MeetingsPodcast This Week in Meetings show features one of the Launch Festivals event startups. Mike McAllen talks with Michael Balyasny of Attendify.com formally Kitapps.com about their new Event App solution for meetings and events. We have run across many event apps but this one really caught our eye at the recent Launch Festival in San Francisco. Attendify might be a great cost effective, intuitive solution for most meeting planners and organizers. You can easily build the app online and try before you buy. 🙂
Michael Balyasny: Yes. That’s perfect. You got it.
Mike McAllen: [Laughs)
Michael Balyasny: Thanks for having me on.
Mike McAllen: Thank you. You are from Attendify?
Michael Balyasny: Yes. Attendify.com.
Mike McAllen: Attendify.
Michael Balyasny: We’re a mobile app platform for conferences and events.
Mike McAllen: Very cool. We met recently at the Launch Festival. I was there volunteering, running around helping people, and came across your – you were in the demo pit. It was very interesting. It stopped me. I stopped and talked. There were 250 something demos there going on.
Michael Balyasny: Yes. Probably a little more.
Mike McAllen: Yes.
Michael Balyasny: They were close to selling those out, and then they did, and I think they even added a couple more tables.
Mike McAllen: Yes. There was just a lot, a lot of stuff. But it was very interesting. So we had a little chat, and then I really wanted to have you on the podcast, and here you are. So thank you for taking the time to talk to me. I really appreciate it.
Michael Balyasny: Sure.
Mike McAllen: What did you think of the whole Launch Conference? First of all, how did you get in to the Launch Conference
Michael Balyasny: So I attended last year’s event and kind of had my eye on a table in the demo pit for this year and we applied to launch onstage. So my company is going through kind of a rebranding and relaunch phase right now. We’re currently known as KitApps relaunching as Attendify later this month. We have a new social app and a bunch of new stuff that we wanted to feature and be onstage. So we applied to do that. We didn’t get in because we were running a little bit behind on our development and just didn’t have the demo ready on time. We only showed a couple of screenshots and I think there was sort of some concern on the part of Launch as to whether or not we’d be ready on time. So we ended up just being part of the demo pit. We did get the product ready and it was a great experience for us.
Mike McAllen: So what happened there? Were there some really good things that happened or bad things? What was the outcome of the whole thing?
Michael Balyasny: It was great because on the one hand, you have a lot of great companies around you who are kind of in the same stage – about to launch either for the first time or relaunching their products – and talking to them is really valuable because they’ll give you great feedback and ideas. So that’s helpful and that’s something that I think most companies don’t realize is going to be a benefit. When they’re planning to attend the event, everyone’s thinking about investors and partnerships and working with bigger brands. We found that feedback from other entrepreneurs was really valuable and we got some really great partnership opportunities as well, and even some interest from investors. So we really couldn’t have asked for more and this was our second experience at an event like this. We also did TechCrunch Disrupt back in September of last year and both events were topnotch and the launch was just really great and so much bigger than it was last year. So I think Jason’s done a great job to take the event to another level.
Mike McAllen: Yes. I kind of had your experience from last time this time because I have a little startup called AV for Planners and I went for that exact same reason. It’s just I don’t understand this whole startup world, and talking to the other people that are in it was just so beneficial.
Michael Balyasny: Yes. It really is. I mean there are a lot of great people – a caliber of startups of what is topnotch. The ones launching onstage and many of the ones in the demo pit were great. There were a couple other startups that were event-focused and it was great to talk to them and see how we can help each other out. It was just a really good experience overall, and for any entrepreneur at any stage, you really want to connect with others and bounce ideas off each other and just get feedback for what you’re doing. That’s really valuable.
Mike McAllen: Yes. Because it seems like if you ask your friends and people, they are all, “Oh, it’s great!” But you can really get some honest opinion from people that are in the same boat.
Michael Balyasny: Yes. It’s hard for them to relate to what you’re going through and know the challenges that are up ahead because if someone is launching their product for the first time, they want to get some ideas from someone who launched a couple of months back, and there was a great mix of people and a really great exchange of ideas. I think that’s one of the special things about the tech space, is that everyone is pretty open, everybody is sharing ideas. That fear of someone’s going to take my idea has gone away. It doesn’t exist anymore. That’s one of the first things, and the masters will tell you this, that look, you’ve got to be open, sharing your ideas and really be collaborative about it, and that spirit was alive and well at Launch.
Mike McAllen: That’s great. That’s really great. That’s great information too for people who are trying to get out there and do things because I know I’ve kind of pushed mine along because I started the company – my Grass Shack Events & Media – about 12 years ago. I left a big company, a production company, and started my own. And I get that feeling from other people like you’re going to fail, basically, and that gives you that driver. I didn’t really have anyone else to talk to about that actually, now that I think about it, but that was 12 years ago. So now I kind of have to bug myself to do it again. It’s like, okay, this is kind of fun. I mean, it’s horrible, but it’s fun [Laughs].
Michael Balyasny: Right. It can be very lonely.
Mike McAllen: Yes.
