Monday, March 30, 2020

It’s Business, but Not As Usual

Could ‘virtual events’ protect startup events from COVID-19 cancellations?

 

By Sharon Lewis

 

First came the masks, then the quarantine, and now, self-isolation and work-from-home measures. In the three months since news broke of the first COVID-19 case, the global pandemic has sent communities and organizations into a safety scramble. India-based startup Vumonic, for instance, shifted their entire team to a remote farm for protection. As people try to connect with each other without being physically present, virtual technology has offered an unusual way in.

 

Virtual events startup Teooh, Inc. provides an avatar-based events platform where participants can conduct meetings and share ideas in a virtual online landscape, without having to be in the same place. The 2018-founded London-based startup led by Don Stein and Jon Hibbins has partnered with blockchain communities to bring members together for virtual events.

 

“Communities can come together online and feel like they are in the same room… without even needing to be in the same country,” said Stein in a press note. He added that with a smartphone, users have “a ticket to the virtual meetup” where they can attend talks and network with others present at the event.

 

Blockchain communities are not shying away from this new format for conferences and events. Tim Draper is among the few who have used Teooh’s technology for meetings: Teooh hosted a Meet and Greet with Draper last month, where Draper University alumni and student entrepreneurs could interact with the blockchain pioneer by way of an exclusive invite link to the virtual setup.

 

Helen Disney of UnblockedEvents.com has also spoken about the possibilities of online event communities, saying, “As we experience a new period of upheaval around both public health and climate-related concerns, there is an ever-greater interest in the idea of novel online event experiences.”

 

The Teooh virtual platform has previously hosted events for Bitcoin pioneer and entrepreneur Bentyn Szczepan Bentyn, and Polish Crypto communities like Portfel Kowaiskiego.

 

While virtual events offer a smart way for people to connect by skipping travel fares and increasing time and location efficiencies, can they still one-up video conferencing? A high-level overview of the various features seems to suggest many positives.

 

For one, the virtual reality-like setup breaks away from the one-dimensional set up for video conferencing, instead transferring real people into a virtual world, simulating the conference experience. For example, in a virtual conference, users can hear the speaker more clearly when moving toward them, much like reality. Another way virtual conferencing stands out is that users can engage in an array of interactions. For instance, if uninterested in the current conference speaker, one can simply go talk to another ‘attendee’ while others continue to listen to the presentation.

 

Digital borders are shrinking, creating plenty of opportunities for startups like Teooh. While it remains to be seen whether this technology will be picked up outside of the COVID-19 global health emergency, it represents another option for struggling organizations in need of productivity tools.

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