PODCAST EP 71
Simon chats with Isabella Villani, Company Director and Chief Customer Officer at Exceed Global.Listen Now
IVvy is an enterprise sass technology company that is disrupting the hospitality, meetings and events market with their club base technology that’s automating the event processes.
You can contact Lauren Hall here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laurendhall/
Simon Dell: So, welcome to the show, Lauren Hall. I think you are possibly my first South African-accented person on the show. Welcome.
Lauren Hall: Thank you, Simon.
Simon Dell: Let’s give everybody the quick 60-second elevator pitch about who you are and what you do.
Lauren Hall: Thank you for having me. I’m the CEO and founder of iVvy. We are an enterprise SaaS technology company that’s disrupting the hospitality, meetings and events market with our account-based technology that’s automating the event processes of organizing an event online. We currently have 55 staff. We are operating out of 7 countries and we’ve built a global company that’s now servicing over 13 countries.
Simon Dell: Awesome. And I looked at the website. It’s a great little website, and it’s kind of structured like that sort of… It’s got a bit of an Airbnb feel to it in terms of you can search straight away for venues and things like that. Were those kind of platforms an inspiration or ideas that you took for yours?
Lauren Hall: No. They actually haven’t come to market when I started. iVvy’s journey was probably, it’s been in the making of 10 years. The original start of iVvy really was home-grown out South Africa when I was really thrown into the events industry by default. I had a digital agency and brand technology company, and people would say, “Oh, you’ve done that so well. Can you just take it to market, do the event and launch it for us?” And I thought, “Well, how hard is an event?”
Well, I certainly felt the pain when I had teams of people trying to organize and get a hold of venues to find out if they were available on the date that we needed to have the event. This literally backwards forward process would honestly take weeks because everything was so manual. And I set on a path to really change it and to take that process of six weeks to six minutes. And in order to achieve that, we actually had to write all the technology that sits at hotels, and restaurants, and casinos, and convention centres to become the actual operating system so that we could actually expose the live availability rates and inventory. So, I could actually serve it up to meeting planners who were actually looking to be able to book a venue, because most of the industry was riding a bicycle and we were delivering a Ferrari.
The challenge is when you have everything manually and all these legacy, old systems where nothing connects to the buyer who today sits online, it’s an enormous process. But we’re very excited. We’ve done some amazing things. We’ve got thousands of different properties across our platform utilizing our technology, and we really are disrupting this space and helping bring it together because it’s such a highly fragmented market that’s really long in the making for an overhaul.
Simon Dell: We’ll come back to iVvy a little bit later on. You’re doing some fantastic stuff there. I want to take a step back because I have a bit of a fondness for South Africa. My grandparents used to live in Port Elizabeth for years. And to be honest with you, it’s sad that I only went there when I was very young and never managed to get a chance to go back. But I think the most interesting thing for me was you have a technical programming background as well yourself. I can see that you were doing, right at the early stages, computer programming in South Africa in 1989.
Lauren Hall: Yeah. Those were the days: COBAL programming, Visual Basic.
Simon Dell: Do you have an idea of what that was like? Number one, in that kind of level of computer programming in 1989, but also doing that in a country like South Africa in 1989 as well, which was… There was a lot going on.
Lauren Hall: It’s scary. It shows my age, I’ll have you know, Simon.
Simon Dell: Sorry, I should’ve said 2009. There we go.
Lauren Hall: Yeah, that would be nice. No, look, the reality is I left school really wanting to understand business and application software. I went into studying programming for three years, that it was really mainframe technology. Client technology didn’t exist at that time, and the reality you had to actually… It was binary coding. To be honest, I talk too much to be a coder. I realized that three years in, that doing engineering, and auditing of systems, and actually that I was better at accounting, because numbers was one of the real areas of my expertise. I ended up finishing my accounting qualifications and was starting to build businesses.
