Sources say Web Summit, the giant tech conference company that specialized in very large gatherings in cities like Lisbon, is poised to spin out its Hopin-like proprietary conference software as an independent startup. Although it’s put out a statement today that it will be licensing its software to the United Nations Development Programme, I've spoken to well-placed sources who say the platform will be spun out as a separate company and will raise venture funding, the context being that similar virtual conference platforms have already achieved million and billion-dollar valuations. A spokesperson denied the claim.
The software -- which was first showcased at Collision in June 2020 and played host to 104,000 attendees at Web Summit in December 2020 -- was initially designed to complement networking at physical events, but was flipped to work online after international travel was restricted for businesses and companies worldwide as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The United Nations Development Programme will be the first customer to run Web Summit’s conference software for its event -- Istanbul Innovation Days, March 23-25.
Paddy Cosgrave, co-founder and CEO of Web Summit said: “We’ve agreed to run an event in March for the UNDP on our platform. We couldn’t imagine having a better first customer. It’s been a long journey, and we’ve taken it slow, perfecting the software over years. We’re in no rush for new customers, and we will take our time. In 2022, we hope to partner with other great events.” Speaking to TechCrunch, he denied the platform was to be spun-out.
However, our sources say investors are circling around the software platform in light of the recent valuations of the likes of Zoom and Hopin, with the latter recently achieving a valuation of between $5 billion and $6 billion after its recent $400 million Series C.
The potential move by Web Summit comes at an interesting time for the virtual events space.
Although Hopin’s valuation has soared, Zoom's valuation has been called “impossible to justify”. And the huge growth of Microsoft Teams could hurt Zoom's business as well.
That said, specialized virtual conference software is doing well, as we’ve seen with the recent $14 million funding of Spatial and others.
Web Summit says it will return to an in-person conference in November 2021, in Lisbon, Portugal.