Will Smith and Kevin Hart have a backstage at the 2016 MTV Movie Awards at Warner Bros. Studios on April 9, 2016 in Burbank, California.
Wrong Jason Kempin? MTV1415 | Getty Photos for MTV
Xiaoyin Qu has never predicted how relevant his app would be to a pandemic. The former Facebook employee originally set up Run The World, an online events platform, to reduce the barriers involved in attending large in-person conferences.
He got a glimpse of the sudden surge in demand for virtual events in February, as health concerns around the coronavirus outbreak resulted in the cancellation of several large conferences. Around that time, Run The World manages more than $ 4 million in seed funding in a round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.
Today, Andreessen Horowitz returns to a $ 10.8 million Series A round with a California-based company, led by Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund. But some of the new investors are not your typical venture capitalists. Run The World also grabbed the attention of celebrity investors, with venture funds of American actor Will Smith and comedian Kevin Hart joining as new supporters of the firm.
Qu told CNBC that he was connected to Smith and Hart through his investors. “They love the mission of using online events to connect people and build communities,” he said. “Both Will and Kevin are visionaries who create content that engages and reflects people.”
“We believe their guidance can be critical for Run The World to create this new category to engage in online events that the world sees for the first time,” Qu added. He said pandemics, though a source of considerable economic uncertainty, are helping to accelerate a move toward online events.
Another start-up acquisition in the online events space, London-headquartered Hopin, raised $ 6.5 million in a seed round led by Accel in February. This saw a similar boom in demand thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bet on a move to online events
This is a sign of how capitalists and celebrities alike are betting on physical events that are moving online since the Covid-19 restrictions have made it impossible for gatherings. Because companies typically spend thousands of dollars booking flights and accommodation to attend major industry conferences, digital platforms offer an alternative that will help reduce costs significantly. .
“In-person events are canceled every day but people still want and need to connect,” Qu said. “There has been a growing demand and interest from investors and users and, combined with positive feedback, we are not able to walk away from a diverse range of investors.”
While Zoom, YouTube and Twitch provide a platform for companies to broadcast live conversations, they do not offer the same networking experiences provided by in-person conferences. Run The World said it was addressed by features such as the “Cocktail Party,” matching attendees for minutes to hours to simulate the experience of an event in front of a networking event.
The World’s World app lets users host and participate in virtual events.
Run the world
Run The World says it has seen a hundredfold increase in the number of users on its platform in the last three months, even though it has not disclosed the total number of users. The firm’s headcount has doubled to 30 employees in the last two months.
Organizers now host more than 2,000 app events to date, with attendees joining from 40 different countries. Events organized on the platform include everything from a hackathon for developers to build software to help combat coronavirus outbreaks, to a conference for small home enthusiasts.
Talks between Run The World and its investors began in late March and were made entirely through video conferencing, Qu said. He told CNBC that additional cash was “used to scale the business to continue to reach new verticals”
“We believe that the next Nobel Prize winner and Billboard artist will meet at Run the World, and our focus is to continue developing features like the Cocktail Party that will enable rising artists in LA or the researcher in Romania to work with other like-minded people. “