*APAC Heritage Month* Founder Focus
Founder Focus is a “Humans of New York” style spotlight on the human stories behind diverse startup founders, their life experiences and perspectives, the origin stories of their startups, and the path they took to where they are today.
This week's guest: Angus Luk is the founder of EventX, Asia's leading virtual events platform. We'll be discussing everything from pivoting during the pandemic, to the trade-off of in-person, virtual, or hybrid events in different places around the world.
And we're live! Welcome to another episode of Founder Focus. I'm your host Jade Wang and I run the starter program at Cloudflare.
Today our guest is Angus Luk from EventX.
Welcome to the show, Angus. Hello, hello, hello everyone. Yeah, this is Angus.
Before we get started, I just wanted to let you all know that if you have questions for Angus, you can call in your question with this phone number or email in your question to this email address, livestudio.Cloudflare.tv.
This information is also down below.
So all right, so let's get started. So very briefly, tell us about what EventX is.
Okay, cool. So basically we are doing event software.
So in the past, we are doing a lot of like event software that's on site, like event apps, and also maybe for the registration counter, the check-in app, sending emails, event ticketing, a lot of the B2B event solutions.
And in these two years, because of the COVID, so we also doing pivot.
So nowadays we mainly serve virtual events.
So a lot of the events that run virtually, like for example, the career fairs, the trade show, virtual trade show, and some webinars that will be also running on our platform, EventX platform.
So tell me a little bit about what that experience is like.
Let's say an attendee is at a career fair. What do they see?
What is that experience like at a virtual event? Imagine that you are playing some RPG games.
You can simulate, try to go into a booth, and then you will see the exhibitors there.
You can talk with the exhibitors, like the exhibitor side will also talk with you, chat with you, and also having the instant video conference with you as well.
So you can join the virtual conference, just like Zoom, just like on cloud fairs, streaming, and also a lot of business matching that happens in the events.
You can do some pre -matching with the interested topics that you want to meet with the people, interact with the speakers, and also maybe you have some interested company that you want to connect to, you can also request meetings on the virtual events.
Basically, imagine what you can do in a physical event, in a physical trade show, in a physical conference, and then we try to simulate those experiences on the virtual events as well, because of the COVID.
So most of the physical event has been canceled.
We cannot go to a lot of the physical events. But events happen for many, many years ago, and events still happen most of the time.
Now, I would say for this year, for last year, it happens virtually. So I remember when we had a video chat before the pandemic, and we talked about, you had organized these in-person events for big companies like HSBC, and The Economist, and Alibaba, and I have in my notes here, like Cvent competitor focused on APAC region.
Are you still focused on the APAC region, or is there any reason to do that, or just go global and distribute it?
Because if you're attending a virtual event, you can be anywhere, right?
You don't have to fly, you don't have to travel.
Yeah, it's the good thing about Internet, like good thing about the software, I would say.
And currently, we are very focused on Asia-Pacific now. The main reason is for sure that for the software, it actually can happen on US as well, can happen on Europe as well.
But there will be a lot of minor single details for virtual events that happen in different countries, I would say.
For example, I would say for the language, for Asia-Pacific, there's much, much more language, like Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indonesian, many, many different countries, different languages in Asia -Pacific.
I would say this is quite one of our unique propositions, like when we do the products, we try to add much more language support on the platform, so that in Asia, they can have a local language, maybe in Thailand, in Philippines, in Korea, in Japan.
Like Japan is one of the biggest events country, like even for COVID or now in the COVID times.
So they need Japanese as the primary language.
So that's why when we serve the markets, we do the language part.
So that's the first point. And also, the second point is about in Asia-Pacific, I would say in different countries, there's a lot, a lot of localization things.
For example, the second thing is about for some of the payment.
When we do ticketing, like for events, you need to sell the event tickets.
For the tickets, I guess in US, many credit cards, like Visa, Master, many credit cards.
Okay. Now they may be cryptos, but in Asia-Pacific, like each countries, they have their local payment gateway, I would say.
Like for example, Taiwan, in China specifically, like Alipay, WeChat Pay, in Japan, Korean, they have their local payment gateway, like LaiPay, like different country have their own popular payment gateway.
So a lot, a lot of the case, we do need to integrate with the local gateway in order to provide a seamless experience to the local people.
So that's why, like for software, it's kind of like global, but when you need to integrate with the local markets, then there's quite a lot of things that need to be care of, need to be well.