But it was interesting because you certainly know what your strength is like as you develop through not only your educational side but when you’re actually going into companies and building them. I always knew that somewhere along the line, my journey would lead to building technology because it was one of the areas of strong interest for me. I suppose I didn’t realize, really, that it was going to take me 40 years and 5 companies to actually get to that point where I’m actually globally changing industry through technology.
But it certainly started out there, and I’m grateful for the fact that I actually had some of that background. Because certainly, my ability to approach problem solving was coming from that real analytical side, where you actually have to have that when you’re programming. And even from an accounting perspective.
Simon Dell: What was their score that made you want to understand computer program? Was there a trigger somewhere? Because, again, back in 1989, there can’t have been that many computers about and things like that.
Lauren Hall: I think I’ve always been ahead of the curve. I think that that’s been one of the things, my background… I started working very young. And I think I had one of these very high, powerful fathers that had been… Giving you some background and context around that is that I’d actually emigrated from South Africa when I was a young child to the US. My dad was head hunted by a very big hospital company in the medical fraternity to head up a large public-listed company out of Chicago. And he happened to have been a managing director of Johnson & Johnson at the time in South Africa.
So, he was somebody that obviously played a very enormous role as somebody that not only led really big companies. But also, I aspired, obviously, as this strength in business side. But where I felt from a computer programming side is that every time I’d enter into different business environments, I found things that needed to be solved. Whether it was in manufacturing, whether it was in product manufacturing as well, not only from product design, but even the creative of strategies and design where there was just so many limitations to people being able to be productive because current systems didn’t allow for good solutions.
And I think that through my journey of going through building different types of companies, because I’ve built five, one being manufacturing, another one brand in digital, another one in pharmaceuticals, and another one in fast-moving consumable goods, perhaps developed over 4,000 lines of product. Every single one of these different businesses really built up my skill set and also enhanced my capability to look at problem solving and address them differently.
That really led to building my original platform in South Africa where I recognized this huge problem that wasn’t a local problem but a global problem, and I set on the path to build the first real-time meetings and events platform which, realistically, it was enormous. I had this enormous demand for a solution where, ultimately, when I built it, it really can scale for the demand side that I had. And I had to actually re-engineer it.
At that point in time, I had bootstrapped that company for over $3 million of my own cash. I’d pretty much put my house, and clothes, and everything. But during that, what was really important was the fact that this definitely was a pivotal moment when you’re building a company and you know that you’ve got to deliver something for scale, and you hit a big stumbling block. That is enormous in any entrepreneur’s life.
Firstly, I’d ran out of cash. Secondly, I had a platform everybody wanted and I couldn’t deliver it, and I needed to go get more money. So, what happened is, I went to the Industrial Development Council in South Africa. And as you know, at that time, this was now 2006 where South Africa was under ANC rule. Very, very had for women like myself to get funding because we really are at the bottom of the food chain with the Black Empowerment Act.
Anyway, I’d set the benchmarks really high on their assessment levels. I had built the code. I had all the validations. I had huge demand. So, I was awarded $10 million from the South African government to re-engineer my platform for scale. At that point in time, two days later after being notified that now, they were obviously giving me this grant, I was then notified that I’d been accepted into Australia to move my young family and myself over. And that was a huge choice, because one is the fact that my background is the fact that at the age of 23, I witness my father’s brutal murder. We were attacked and tortured as a family, so it was a planned hit on my whole family.
Which obviously, when you go through these really traumatic experiences, your views around the world and your views around life and money change dramatically. At the same time, I was a victim of another two terrible crimes. But when it came to making that choice, it wasn’t a choice. I chose life. And two weeks later, I got up, took my kids, got on an airplane and left South Africa. I actually walked into Australia with no money, no job, no network, and I landed up on the Gold Coast. Not Sydney, not Melbourne, but what I had was freedom. I had freedom and I knew that whatever I had built in South Africa, I could build anywhere in the world, and I started again.
Simon Dell: And certainly, what you did in South Africa there, for people that don’t know you, and as you’ve said, you’ve built a lot of companies, give us… I’m kind of interested to understand. You’ve built marketing companies, manufacturing, and all those kind of things. What are some of the core things that you think that you would do when starting a company now? If you were starting all over again, what’s day one for you?
