Meeting the challenge

Martin Jack – Founder, Think Different Events Ltd

Events director Martin Jack launched Think Different Events in 2006, an events management organisation based in Glasgow, specialising in organising high-quality B2B events throughout the UK.

“I started life as a trainee accountant in 1980,” says Jack, “before developing software for schools with a Scottish Government agency. I stayed with the company for 24 years in a variety of roles, becoming involved in training events and conferences. In 2000, I was instrumental in creating the annual Scottish Learning Festival, which at its peak attracted 7,000 attendees, and I worked on the project for 13 years before going out on my own in 2006. The previous 14 years gave me a valuable insight into the events sector, and I can genuinely say I loved every minute. The only drawback was that it was confined to one area. The challenge of taking my transferable skills to other groups was terrifying, yet exciting.

“I had great project management training and insights in the role I performed previously proved very useful in seeing projects through the stages of design, development, delivery and evaluation. I was confident dealing with clients, speakers, our audiences and venues, and nothing phased me from the operations aspect.

“The challenges were the infrastructure support I lost with the ‘big’ company – IT, finance, legal, HR. It meant finding a new supply chain to help us grow.

“We have the knowledge and expertise to deliver successful B2B events. Our continuing challenge is to get in front of prospective clients and explain how we can help them execute their events strategies.

“We’ve had ups and downs along the way, especially during the recession, though we remain optimistic that we have solutions that appeal to our target audience. The ups are definitely the buzz associated with the delivery of the events themselves. When you have worked hard in the run-up to the event, all that effort comes under the microscope over a fairly short period of time. To see the audience leaving in an upbeat manner is generally the first sign of a successfully executed plan.
“I’m most proud of The Scottish Learning Festival. It started as a one-day event for teachers looking at new technology. Within six years we had extended the content to the entire curriculum, built the annual audience to 7,000, with over 150 seminars and keynotes, and offered the biggest educational exhibition in Scotland.

“Plans for the future include working with a number of small businesses to provide a cost-effective events solution.

We have created partnerships, pulling together expertise and client databases, enabling us to develop and deliver events to target audiences. We are looking to roll out the model to other SME groups during 2014 and beyond.”

Adam Blaskey – CEO and Founder, The Clubhouse London (pictured)

The Clubhouse London is a premium business club, lounge and meeting space, offering a luxurious, professional setting.

Founder Adam Blaskey spent 10 years developing prime central-London residential property and continues to do so. Previously, he was an equities sales-trader at UBS.

“The Clubhouse was created as a result of my own needs and the frustration of not having this kind of space and offering. As a property developer, I was often either on site or at architects’ offices, so I didn’t need a permanent base in Mayfair, but this was where I tended to meet most of my potential clients and investors, partners, advisors, and consultants,” he says.

“Prior to The Clubhouse, like many others, I met people in hotel lobbies and coffee shops. What I needed was an alternative that sat somewhere between a serviced office and hotel lobby/members’ club, which gave off the right impression, was business-focused, sophisticated and professional.

“Over the past few years, more and more people that I knew had begun to leave larger companies and set up their own businesses. Many were used to the trappings of a corporate lifestyle and the infrastructure that an office environment provides, and perhaps didn’t relish the idea of working from home and having their first client meetings around the kitchen table: The Clubhouse, therefore, provides a base from which to work and meet for these people .

Blaskey spent nine months looking for the perfect site.

“We are lucky that the flagship Clubhouse is in the heart of Mayfair, with an abundance of natural light, large lateral open-plan spaces and a double-height atrium with a glass staircase and rooflights.

“Our members range from one-man bands to large blue-chip multinationals, and come from a cross-section of industries. What they have in common is a requirement for somewhere to meet their clients in the heart of London.

“We have two membership levels: Club, which provides access one to two days per week, 75 days per year, and House, which gives access five days per week.

“Both memberships can be taken out individually or as a corporate membership, giving access to up to five named individuals.

“We have a range of meeting rooms accommodating up to eight people, including The Boardroom which seats 12, and The Gallery which can accommodate up to 24 boardroom-style, or up to 40 theatre-style for presentations. We have an open-plan, flexible meeting area, hot desks and lounge areas. We also have an events space that can host up to 150 people.

“We are delighted with our progress since launching last October. Members tell us how much more productive they are working from The Clubhouse rather than anywhere else.

“We are now about to expand and hope to have the second Clubhouse open within the next six months, growing across London, then nationally and internationally.”

Gary Kremen – Founder, Match.com

Gary Kremen is the founder and ex-CEO of Match.com, the world’s first major dating site. “I started Match.com trying to find love for myself,” he says. “I had this idea that if I could put all the women in the world on a database, and I could sort it, then I’d just marry No.1.”

Already a successful digital entrepreneur before he started Match.com, Gary admits to being a nerd, explaining that he was online as early as 1985 – something that stood him in good stead for what was to come. “I thought it would be really interesting to use the internet for relationships,” he told Wired.co.uk, “and to do it right.”

Kremen’s IT skills gave him an advantage over the many would-be digital entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley in the early 1990s. His first venture was Full Source Software, which gave him an early glimpse of the enormous commercial potential the World Wide Web had to offer.

In 1989, Kremen cofounded his second venture, Los Altos Technologies (LAT), a company that cleaned sensitive data off hard drives for the military and other businesses. He noticed something important: “It was the first time I saw women using the internet,” he explains.

He was an avid user of telephone-based dating agencies, and he saw similar potential in the small but growing presence of women online.

The relatively tiny female population online at the time (around 10 per cent of users) did little to faze him. “Because there were so few women, I realised that this was the key,” he says. “If you control the few, you can charge a lot of money to the men.”

In 1993, Kremen founded Electric Classifieds, Inc. (ECI), under which Match.com was developed and launched in April 1995. He joined forces with partner Peng Tsin Ong, and they initially raised $1.3m from investors, and another $7.5m later.

Initially, Match.com only allowed users to exchange personal messages and photographs via email or fax. But within six months, 100,000 people had registered. Today, Match.com has 1.8m paid subscribers, with websites in 30 countries.

Kremen started out of a cramped, apartment that he shared with two roommates. “With investors, we were under a huge amount of pressure to grow,” he adds.

Kremen is now an angel investor in several start-up companies, and sits on the board of organisations such as CrowdFlower, WaterSmart Software, and University of California at Merced. Kremen is quoted as saying:“I think I created more love than anyone on the planet. Do I need any more than that?”

Article courtesy of Stream magazine

This was first published in the July/August issue of CN. Any comments? Email Paul Colston

Paul Colston

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Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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