TEN QUESTIONS WITH ALEX PATRIQUIN FROM EVENTGEEK
HIVE Ventures recently sat down with Alex Patriquin, Co-Founder, and CEO of EventGeek, to get the inside scoop on how he launched his event management startup. We covered a variety of topics, including how to build an empowering company culture, why industry expertise isn’t always a must-have for a Co-Founder, and much more.
For those unfamiliar with EventGeek, what problem is company solving? And what inspired you to set out to solve that particular problem?
EventGeek is solving the problem of tracking event ROI, which is very hard to track because there are so many different offline inputs, like shipping invoices, business cards and so on. My background is in digital marketing, where it’s comparatively much easier to track campaign costs and results, like cost per click. I can just export that from Google or Facebook Ad Center. At my last company, I realized one day that I was managing $1m ad spend on Facebook and something like $1m on sponsoring events, although I didn’t really know how much or what we were getting for it. That’s when I realized this is a huge problem.
Tell us about your team a bit – why are you the right ones to solve this problem?
I used to think that not having a background deep in event management was an advantage, but now I am not so sure. My co-founders and I are much stronger in digital marketing, user experience and so on. Those skills give us a unique perspective, especially in designing streamlined and scalable technology in the event tech field, which is crowded with half-baked ideas. I believe we’ve developed some innovative products, and that’s validated by our customer testimonials and growth. However, as we do more events ourselves as a company, I am realizing the value of deep front-line experience. Our next few hires will augment our team with this perspective.
You’ve built out a significant presence in Yerevan over the years. What impresses you most about the local technology talent?
The pace of the community’s growth over the past three years has been inspiring. When I visited three years ago for the first HIVE Summit, there were maybe a few dozen startups working at a very early stage. Now thanks to community builders like HIVE, Hambardzum at HeroHouse, Nerses at HyeTech, Granatus Ventures, Tumo and so many others, there is a dynamic, thriving community of hundreds of startups and many of them are on a path of building lasting, valuable technology companies.
Has your product strategy evolved since launch? If so, what drove that change?
We’ve been fairly true (or maybe stubborn?) to our original vision and not done any major pivots. Our most important insights have been in understanding how technology is accelerating collaboration in the enterprise by making information much more accessible. That’s perhaps a fancy way of saying we underestimated the importance of sharing things like reporting with executives. We’re still relentlessly pursuing product-market fit, but we’ve built the foundation and now we’re at a stage where we’re disciplining our product and marketing initiatives around measurable growth.
How do you define your company culture?
We are working on that now and I’ve signed up with an executive coach to help us define our culture. It is definitely oriented around individual empowerment and team collaboration. We just brought most of the team from Yerevan to San Francisco for a week of team building. We also do a weekly “UX Thursday” where we watch screen recordings and take a look at other analytics tools and everybody goes around the video conference room and says one good thing and one bad thing they observed about user experience. It’s a great way to develop and showcase the quality and diversity of everyone’s ideas.
To build that culture, what is one quality you look for in team members?
If I had to pick one and only one quality I would say that we look for a willingness, even a hunger, to improve, both as a person and a skilled professional.
On talent development, how do you elevate people to be at their very best?
We are working more on this right now. I am working with an executive coach to build out a program. So far, we’ve done things like staffing team members on increasingly challenging projects to develop their skill sets. We do regular one-on-ones and try to ensure alignment with people’s personal agendas for growth and the company’s roadmap.
Describe your hardest experience as a startup founder and how you got through it.
Almost running out of money very early on was not fun, but we made it through by sticking to our convictions… and grit.
What was one mistake you made early on that you wish you could take back?
I would’ve started with a much smaller feature set for our product. I didn’t realize the extent to which technical debt compounds. When you’re first starting out, it’s easy to launch one feature after another. As you get more users, data, and feedback, it becomes much harder to maintain that breadth and still make progress. I would start again with a smaller set of features, and then make it even smaller.
For your fellow founders out there, what’s the best advice you received prior to launching EventGeek?
Do more behavioral research. Set up tests and experiments to observe people’s behavior on your landing page, blog, website, product simulation, whatever. Strongly discount verbal or qualitative feedback. Users will say one thing but do another. Be careful with that. Validate your product ideas with engagement, not written or verbal feedback.
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