And also the first thing is about China, as I mentioned, like China is a special region, special country, because most of the sites, like US things, like maybe Facebook, maybe Twitter, those things not happen the same in China.
I would say like, for example, a Google map, like on one of our registration form, we have a map to show the exhibition centers.
We are showing Google map, like in different countries, like in Hong Kong, in US.
In China, we do have a different handling, like showing the same location, but with, by Google map, a lot of different handlings we do.
Like actually, for example, in, it's same as Cloudflare.
As I know, like Cloudflare serve the rest of the world, like a single product, but in China, it's a different handling, like a special route that specifically handle the traffics in China.
So I guess in the event industry, it's the same, because single events, but we will have visitors, we will have visitors, exhibitors from China and from outside China.
So we need a product to serve both of it, both of it, single event.
Yeah. So tell me a little bit about, so the virtual event landscape has really blossomed and grown over the past year because of the pandemic, right?
Like I see a lot of, I see a lot of webinars these days and a lot of live stream talks that are throughout the year, rather than focused in one, rapid fire at one event.
And like, can you talk to me a little bit about what the virtual event landscape is like?
Do you think that there's going to be sort of one virtual event platform that will take over the entire industry or will there be room for a lot of different event platforms to specialize in industry verticals or geographic regions and sort of cater to those markets?
So I would say for event industry, actually before COVID, I would say there's still a lot of different payers that focus on, I would say, different things.
Some like, for example, like Eventbrite, they are very focused on like event ticketing.
And maybe for C fans, they're more like very B2B event solutions.
So that's mainly just corporate, like because of the corporate, they demand a lot of like those integrations, those security audits, the compliance.
It's actually a very big market.
And there's, I would say, a very, very big room to serve it in terms of like each product, each company.
Some products, they are very focused on business matching that connects people together.
And some of them, as I mentioned, focus on lots of like event ticketing.
Some of them focus on lots of like conferencing, like video conferencing.
For us, I believe that for event industry, there's some very, very big markets.
And some of them are trade shows. Some of them are webinars. Some of them mainly focus on one-to-one matching the networking.
For us, we are focused a lot of like there's sharing of knowledge and also connecting people together to have the attendee engagement.
Because we think that there's a lot, a lot of topics that we can do in the events.
And the major part, the important part that can make impact is about whether attendee can really make the engagement within the events.
They can share knowledge. They can have their engagement within the attendee -to-attendees.
That's the part that we really want to focus on. Yeah. So tell me, let's talk a little bit about the economics of virtual events versus in -person trade shows like the ones that you've done before.
Like there's multiple parties with all, with their individual perspective and their interests and motivations in this, right?
Because you have the event organizers who are thinking about that, you know, in the before era, they're thinking about venue costs and sponsors and ticket revenue and the upfront risk of, you know, paying for all that and collecting it back in ticket revenue.
We have the interests of the sponsors who are thinking about, you know, the ROI of their exhibit and their lead generation versus how much they're spending on the booth.
We have the attendees who are thinking about their, you know, the travel costs and the ticket costs and whether it's paid by their employer or by themselves.
Can you talk to me a little bit about the advantages and disadvantages on each side for in-person and how the model shifts with virtual events?
Sure, sure, sure. I guess like a physical event and virtual event is really two different experience like for different roles.
And I guess one similarity is about the ROI that you just mentioned and also the impact because I guess for different role, the organizers, the sponsors, the attendees, one similar things or one thing things that even virtual, even physicals, the things that they care the most is actually what they invest.
They need to have the ROI. They need to have the corresponding impact that can bring in after the investment.
So that's the part also we want to very focused on that.
Like for example, like for the organizers in the past, they may need to spend a huge amount of money just for the venue costs, just to rent exhibition centers.
Now, if they go virtual, they could save quite a lot of the monies that they need to rent exhibition centers.
And also they can, because of the virtual events, they can reach a much, much large amounts of people that across different regions, across different countries, like even today, like I'm actually in Hong Kong, you're in the US, because of the virtual events, like this is a virtual conferencing with virtual live streaming, and we could make this event happens.
We do not need to rent the venue centers.
You're in your office. I'm in my office. And this is the- Do you charge differently?
So like when an event organizer is putting on an event, like do you charge them a percentage of the ticket?
Like how does it work? Currently, we don't charge that part.
We mainly charge about the attendees, the event size.
So for example, like whether the event is a hundred people, a thousand people, or 10,000 people.