Michael Balyasny: That’s one of the big problems, yes.
Mike McAllen: Yes. Very interesting, very interesting. So what kind of people – when you say for a collaboration, do you mind me asking what other, or do you want to talk about any of the other companies that you were kind of talking to that are event style?
Michael Balyasny: Yes. There were a couple. I think the one that sort of sticks out is a company called Acteva that some of your listeners may be familiar with. They do event registration and event management and they’re looking to do more mobile. So that was an interesting connection. I just found that there’s a lot of interest around mobile in the events space. Everyone’s sort of looking at how mobile apps can improve the event experience and how to do that more affordably to make it more accessible to events of various budgets. I think that was really interesting just to see other people sort of working on those ideas and giving feedback because they’re great context obviously for a company doing something with events because everyone who comes up to you is literally, they’re at an event, so they’ve got that mindset of what could be better if this event had an app.
A lot of the people were actually sort of surprised that Launch didn’t have their own app. They had an app for kind of angel investing, but they didn’t have an app to manage the schedules and help people network. So a lot of people who came up saw the app we were demoing. They were all asking, “Can we download this? Is this available? Is it in the App Store?” It was just a demo, but we got a lot of great feedback and ideas just from people attending who would’ve loved to have some of these functionalities available to them.
Mike McAllen: Yes. I agree. I think there was another app. I think we talked about this at the show. There was another one that was onstage that did it and he kind of railed on them a little bit. I don’t remember their names. But he kind of railed on them because their branding was all over the app.
Michael Balyasny: Right.
Mike McAllen: And then he didn’t like that at all. He goes, “I’m not going to pay you a bunch of money to sell your thing at my conference.” He kind of got into it a little bit and I thought, huh, I wonder what that’s all about? So the app they had was just one of the sponsors, right? It was just to invest in different companies or pretend invest or something?
Michael Balyasny: It was made by a company called Sourcebits and they sponsor Jason’s podcast, This Week In Startups, and got involved with the event. They basically are a design-focused development shop. What they did is they custom-developed an app that would connect angel investors attending with the startups demoing and launching onstage. So if you were an investor and you had to kind of confirm that you were accredited, and then you could go ahead and say, “I want to put $5,000 into this startup.” And then basically, the app would just exchange contact info between the two parties. But the deal, obviously, that happens offline. There are all the due diligence and so forth. I thought that was a great idea for an app and a great fit for Launch. I’m curious to hear more about how many deals actually were done with the help of the app, and I’m sure that’s something Jason is going to go over in his upcoming episodes of This Week In Startups, so I’m looking forward to that. But I thought it was a great idea, a good initiative.
Mike McAllen: Yes. Well let’s get into your app. Let’s talk a little bit about it. So what does it do?
Michael Balyasny: So we are an app platform. We help event companies create their own apps. This is a native app. This is your own app. It’s meant to be the official app for your conference, your event, your expo. We’ve built this really easy to use app platform. We call it our Event App Wizard because it’s a step by step process for creating your app. You choose the features you want, you add your content, you customize the appearance, and before you know it, you’ve got a conference app with everything you need to replace your printed guidebook, ready to go. And because you’re managing the content, because you’re the person kind of driving the process, we can deliver the app at a really low and affordable price point and very quickly.
So those are the big things about what we’re doing right now and we’ve been selling the app platform and the apps for the past six months via KitApps.com, which has been our brand thus far. And now, we’ve decided to focus completely on the event industry and we’re relaunching as Attendify. We’re going to be also launching a social app, which is also created on our app platform. The same easy experience, step by step, really no guesswork at all, and you’re going to get sort of a social network for your events. So not only is it going to give you all of the schedule and speaker profiles and all those sort of guidebook replacement features, but you’re also going to give people attending a great way to connect with each other and message each other, have profiles, pull in all the social content from Twitter and Instagram and really just improve the event experience.
Mike McAllen: Yes. It’s really neat. I know I talked to you a little bit about QuickMobile who is the sponsor of this podcast for a long time.
Michael Balyasny: Sure.
Mike McAllen: There are really great guys there and nice people. I really like them. But the people I sent them to, sent there from the podcast and in other places, really didn’t have that great of an experience with them because maybe they grew so fast or something, but they were very expensive and to make changes was a really difficult thing.
Michael Balyasny: Yes. We hear that a lot.
Mike McAllen: That was the one thing with theirs that was just like to make a change, and you know how events are. I mean everything is changing constantly. That keeps me in business, all these changes [Laughs].
Michael Balyasny: Yes. Exactly. That’s something we hear a lot and we’ve had quite a few customers who came over from QuickMobile and had used their apps in previous years and they are very expensive. I mean, we’ve heard, tens of thousands of dollars, and in most cases, it really depends on what you want, but the apps are definitely at a much higher price point. And you have to email them and kind of get in touch if there are any changes, and a lot of events that are happening on weekends, then it’s going to be hard to get a hold of them. We’ve heard that from a lot of our customers as well. Not only QuickMobile, but a lot of the companies who have been doing event apps, take sort of a custom development approach where they’re literally building out each app one by one for their customers. That’s expensive. It’s time consuming. It takes a couple of months to do. It’s just not going to be a great fit for a lot of events. We think that obviously the price point is going to keep a lot of people away from having an app and we really wanted to make apps as much more just democratized access to event apps via an easy to use platform.