Lauren Hall: I think the first thing you have to look at is you’ve got to determine: Is there a need for your solution? You’ve got to work out: Is there a problem? Is there a pain point that people would be prepared to pay for? Because that is actually quite key to success. Because if there is no demand for a product because there’s no pain being felt, then the ability to sell what you want to sell will be so much harder than being able to deliver something that actually eases either process, or they cannot get a product, or it’s a service that’s being delivered. You definitely need to address what problem you’re solving, and what your solution delivers in terms of value proposition.
So, when you’re starting, and I think that that’s really important… When I started iVvy, I did an entire market research analysis. I appointed a third-party company and I went and interviewed… Because we were building a platform that would enable live availability of inventory for function space, meetings, restaurants, but also the whole supply chain which would include entertainers, caterers, photographers, speakers and the like, I took a cross section of all of those different industry verticals.
We interviewed five people across every different decision maker and we built a full research document to determine firstly whether the industry was ready for a second, whether there was an opportunity that people would buy it. All the questions that you would need to go to analyse: Is it worth investing in to build it? I think that’s actually a really important part of anybody’s journey when they are building a company. Understand the problem. Find a solution that can solve it. Research your market. Understand what is your addressable market and market size, and what you need to be able to capitalize that journey with in terms of capital to deliver that solution to market.
Simon Dell: When you’ve assessed all of that, what are some of the basics that you would be doing to market yourself? Again, just talking to you for 15 minutes, I can imagine that you, in a room, selling something to somebody isn’t a problem. I’m sure you’ve got that sales patted down completely. But obviously, you’ve got to get in front of people first. Especially those manufacturing companies and those marketing companies in South Africa, how did you get awareness about who you were and what you were doing? Because back then, there was no Facebook ads, there was very little Google ads, and things like that.
Lauren Hall: I suppose my first manufacturing company was… I was in the martial arts industry. I used to compete for taekwondo for South Africa. I was on the national team competing in the world championships around the world. And one of the things I did, because South Africa was under sanctions at the time, as an athlete, I couldn’t get access to products that were of international standards for us to be able to compete and level the playing field.
So, I sought out a manufacturing company, manufacturing martial arts equipment, and clothing, and I used to blow moulds at the things. I’d make everything from scratch. And by doing that, I leveraged a bit of my reputation within the industry. Because I was competing on a national side, it was a totally different approach to where you would use technology today because there was so much face-to-face. There was appointments setting. You had to be really, really determined to get in front of people.
I’d get out into where the big major competitions were. I would then put up stands and I’d stand and I’d man them myself and with one of my team members. I would actually sell product directly there. I targeted. I understood what their product requirements were, and I built the best product for that market that would allow that from a solution, and basically bringing that into the market where they had the best of breed product.
But in doing that, and you look back in time, without technology, without any of the social media platforms that people have today, marketing is a completely different approach. You definitely have to have a lot of face-to-face calling, setting up meetings. You’d have to be very visible in the areas where people would come together. And whether that was in the meetings industry, whether that was in the pharmaceutical industry, you have to be present where your audience is present. That meant a lot of different approaches to getting your brand, getting conversations going, and getting a sales process that would make it possible for you to be able to grow your business.
One of my companies I had as a pharmaceutical, I was one of the largest retail suppliers into every single retail chain around South Africa. That gave me a platform to develop any type of product I needed because I had such strong relations with all the buyers. I’d travel around the world. I’d develop product for them and then I’d push it into retail. Once you’ve got a platform that you can deploy product in, it makes it a lot easier for you to be able to grow those line outs. Typically, that’s why I developed over 4,000 lines.