So because like for bigger event, the reliability is the server cost and the impact that we can bring will be bigger than smaller events.
So that's how we charge.
Yep. And in terms of- One thing I want to mention is about the attendee pass.
Like in the past, for attendee, they need to attend to an event. Maybe in the US, I need to book the tickets.
I need to book the hotels. And maybe we serve a single week to fly to the US to attend a conferencing, to attend a conference.
But nowadays it's totally different experience. I can just spend my days in Hong Kong and there may be one full days, and I can selectively to join different session of the virtual event to pick the most part of the event that meaningful to me.
So I would say it's much, much easier now. But in other words, the content of the events need to be very, very attractive in order for the attendees to stay in front of the computers.
Otherwise I would just go away. I would just- Get a snack.
Yeah, something like that. So I would say with two different challenge, like for the organizers, for the sponsors, they need to make very, very good contents in order to attract the attendees.
But they can reach much, much larger pool of attendees now because of the global things on Internet.
So at the beginning of the pandemic, I had found myself surprised about events like O 'Reilly's Oscon.
It wasn't just shuttering for the pandemic, they were shuttering forever.
Will there be a time when in-person trade shows come back when a lot of people are vaccinated for COVID?
Given the advantages of virtual events, will hosting in-person trade shows come back in the future?
Yeah. So I guess there's quite a lot of events that happen like this, just like the virtual, how to say, the remote working.
In the past, we never do remote working, I guess.
But nowadays, there's quite a lot of the company purely do remote working.
So I guess it's also about the education that people can, the companies, the corporates, when they see the polls and calls about the virtual events, for example, for the polls-wise, for the advantage-wise, it can attract much, much more attendees, much more coverage about that.
So it's two different games. And for even the vaccine, most of the people getting the vaccine, I would say, if you just mentioned about trade show, I would say trade show, likely the first type of event go back to physical.
Because trade show, there's a lot of interaction that they want to do it physically on the events.
For example, when the exhibitors need to solecast some of their products, they want their buyers to get a touch of their products.
They want their buyers to really talk with the, build a relationship, I would say, like they want to meet their buyers, the seller and the buyers.
They want to have a coffee together.
That's the way that they build relationship. And business is about building relationship.
When you get a relationship and most of the business happens.
So it's also one of the things that we keep thinking, how to make this kind of interaction even also happen in the virtual events.
Yeah. We are working on that.
What is the equivalent of that right now? The serendipity and that kind of relationship building.
Do people have a separate Zoom call? Yeah. Currently for our products, I can share one of the thing is because we also think about like when I talk with strangers to a newly people, one thing is we normally talk about the similarity that maybe I first meet you and then maybe I see you are very sporty.
Then I will ask, okay, whether you like doing sports or what kind of sports do you like, do you currently do?
So one of the things that we are doing on our product is we try to have some pre-qualified questions or like we will ask each one of you what you can provide or what you're looking for.
So by having this kind of like pre-fueled question, so I can have a very fast glance through on your profile.
So for example, like Jade, I know that's all you are working on Cloudflare.
You are working on the startup communities, like connecting some funders.
So when I see your portfolio, when I see your profile, when I firstly meet you, I can already have some topics to mention to you.
Okay. Actually, I know quite a lot of funders in Hong Kong.
Do you want to get connected with them? They have their own stories. So I guess they are very good for your live broadcast.
So I guess these are the tactics, those are the things that we're putting into our products to make those leveraging happens similar to the video.
Seems like that would be useful in real life, right?
If you could just, you know, have some kind of augmented reality info sheet about somebody as you're talking to them.
And then you can see on top of each person, okay, what he is looking for and what he can provide.
Then it makes a lot of the conversation happens right away.
It's more easy, especially for those introverts.
It's very difficult for them to kickstart the discussion, kickstart the conversation.
But if you already give them some guidance, like the onboarding guidance when you're playing video games, there's an onboarding for you.
So it can happen on networking, even on events.
Yeah. Do you see a future where there's, so talk to me about a hybrid events.
Do you see a future where there are events that are half online and half in person at the same time?
And how would that work? Yeah, we think so as well.
So I guess for a lot of like, because of the hybrid, we can make events much, much more frequent.
Like in the past, like maybe it's more like a quarterly event, annual conference, annual summit about that.
But currently we can, like I know for Cloudflare, like every day you're already making events, like doing live streaming for different companies.
So in terms of the frequency, it can happen much, much more frequent.
