Three ECs share the story of the virtual events platform born at HBS.
Tell us more about your background and what inspired you to be an entrepreneur.
All three of us came to HBS to start a company—to build something from scratch. We had worked in early-stage companies before, where we experienced the joy of building something from the bare minimum and scaling it through rapid growth.
What is the problem that you are trying to solve?
B2B firms spend 25-40% of their marketing budget on events. Events are an important channel to generate new sales pipelines and accelerate existing pipeline opportunities. While companies spend millions of dollars on events, there is little actionability and measurability that come out of it. This whole problem with B2B events reminded us of the advertising industry in the early 2000s, when the industry was still coasting on its broadcast-model laurels. Back then, online advertising was just 3% of total spend. In 2021, it is expected to reach 50% of total ad spend. That is a massive shift.
This fundamental shift happened due to two key factors: measurability and personalization. Regarding the former, it is now easier than ever to measure the ROI on ad spend by tracking clicks and sales conversions. On the latter, marketers can deliver targeted personalized messaging for each audience persona, yielding better overall conversion rates.
With this global shift to remote forms of interactions, we believe events will go through a similar shift, just like advertising.
What is your solution?
We are building a virtual events platform for B2B companies to host engaging online events with prospects and customers. Not only do we provide a slick UX on the front end to manage various interactions but we also provide rich, actionable insights from the event for marketing and sales teams to better understand their prospects. Thus, we want to help event marketers seamlessly transition to an online world, where they can not only host interactive virtual events but also gather intelligent insights and analytics from the event. Armed with these insights, they are better able to coordinate with sales teams to close more deals more quickly, both during and after the event.
What was the inspiration behind your company/idea?
Prior to HBS, Palash was leading a global revenue team at a digital advertising software company and was closely involved in planning and conducting events. He noticed that they were spending millions on events with their customers and prospects, but they had no way to understand what transpired at those events, how the event impacted their topline, and what they could do to make it better. As a hardcore digital marketer, he saw the clear dichotomy where event marketing still lacked data, insights, and any usable lever to actively influence the sales pipeline.
Who is the team behind your startup?
How did you get started?
In our previous jobs, Kishore and Palash worked extensively alongside event marketers, field marketers, and digital marketers. We have hosted events for our companies and have taken regular 18-hour flights to attend events as sponsors.
But, no matter how exotic the venue or how enticing the speaker panel, it always seemed like once we got back to work after an event, there was always this one question that used to nag our minds: “Was it worth it?”
Sure, we always came back with stacks of interesting contacts and vendors, but is the purpose of an event really just to collect business cards? After all, once the new contacts are uploaded to the CRM, they usually just lie there forgotten. We felt there was a huge potential in online events, not only due to obvious benefits such as cost and reach but also the ability to track interactions about the prospects and customers who are part of the event, which can ultimately help sales teams follow up in a personalized manner and close deals more quickly.
We decided to work on Goldcast full-time after developing a deep conviction about the problem. When we decided to defer the second year, Kishore’s and Palash’s student visas were invalid. Since neither of us are US citizens, we applied for the notoriously rare O1 visa hoping to stay in the US and run the business. In what would now be seen as just another 2020 “pivot,” we decided to move to Canada after our visa applications got rejected the first time. Luckily, it was approved the second time, and the journey began after that.
We are fortunate to be backed by institutional funds such as Afore Capital, Underscore VC, and AngelList Access Fund, and angels, including Sequoia Capital Scouts and CMOs from Coupa, Marketo, and Tableau, Autodesk. With this capital, we are accelerating our “go-to-market” while trying to figure out our product-market fit. Lastly, if any of our readers have worked at B2B SaaS companies—we would be grateful for an intro!
Kishore Kothandaraman graduated from IIT, Madras with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Prior to HBS, he worked in management consulting at BCG and in corporate finance at DaVita Kidney Care. He has deferred his EC year at HBS to continue growing Goldcast.
Palashi Soni graduated from IIT, Kanpur with degrees in Electrical Engineering. Prior to HBS, he worked in product strategy, product management, and growth strategy at several early stage startups. He has deferred his EC year at HBS to continue growing Goldcast.
Aashish Srinivas graduated from Swarthmore College with a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science. Prior to HBS, he worked in software engineering at Meetup and Jet. He has deferred his EC year at HBS to continue growing Goldcast.