When it comes down to marketing between marketing those years ago to marketing today, people have so much greater opportunity to get visibility on brand, get conversations, and build audiences of followers, to be able to get engagement, and actually measure the impact socially, which you couldn’t actually do then. When you target your marketing, one of the things that’s also important about is ROI, your different channels of distribution, your different target markets, and where people are engaged, and how they shop, and how they buy. And because everything is moving three swipes and you want to be able to make a purchase, all of our buyers are online.
And you have to focus your strategies, today, around being digital but also being engaged. Because pushing stuff out on social media, unless you’ve got good calls to action, unless you’ve got content that people actually want to read… People are bombarded with 11 million messages a month, and that is enormous. You’re fighting for position all the time. Whether you’re working on SEO, SEM, you’re constantly having to restrategise your position in the market.
That means you’ve got to constantly think ahead of your competitors. You’ve got to make sure that all your keyword searches are being done well. You’ve got to make sure that when you’re starting to build visibility, you can do backlinking, and when you get PR, help build those links to drive traffic to your website. Your strategies are all different today as they were then.
Simon Dell: I can imagine the strategies that you use when you started iVvy versus where they are today have changed as well. SEO has changed. Pay-per-click has changed. Social media, back when you launched iVvy, was still in its infancy. What works best for you today from an ROI perspective? Where do you find the best bang for your buck?
Lauren Hall: I definitely think SEO from a cost perspective is more effective than PPC. If you build really good search capability and you can rank yourself up on search higher than having to pay for those positions in terms of… Every single time somebody clicks, you’re constantly competing against particular words on search. You’ve got to be able to really think through, and you’ve got a lot of word to continuously do to maintain position and to get yourself… It takes at least six months to get up onto the first page, and that’s still having a fairly hefty investment in SEO.
But what we find is the fact that it’s not a single facet. You have to have a multi-faceted approach to marketing today. You’ve got to look at not only your digital SEO and SEM, and with that, your remarketing, and your tracking and building lists. You’ve got to be able to have database marketing tools to be able to capture that data, to be able to promote and talk to those users. You also need to be able to have chatbots that can help engage people on answering questions.
You also need to look at things that are really important from a communications perspective on content. You need to spend time writing things that are meaningful, that are measurable, that from a PR and a market perspective, that drive the value of exposure that brings an audience. At the same time, you’ve also got to look at strategies that, from a referral perspective, when you’ve got customers; if somebody else can open doors, share different links within different teams.
LinkedIn’s obviously really important in terms of professional side. But now, as new tools come up where people look at different markets… You’ve got to look at WhatsApp and you’ve got to look at WeChat when you’re into international markets. Because Facebook and all those other tools, Instagram, don’t necessarily cover those markets. Therefore, every market that you enter, you have a different strategy to approach where the major buyers are. You’ve got to do a deep analysis around: Where are they? How do you get to them? And what best strategies serves your approach to be able to communicate and engage with them?
Simon Dell: I just want to touch on SEO because it’s such a massive issue for a lot of businesses, and a huge amount of businesses don’t really understand it. Is that something you taught yourself over the years?
Lauren Hall: No. I think it becomes part of you having to understand web and CMS systems. My business partner, James, is a tech expert as well. We spend a lot of time on digital and getting measurability. I’m a numbers person. I want to make sure that I get ROI for every dollar I spend, and I want to know what we’re doing, and we map out key words. I’ve got good teams that run from a marketing perspective as well as from a technology perspective. You just become professional at it because you need to understand it. Every dollar that you spend, driving it into particular marketing strategies, you need to make sure that they’re measurable, and they’re effective, and you’ve got good ROI on it.
Simon Dell: How many people, just out of interest, would you… And you’ve got 55 staff. How many people would you have in the business working on something like SEO specifically, and then marketing generally?
Lauren Hall: I’ve got five in my marketing team, and I have another team on SEO. We’ve got multiple teams on SEO. We work with external parties as well, working on doing our backlinkings because we work in international markets. We need to have IP addresses set offshore of Australia. Therefore, ultimately, when we’re building our SEO and our websites, it’s all about the backlinking. It’s all about making sure that the keywords on search within those markets are mapped back to those sites.
