Cvent CEO and Founder Reggie Aggarwal delivered an inspirational keynote speech to more than 1,300 event and hospitality professionals at the third annual Cvent CONNECT Europe industry conference in London.
Aggarwal urged attendees, and the MICE industry at large, to embrace their entrepreneurial spirit, uncover new business opportunities, and find ways to capitalize on the growing MICE industry, which is projected to reach $1.4 billion by 2025.
Reflecting on Cvent’s 20th anniversary this year, Aggarwal shared an honest account of the path to Cvent’s success. “When I started the company, we had one product, and one vision: Online event registration,” said Aggarwal.
“In 20 years, we’ve grown from a handful of people working in my parent’s basement to a company with more than 4,300 employees providing an entire event management platform to planners, marketers, and hoteliers around the world. Our journey has been full of ups and downs, but we are extremely proud of the industry-leading company we have become today, and we’re excited for what the next 20 years will bring.”
Cvent now has more than 27,000 customers and 300,000 users worldwide. Through its cutting-edge technology, the company has powered more than 3.5 million events for some of the most recognized brands in the world and has helped hundreds of thousands of hotels and venues connect with their customers and grow their MICE business. Cvent went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 2013 and went private in a $1.65 billion transaction in November 2016.
In Europe, the company has seen nearly 50 percent growth and Request-for-Proposal (RFP) value sourced through the Cvent Supplier Network has increased 35 percent year-over-year highlighting continued MICE growth in the region. Cvent has expanded its headcount across Europe and now has nearly 200 employees to support the local customer base and address the growing demand for meetings and events technology.
Reggie’s Five Entrepreneurial Lessons:
Lesson 1 – Find a pain point and create the aspirin.
Combining a 60-hour job as a lawyer by day, with a further 30 hours organizing events for the non-profit he founded for local technology CEOs, Aggarwal labored night and day, to pull off events with Excel, Outlook, and yellow sticky notes. It was through these manual processes that he identified a pain point and set out to find a way to streamline the event process with technology and solve an urgent need in the industry. This led to the creation of Cvent.
Lesson 2 – The DNA of your company is your people.
Aggarwal recognized that the only way he made it through the tough times of near bankruptcy and massive personal debt was with the endless support and dedication of his team. Today, eight out of the 11 original executives on the management team still remain with the company. He highlighted the importance of investing in the right talent and urged entrepreneurs today to find people who share in their passion and will stick with them even through the toughest times.
Lesson 3 – Fall down 7 times, get up 8.
Referencing the famous proverb, Aggarwal impressed that tenacity and determination are vital when running a business. He spoke honestly about Cvent hitting rock bottom in 2001, being $350,000 in personal credit card debt, and owing money to family, friends, and investors. He stressed that in any professional career, individuals will get knocked down, but they have to believe in themselves and have the courage to get up again and again and learn from failure.
Lesson 4 – Create an intrapreneurial culture.
A single entrepreneur can only do so much within an organization or business but creating an intrapreneurial culture – one that encourages employees to think and act like individual entrepreneurs – can exponentially change a business’s overall impact. To create an intrapreneurial culture, business leaders have to empower employees to take action, embrace risk, and make decisions as if it is their own company. Employees need to act like the money they are spending is their money and behavior should be driven by values rather than rules. Be Bold. Take Risks. Punch Above your Weight.
Lesson 5 – Hire, build and listen.
Aggarwal’s final entrepreneurial lesson is that business professionals need to hire the best people, build the best products and crucially, never stop listening to their customers. The best things are forged through fire, and it was during the difficult times in the early days of Cvent’s founding that the Cvent culture was created. When faced with hardship, business leaders should focus on going back to the basics: hiring great people, building great products, and delivering exceptional customer service. Withstanding difficult times creates a strong company culture and drives tremendous personal and professional growth.
Reggie Aggarwal concluded:
“I can remember the start of the Cvent journey so clearly. Our small core team had a big idea and we were just trying to find our way. We had everything ahead of us, but what got us through the tough times and all the sleepless nights, was a simple desire to make planning and managing meetings and events just a little easier. Ultimately, our success has been a result of our ability to adapt, stay agile, deliver exceptional service, and continue innovating and expanding our platform in a way that our customers need most.
“For all the MICE professionals who have the seed of an idea, I would encourage them to take calculated risks, get out of their comfort zone, fall down, get back up, and never lose faith in their ability to make big things happen.”