The conference rant
Over the last 4 years, I’ve spoken at nearly 100 conferences (I’m not including client events in that number).
Yes — I’m what you might call a recovering conference ho.
Beyond some ego gratification, I’ve realized that outside of maybe 4 events, these speaking gigs were of nil to negative value to the business of CB Insights.
Negative value in some instances given the time to prepare presentations, travel to events, opportunity cost, etc.
The main reason for this is that most conferences are not content-first.
We’ll dig into that below, but first, you can haz innovation.
The guide to corporate innovation
We released this guide late on Friday, and it has 19 bulletproof strategies for your corporation to look innovative.
It’s highly visual, so if you don’t like reading, you are in luck.
Let me know which strategy is your favorite after you give it a read here.
If you find yourself nodding in agreement as you read this (or perhaps cringing), you should join us at TRANSFORM.
We’ll have exclusive new research and conversations with executives driving digital transformation, growth, and innovation at large companies.
And as few buzzwords as humanly possible.
Prices go up next week as we’ll be < 2 weeks away.
Use the code NoScrubs for $500 off until this Thursday (Nov 15th).
The future is female
Technology is transforming women's healthcare. The first-ever digital contraceptive was cleared by the FDA in August, and this is just one example of how new startups are innovating in the space.
We dive deep into the current state of women's health, the most common conditions affecting women, and the technologies and startups emerging to address them. Read all about it here.
More on conferences: thought leaders galore
The reality is, most conferences disrespect their attendees by putting sponsors on stage.
And these sponsors, who always agree not to do a sales pitch, ultimately do a sales pitch — often dressed up as mediocre thought leadership.
And so if you have actually interesting content, the audience tunes you out because the signal:noise ratio has become so terribly low. (Note: I believe CBI presentations are interesting, but it is of course possible that I’m getting high on my own supply here.)
Yes — the overabundance of thought leaders ruins events, confirming the poll results we released last week.
So how do you get value out of events?
That’s a whole lot of doll-hairs
After SAP’s $8B deal for Qualtrics, we analyzed the deal in a note for our paying clients. We discussed:
Companies that might be the next M&A targets
Where Qualtrics ranks among SAP’s deals
Valuation multiples in the customer experience software space
Industry market sizing for the customer experience management space
We also shared the Sequoia bet that is likely to mint it a huge return given the valuation multiple Qualtrics (which Sequoia also invested in) received.
You can read even more about the Qualtrics acquisition and the 10 largest VC-backed enterprise software exits here.
Conferences: getting value
Of course, some events have a lot of clients or prospects attending, so being there has value if we can organize meetings with them.
It just requires us going with a plan and not wandering around hoping for serendipity.
But I’m not sure we need to speak at the event for this benefit.
We’ve hosted dinners at conferences, and when done properly with planning and strategy and a keen eye on the right audience, they’ve been great.
But again, not sure we need to speak at the event to get this value.
Of course, there have been some events that have been very valuable from a speaking perspective (beyond CBI’s own events). They are content first and have been great for our business. We’ve become a lot better at identifying those. But we've only done 4.
In retrospect, writing more instead of spending all that time on these events would have had a bigger impact on our business — content persists and reaches a bigger audience, so the ROI for us is demonstrably larger.
Just our experience, of course. YMMV.
Give me my money
No one is happy to get a call from a debt collector — but debt collectors' outdated techniques aren't doing them any favors.
We take a look at 20+ startups around the world working to help automate and simplify collection processes.
And one last thing on conferences
We’ve done 5 conferences so far at CB Insights (300 to 1100 people per event). Our 6th one is TRANSFORM at the beginning of December.
Our rules include:
No sponsors on stage (ever)
Journalists moderating sessions to ensure we ask interesting questions
Got rid of panels in lieu of keynotes or firesides exclusively (99% of panels are terrible)
We’ve left ~$4M on the table as a result of not allowing sponsors stage time.
We’re now looking to scale up our events business and so are seeking a GM of Events who wants to build a different type of events business: one built on a foundation of respect for attendees — for their time, their intelligence, and their goals.
If that’s you, we’d love to chat.
The Industry Standard
CB Insights data is the most trusted by those in the industry and the media. A few recent hits.
New York Times. Andrew Ross Sorkin (@andrewrsorkin) discusses how WeWork may have become too big to fail and refers to CB Insights research.
Entrepreneur. Kate Merton (@katherinemerton) reports that healthcare AI startups have raised more funding than any other sector over the last five years and cites CB Insights research.
Axios. Erica Pandey (@erica_pandey) writes about how Big Tech is pushing into the beauty retail market with data and AR technology and references CB Insights research.
I love you.
P.S. The networking app for the TRANSFORM conference will be live soon as well. At our last event, 829 1:1 meetings happened. We expect to break 1,000 meetings this time.
You’ll be able to book time with CBI analysts using the app as well, in case you want to talk business models, competitors, or emerging tech & trends with some of the smartest people in the world.
P.P.S. After you read the Guide to Corporate Innovation, tell us your favorite strategy from it here. So far, we’ve heard from folks on Twitter that they really like strategies 3, 4, 7, and 13.