But there’s a lot of work that goes into that. You’ve got to mind that road. And it’s constantly evolving. What you’ve got to do is you’ve got to watch your rank movement and where you’re losing your positions. You might find that some words become more and more competitive than what they were even a month prior because there’s more and more competition coming into the market on it. Therefore, you’ve got to find new ones. That’s constant analysis, and it’s constant keeping up with it to try and drive position.
Simon Dell: Just out of interest, what are you using for that analysis? What tools do you guys use from a software perspective to measure your rankings and things like that?
Lauren Hall: I probably have to ask my co-founder because he works really heavily on that in my marketing team. But what we do is there’s a lot of tools that people use on the digital side for deployment of content like your HubSpots. We have scheduling tools that we utilize which automate some of those processes. You’ve got response solutions, once you deploy and you measure your ROIs. We actually have multiple technology solutions.
But when it comes down to SEO, we actually work with the guys on the ground that are actually providing the reports and analytics. You can go into your Google Analytics account anyway, and track all of your keywords, and see where you are in terms of setting your goals, and funnels, and your acquisition and conversion strategies. Google plays an enormous role in giving you an initiative on SEO.
Simon Dell: Do you look at that yourself personally?
Lauren Hall: I do, yeah.
Simon Dell: I ask that simply because a lot of founders, CEOs, wouldn’t do that. It’s interesting to hear that you, at that level, still take an interest in those kind of details.
Lauren Hall: I do because it comes down to, for me, I want to know what’s working, and I want to know what’s not, and what we need to do in improvement. That’s why we have weekly management meetings. I have meetings with my marketing team to work what’s working, what’s not, and devising new strategies. I’m very much a strategist, and I think that’s where, hopefully, input I provide to the team, and the team will then deploy things that are meaningful and can help deliver better results. There’s a lot of test and measure that goes on. It’s never a straight line. Because constantly, the algorithms with Google are changing. There’s so many different things that constantly shift. That’s why you have to have a dedicated team for it.
Simon Dell: What have been some of the biggest roadblocks from a business and marketing perspective for iVvy, things that you’ve come across in the last 9 to 10 years?
Lauren Hall: I represent a minority in my industry. I’m a female-led tech company that’s building a global business out of the Gold Coast, which is quite rare to find. Secondly, I think the decision-making process and the industry I operate in, hospitality, is male-dominated. Therefore, it’s so important, as a woman, to build credibility with the technology that you build, trust within the market… It takes time. Once you’ve built that, then people will begin to back you. I think that’s one of the things that’s quite hard. I think people don’t realize how challenging that can actually be.
But as you build a good team, and I think that’s the essence to success, it’s about the team that you have that help you deliver the results. Some of the blockages I think also, as a female, raising capital, and particularly in the tech space is really hard. It takes an enormous amount of resilience and perseverance. Only 2.5% of women are funded worldwide. That is a shocking statistic, as there are some brilliant companies out there that are women-led companies that actually deserve funding because they can be really successful given the right amount of capital.
Simon Dell: I was reading all the other awards and bits and pieces that you’ve won out there: Best Innovation: Digital Economy, the mayor’s award, and all those kind of things. Are those kind of things awards that you chase or are they nice to haves? Is that something that you do for personal pride?
Lauren Hall: There’s two parts to that. When you win awards, your ability to be respected within the market that you operate steps up a notch. I think that people recognize you that you’re actually serious, you’re not just some fly-by-night. I feel very privileged that when I’m the recipient of those awards, that I’m receiving it on behalf of my team. It’s not a single woman’s show; it’s an entire team that are making all of it possible. Because I lead the charge, and it’s been my dream to build this entire global distribution system for the industry, it comes with incredible dedication and commitment of the amazing team that I have.
But winning those awards, what happens is people… They go, “Oh, you’ve won Businesswoman of the Year” or your nominated for Telstra. It is a form of validation that not only from an innovation and disruption, but from a credibility and a trust perspective that people build with you when you are winning awards. If you were not winning them and you were not a serious contender, it’s easy to disappear in the market that you operate in, where people… It’s so much harder for you to get through doors.
