Yombu CEO (Joe Falit) and CTO (Derek Sanford) at the Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas
At Yombu, one of our priorities is to attend conferences relevant to us as a company that focus on biometrics for a variety of use cases, in particular, in-person payments, access control, and loyalty. In addition to attending conferences in order to position ourselves as leaders in the field of biometrics, we also attend events focused on our target sales markets, including fitness, family entertainment centers (or FECs), and quick-serve vendors (e.g., coffee shops, convenience stores). Attending the right conference, meeting, or networking event can be a great opportunity to connect with other companies in our industry, gain some advice and inspiration from leaders in our field, and even meet directly with vendors and merchants who may be interested in using our product.
As many have noticed, there is not exactly a drought of conferences: in certain high-profile tech areas or "hot" industries, there are conferences every day. How does one choose which to attend? The key to getting the most out of your conference experience is to be a bit choosy and go for events that pertain specifically to your field of expertise (i.e., biometrics in our case) or events that cater to your core sales markets. At these conferences, you can approach potential business partners, hunt for talent, obtain advice useful to your particular business strategy, assess the competition, and/or nurture direct sales contacts.
With this in mind, we have attended conferences like RSPA's RetailNOW in Nashville, Coffeefest in Los Angeles, and the International Association of Trampoline Parks (IATP) Expo in Fort Lauderdale. Each of these conferences represents a specific niche that Yombu is interested in exploring. For example, RetailNOW brings together hardware manufacturers, software developers, payment providers, and distribution vendors, so Yombu's presence gives the company an opportunity to connect with and learn from other companies in the financial technology (or FinTech) arena. Shows like these are also a great opportunity to look for potential future partners that may want to leverage Yombu's technology, as well as reseller organizations potentially interested in selling Yombu's technology to the broader American market.
A similar logic applies to Coffeefest and the IATP. Coffeefest, as one might glean from the name, is a conference for people in the coffee business. Clearly, Yombu is not directly in the coffee business, but a conference of coffee shop owners is an opportunity to connect with merchants whose stores would benefit from the speed, efficiency, and loyalty programs that Yombu's biometric system provides. The same logic goes for the IATP event: any facility that uses trampolines needs a waiver system, especially child-oriented play centers, which generally require a parent to supervise their child. At Yombu, we've worked to develop an all-in-one waiver management and payment system, so attending the IATP gives us the chance to meet vendors who may be interested in that service.
Besides coffee shops and play spaces, another niche Yombu has explored is gyms and health clubs and how they might benefit from a more expedient check-in, retail payment, and personal training session redemption process. In order to learn about how we may interact with vendors in the fitness industry, we've attended a few conferences that explore that sector, such as the 2018 Club Industry Show and Fitness CEO Summit and the Motionsoft Technology Summit. Both conferences are attended by leaders in the fitness and wellness industries, and Motionsoft in particular dedicates itself to exploring new technologies in the industry-a pursuit that deeply interests us at Yombu.
Yombu founder Joe falit speaking at Fairfax Social Media Week.
Besides deciding which particular conference to attend, it's also crucial to ask: what role should one play at each conference? For example, buying a booth can be a great way to make sales connections in the right environment. However, at larger conferences, you run the risk of becoming lost in the crowd, especially if your budget only covers a smaller booth in an area with less foot traffic. One alternative is to obtain a speaking slot-instead of advertising your product, the goal with this is to position yourself as a leader in your industry. Handled well, this can lead to great social media exposure for your company. For example, after Yombu founder Joe Falit spoke at the Money 20/20 Conference in Las Vegas and at Fairfax Social Media Week, attendees in the audience immediately started tagging Yombu on their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.
Of course, it is not lost on us that flying around the country to attend industry conferences represents a financial cost. With this in mind, how does a growing company budget for all these events? One useful tip is to look into getting a grant from development organizations: depending on your area, there may be organizations that are interested in promoting local businesses. In our case as a company in the DC/MD/VA area (or "DMV"), we were able to obtain grants from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) to attend conferences as a means of promoting international business growth for companies in Virginia. Grants like these are an effective, mutually beneficial way of defraying the cost of events.
In a perfect world, founders could attend every tech conference, networking event, and industry dinner out there; but in order to balance responsibilities, it's important to choose conferences and events with purpose. With this in mind, attend events that fit your niche as a company and allow you to form relationships with people who can help your company grow, whether through direct sales, advice, or partnerships. Speaking at conferences can position you as a thought leader in your industry, while other events are a great opportunity to sell (e.g., IATP) or attract investments (e.g., Money 20/20). Nurture relationships in your area; for example, we recently attended Tysons 2050, a community-building event by our headquarters. And finally, be incredibly honest with yourself about the purpose, benefits, costs, and ROI for each event that you choose to attend.