And also there will be some events that need to, still need the physical touch, I would say.
Like for example, those events that have the sensation, I would say.
Like for example, those, we recently have an event, like it's a fur fair.
So it's a trade show fair that selling the fur. So fur, like you need to touch it.
You need to smell it. It's different texture. Those kind of events, I guess, still need physical, because you need to really touch it in order to have the feeling about that.
Maybe some... Or food suppliers. Suppliers, yeah.
You need to taste it. Some of them you need to taste it. About some smell, maybe different like perfumes, trade shows, something like that.
But I guess if you, it's kind of like a mix.
Most of the events, you can have a virtual version.
That one of our mission, one of our vision is we want to make events anywhere and anytime and for anyone.
So because of the virtual, like the physical event can still going on, but we will have another version, like a hybrid version that is hosted virtually.
So it's a place that you can keep history, that you can keep a history of what are the people that I connect.
Yeah, that's what we imagine in the future, what will be happening.
Nice. It's great to hear your prediction for the future.
Now that we have about six and a half minutes left, I'd like to shine the spotlight more on you personally, and also the origin story of your startup.
How did you meet your co-founders? How did you start coding?
Tell me about your history and past. So actually I met my co-founder since secondary school.
So actually I know him as someone for, I guess, more than 15 years already.
So just a quick clarification, secondary school is like high school in the US or?
Yeah. Okay. Yep. So, and then we go to the same university together, studying the same majors, computer science.
And then we live together in the same dormitory.
So we do homework together. We copy each other's homework together.
We try a lot of new things. So there's some competition. At that time, it was the Android application, back to 2012.
So we tried to make some applications and then keep trying different competitions.
And at that time, a lot of the hackathon as well.
So we keep joining those hackathons. And I guess that's the whole thing.
And at that time, we also doing a lot of different projects. Some people, some companies, they will ask us whether we can help them to do some projects, building some websites.
And at that time, we built our own team, a very small team, just a few people, serving different clients.
That's how we started. And then my co-founder, he's very outgoing.
He likes to join a lot of events.
So one time, he mentioned to me that it's very, very stupid that even an iPhone already happens.
But people, when they go to events, they still manually finding a student and then check for your attendance.
And some of them still using Excel sheets to mark your attendance. And they still having a label, a badge, and then physically write down your name and then stick it on you.
But everyone already using iPhone. So it's very stupid. So at that time, we know some code things.
So we think about, OK, whether we can make something to make events better.
And that's how we start. We also make a lot of different try and errors experiment.
The first time, I still remember, we are making a polling app.
In a real event, we want to have the real feedback from the audience.
So at that time, we make a simple website. And then everyone, every audience on that event can join to the website.
And then they can simply click Like or Unlike button.
So if the audience is very boring, like the speaker is very boring, we just click Unlike.
If the speaker is very interesting, like the content is very good, it's very humorous, we click Like.
So we are making that simple application.
That's how we making different application in the events. And eventually, that led to hosting events.
You eventually participated in 500 Startups and other programs, right?
Yeah. How did hacking individual event-related apps lead to EventX?
You mean the 500 or the virtual events? Yeah. How did you eventually form a company after all these independent projects?
The company is because we need to sign the contract with the client.
And the client asked, they write a chat to us.
What's the name of the chat that he's write? So, okay, okay. It's the time that we need to form a company.
So to accept their money, to accept their chat.
That seems very necessary. Yes. Yeah. We also joined, because at that time in Hong Kong, I guess in different countries as well, there's quite a lot of incubation program locally.
So at that time in Hong Kong, there's called Cyberpunk.
It's government-funded incubation programs. At that time, it's quite early.
It's about 2012. And so at that time, we also need an entity to join the incubation programs.
Nice. Yeah. It seems like a lot of times people, certainly I've seen a lot of people prematurely register a company before they have their product put together.
But you guys were, you needed an entity in order to accept money. And that seems the absolute best time.
Yeah. This is also one of the MVP things. You need to make something really working and then you go back to do those missing steps.
Otherwise, if you just registered a company and you need to pay some money, but eventually you don't have any things solid, then you just waste of money.
It is definitely the right order to do things.
And really glad to have your story on the air.
Thank you so much for joining us, Angus. Sure. Sure. Thanks for the time. Yeah.
I appreciate it. All right. Have a good, let's see, good evening where you are.
Yeah. Thank you. Thank you for the time. Okay. Thanks. Bye. See you. Bye-bye. Bye.