The more publicity you have, the more successes that you can show, the more that you are recognized in innovation and entrepreneurship, those are things that people look at and go, “Well, can I break the glass ceiling? Can I pave the way for other future women? Can I, by doing these things, use iVvy as a showcase for change?” Those are the things that really inspire me to do what I do every day. I get up for that team. I get up for the voices of people that don’t have a voice. I’m very privileged to receive them.
Simon Dell: You talked about hiring a good team and hiring good people. What makes a good team member for you in iVvy, and how do you find them?
Lauren Hall: I look at attitude. If I’m hiring somebody, I want to know that they can fit in, they’re a team player, they’re all-in, that they would be somebody that’s not a 9 to 5 or somebody that is prepared to go the extra mile. I actually assess their non-skilled first, then I assess their skills. Because some things you can teach, some things you can’t. Attitude goes a long way to building a culture within your organization around a can do, I’m happy to pull my wake. Everybody gets in. Because when you’re building a startup, you need people that are not just driven by a job, they’re driven by purpose. And that makes an enormous difference around the type of people that you employ.
At the same time, when you look at the level of skills, you also want to really deeply analyse their ability. If they were in sales, were they high performance? Have they got a good track record? Have they stayed long enough in their jobs to push through barriers, that they’re not just being a job hopper? These are the things that I look at. Because when I’m investing time and money into training, and getting my other team members to educate, and to get them really to market, we invest an enormous amount of time and dollars. We want to make sure that that person’s right.
I’ve made plenty of mistakes, thinking that the people that I have approached or employed who have had these amazing CVs, that we’d actually work out. Well, I go through a 10-point due diligence checklist not only on attitude. I have multiple staff members interview. Even if I’m doing senior leadership, I will profile them. There are tests that you can do that are psychometric that you want to do, because you want to analyse their ability to communicate, how they lead, how they are involved. These are the things that are really, really important in building teams.
If you don’t have that right person, that team can fall down. Leadership is absolutely critical. Execution… A lot of people in sales are not really good in detail, so therefore, people that are in the account management side have to be detailed, and finance have to be detailed. You really scope people very appropriately for the role that you’re recruiting. And when you build the right people that tick a lot of those boxes, the cohesiveness of your team is much better, where you can try and reduce conflict. It’s easy to get bad apples in your team as well, which can cause rife, but you need to move them out quickly if you do.
Simon Dell: The other question I was going to ask you is: One of the challenges, when you read the Airbnb story, one of the challenges is that they… Obviously, people, when they were trying to rent out their rooms, and homes, and things like that, were posting terrible photos and Airbnb… The story goes that the first couple of years, they went around and took all the photos themselves. So, they were staged properly. Do you have any problems convincing the venues to be on the platform, or are they resisting to be posting stuff on there? Would they prefer people went direct? How do you tackle those kind of challenges?
Lauren Hall: I think there’s two parts to that. Visuals, people are all visual. People want to buy through imagery. Your photographs have to be really good. Because when people want to look for… Firstly, when somebody is saying, “Well, I’m looking for a venue for 500 people on the 18th to the 20th of November with three breaks, $100 a head, and I want it in North Sydney, and I don’t want prawns on the menu.” You want instant availability. So firstly, you’re going to search by criteria.
Secondly, whatever comes up needs to be visually… That’s going to capture somebody that’s going to say, “Right, this venue’s available” and ultimately, I can then take it through to a booking process. But from a venues perspective, what makes iVvy really, really different: We’re not just a platform where people are just shopping. We power the whole ecosystem through live availability because we’re the operating system that sits at a property like a hotel.