Mike McAllen: Now is this app, if it’s a conference that happens every year, they can use the same app each time? Like just the date change on it or something? How does that work?
Michael Balyasny: Yes. You can use the – basically, we charge for an annual subscription. If your event happens multiple times a year, you’re welcome to update content within the app or reuse the same app for your different events. When next year’s event comes around, you can update content. The other great thing is that we’re going to resubmit and update the app for you as we release new features. So you’re always going to have access to the latest version of what we’re offering. So you’re not stuck at some version that we had six months ago. You’re going to be able to update it and make sure you have access to all the latest and greatest stuff.
Mike McAllen: Very cool, very cool. And so, where do you think media organizers can really benefit from your product?
Michael Balyasny: So I think at this point, it’s possible to totally replace your printed guidebook. That’s one side of it where you can save a lot of money. You can go paperless. And virtually everyone attending your event has a smartphone. With our platform, you get an iPhone, Android and also a web app version, so you’re covering pretty much everything and anyone who’s going to attend. Not only is it great to not print and save money, but it’s also more convenient for people attending because they always have the latest version, content is updated instantly at any time. So it’s a better experience for people attending. And now with our social app, I think we’re going to add a lot more value to events because we all know that networking is really why most people are there and our app is going to help people be aware of who else is there at the event, connect through the app, set up meetings, and really just have a better sense of what’s going on at the event and be more productive.
Mike McAllen: So there is a way on there to set up meetings?
Michael Balyasny: There’s a way you can direct message people using the app. There are privacy settings also, so if you don’t want people to message you, you can turn that off and they won’t be able to, but I think the vast majority of people are going to want to keep that on and want to see who they can connect with. They can set up meetings and along with just the profile of each person, you can see all the content they’ve created, the tweets they’ve sent, the photos they’ve posted through the app. So not only do you know their name and company and kind of position, but you also kind of see what they’re interested in, what are the sessions they’re responding to, what photos they’re posting, so it becomes much easier to break the ice.
Mike McAllen: That’s great. What a great idea. I used to love those old – they used to before have those websites you could go on and really set up things beforehand too. This is just even better because it’s right in your hand.
Michael Balyasny: Yes. I went to a couple of events that had the pre-event kind of website, matchmaking and networking, and I always found that harder to use because I wasn’t in the mindset yet. When you’re at the event, that’s when you really start thinking about the connections you should be making. That’s when you’re really tuned in to what’s going on. I think before the event, you’re still focused on other things. Everyone’s got a lot going on and aren’t fully tuned in, I think, before the event. So making it mobile and having it with you at the event, interacting with people in real time, engaging with the social media, is really valuable.
Mike McAllen: Very cool. Alright, Michael. Where can people find you and find out more information if they wanted to talk to you about it more?
Michael Balyasny: Sure. You can go to KitApps.com. That’s still up and running until the end of March. After that, we’re going to be at Attendify.com. If you start creating your app today on KitApps, all your content, all your information, is going to be transferred over to Attendify. It’s free to register and start building your app. We don’t require any credit cards or anything upfront. It’s really easy. Just the email and password and you’re set up and you’re building an app. If you like it, you can publish it. It’s just very easy and fully guided, so nothing to be intimidated about at all.
Mike McAllen: Well, that’s great. That’s really great to be able just to go in and fool with it, to start out with.
Michael Balyasny: Yes, yes. A lot of customers will build their app – we actually have an app that lets you test it on your phone before you publish it so you know exactly what you’re going to get. And all that information is up on KitApps.com and it will all be up on Attendify.com as well.
Mike McAllen: So that’s “KitApps.com.”
Michael Balyasny: That’s right.
Mike McAllen: Because I remember when I first talked to you, the first time I walked by and said hi, you said, “Oh, we’re KitApps,” and I thought, “Oh, you do kid apps for children.” I don’t hear very well, but it’s “kit.”
Michael Balyasny: No, a lot of people make that mistake. It’s kind of hard to hear, yes. It wasn’t the best choice.
Mike McAllen: [Laughs]
Michael Balyasny: But Attendify is a little bit easier, and obviously, it makes it clear that we’re focused on events and we’re going to keep working on the platform and making it better.
Mike McAllen: I think it’s great, Michael. Really great. I encourage everyone to go over and take a look at the site right away and try building an app. I mean, that’s pretty cool.
Michael Balyasny: Yes. Thank you.
Mike McAllen: Alright. Well, let’s talk again another time. We’ll see how you’re going once everything is moved over and you’re rich and famous.
Michael Balyasny: Oh, I’d love to.
Mike McAllen: [Laughs]
Michael Balyasny: I’d love to. Thanks for having me on.
Mike McAllen: Thank you so much.