Boufarhat: Oh so many things, it depends on where you are in your journey. At the beginning of your journey, it is very important to really believe in yourself. Often times, the difference between someone who is raising money or winning their first customer is hard work and trust.