We are their day-to-day operation tool. We’re their booking engine that sits on the front of their website. We are their live availability engine that power them into third-party sites. That makes iVvy really unique in the fact that we’re not a directory. We’re a live search engine. By doing that, what we are, is we’re aligned to a venue for their revenue growth. We’re a SaaS-based model which makes it a lot easier and cost-effective for them to get in. But secondly, we’re aligned to helping them grow their business. And the impact we’ve made is where we’ve increased the conversion rate of a lead to sale by 48% bottom-line performance. That’s enormous, and that’s over 100 properties.
Simon Dell: One of the other interesting statistics that you’ve mentioned right at the start of this conversation is on your website, about the reduction of booking time from six weeks to six minutes. That kind of seems almost unbelievable. I say unbelievable in the sense that I can’t believe people take six weeks to book these things, but I can actually believe that because it’s a challenge. How has that impacted the end business, that that’s happening so quickly now?
Lauren Hall: The key to that is you think about the frustrated process that meeting planners and event organizers have. They wait for people to respond. It can take 19 days for a venue to respond to their inquiry. And only once they get back, they’re then negotiating terms. They may not be available, and then they have to shop around 10 different venues. From a meeting planner’s perspective, what’s important for them is they want that time. All they want to know is: Who is available on the day that I need to have this event? And if any of them suit my criteria, great. I can negotiate it. So, shortening that time frame just on availability is enormous.
When I think about the impact we’ve made on teams, where people are employed just to do venue sourcing for their customers, we can reduce that headcount by more than 50%. So, the cost on human capital and efficiencies is enormous because you’re saving time, which you’d normally have to spend getting on the phone, phoning people, emailing, waiting for things to come back, going to the client, getting their choices; by the time you go back, 50% of them are no longer available. And you go around in this perpetual cycle of chaos because you can’t find venues that are available and meet your criteria.
So, the impact you make from an event organizer’s perspective is the fact that we give them that time. We allow them to have consolidated buying power. It automatically manages all of their spend across the supply chain, granularly rolled up so that they can actually leverage pricing policies across the market. That’s something that they’ve never had. They’ve never had technical tools that have enabled them to do that. But the benefit from that is because we’re actually a B2B platform. What happens is we now power American Express, Flight Centre, H.I.G., all the big travel management companies platforms where they serve thousands of corporate clients.
Because for us, it’s much easier to go to them who already own that market and to plug in as a technology tool and a self-serve platform rather than trying to acquire those clients through search, because the cost of acquisition through search is enormous.
Simon Dell: It sounds, as you’ve pitched it there and as you’ve spoken about it there, that your recipe for success is to produce a much more integrated platform into people’s businesses. This sounds negative, but I don’t mean it in that way: You get your claws into their business, and then you’re much more a partner with them rather than just sending them leads.
Lauren Hall: Absolutely. We run their operations. We’re integrated to their point of sale systems, to their central res systems. We are their website booking engine. We’re very, very hard to move.
Simon Dell: That’s a fantastic lesson for people out there. I think if you’re building a business that’s very easy for people to cancel, there’s a major weakness in your business. But if you’re building a business that people can’t survive without or they would see a tangible drop in revenue if they were removed, that’s a very, very powerful lesson. I’m going to move onto the last three questions because I kind of get the feeling, Lauren, that you could probably talk all day with me here. I normally have the same last three questions, but I’m going to change your third one here.
I normally ask people about their favourite brands. But with you, I’m going to ask you about your favourite venue because you must see a lot of venues out there. There must be one out there that you go back to every time that you think, “That is the ultimate venue for an event.” Is there one out there that jumps out to you?
Lauren Hall: There’s so many, actually. Because we serve so many different markets like casinos, as well as large hotel chain groups, I think you’ve got things that are really unique to different types of buyers. When somebody wants to do a wedding, they want a wedding venue. When they want to do a convention, they want to use something that can handle space for 5,000 people. There’s iconic venues like… One of the things we got on recently was Twickenham Stadium out of the UK which is a huge iconic brand.
We’ve also secured Treasure Island Casino out of the States. That’s a huge Las Vegas casino. These are really iconic. What’s also important is we work with the major hotel groups and the TFE hotel groups, and then we’ve got all the QT properties. Everybody’s taste for where different events are really different. I think that’s what’s really important to iVvy: We can serve a variety of different types of venues to the buyer. We’ve got the whole Rockpool Restaurant Group. We’ve got Solotel, which includes Aria and some amazing properties. There’s so many amazing properties, and I think the benefit for us is that, from… Even museums play a part on being iconic venues for events. I think I’ve got too many to choose.
Simon Dell: I was going to say, let me rephrase the question. If you were going to have your birthday party at any venue around the world, where would you choose?
Lauren Hall: Actually, I’ll tell you one that I will do. It’s actually a yacht, and we do yachts as well. My next birthday is on a superyacht because I’m hitting a big milestone. I want it to be a floating events venue which will be a superyacht. How about that?
Simon Dell: That’s a good one, yeah.
Lauren Hall: That’s the beauty, is that iVvy assistance cover boats as well and all of that, so it’s amazing.
Simon Dell: How much does a superyacht cost for a party like that? What do they go out there?
Lauren Hall: You’ll probably looking at anything between $25,000 to $30,000 a day.
Simon Dell: Right. I’m not going to be having a birthday party on a superyacht any time soon.
Lauren Hall: That’s why you’ve got to get sponsors. You get some brand awareness, the heavy hitters on the next one.
Simon Dell: I work up to that for a few. I think it’s going to be a few years. I think my wife would have a heart attack if I told her I’m spending $25,000 on a party on a yacht. Second to last question: What’s next for iVvy in the rest of 2019? What have you got planned?
Lauren Hall: We’re expanding our teams out of the UK and the USA. We’ve just opened our Asian market, our Canada market. We’re on a massive growth trajectory. It’s really important for us in terms of proving out new markets. It’s a trillion-dollar industry for us. We’re out there to disrupt it. I’m pushing really hard on my teams to deliver some great results. We’re also doing a big $50 million raise. Raising our capital is going to be important for our acceleration.
We’re just really excited about our future. We’re just moving into some really good premises in Burly. We’ve been in the old Billabong offices in Varsity Lakes for the last six years, and I’ve built an enormous 900-sq. m. warehouse with slides, and swings, and really cool meeting spaces, and to make it that tech company that can really put a landmark on where we are with my team and make it this great environment to attract talent, and be a place where people want to work because we want to attract talent that are not just limited by Gold Coast. Whether they’re Sydney or Melbourne, they want a lifestyle change, they want to be part of a global phenomenon on a company that’s making an enormous difference in the world, we are open for applications because we are looking for amazing team members to join us along this global journey.
Simon Dell: Thank you. My last question is: Where do people get a hold of you if they want to talk to you, if they’ve got any questions? What’s the best platform for conversation?
Lauren Hall: They can either email me or they can phone my office and speak to Ingrid, who ultimately can pop them through to me or arrange some time to speak with me if I’m not travelling. If they want my contact details, you’ve got my emails. Do you want to make that available to them?
Simon Dell: Email is probably good. Probably don’t put a phone number on here because I can’t really guarantee who is going to be calling you. Normally, what I would suggest is that I can see you on LinkedIn. You’ve obviously updated that. Are you quite active on that as well?
Lauren Hall: Yup. We are, absolutely. When people connect with me, if they want to engage and have a chat, happy to pick up from there, easy for them to do that. Obviously, pending some of their conversations and what they do, they’re welcome to contact me and I’m happy to see where I can help them if they’ve got any questions on their own businesses or if they like us.
Simon Dell: Obviously, if they’ve got a venue that wants to be listed, that’s all very clear on the website how to do that.
Lauren Hall: Yeah. Our website’s got all our contact details. People can sign up as well and get demos. It’s really easy for people to use our systems.
Simon Dell: Cool. Thank you very much for your time. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show. I never even got around to asking you about your taekwondo, but maybe that’s for another show.
Lauren Hall: That’s another light. Thank you, Simon. Thank you very much for having me. I really appreciate the time.
Simon Dell: Thank you.