Data / Events / Funding / Venture capital

Event tech has a legacy in DC. With the shift to virtual and hybrid, this NoVa founder sees new promise

Backed by a new investment from the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation, Arlington-based insights-as-a-service company Bear Analytics is hiring for its development team and building out its platform.

Members of the Bear Analytics team. (Courtesy photo)
After two years of IRL cancelations, virtual conferences and a constant tug-of-war between vaccines and new variants, DC’s event tech space is off to a strong start in 2022.

Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation (VIPC), the state startup funding entity previously known as CIT, just dropped fresh funding to Bear Analytics, a new(ish) face in event data. Bear, founded in 2013, is an Arlington, Virginia-based data analytics company that built an insights-as-a-service tech platform for events.

But the company didn’t start off that way, cofounder and CEO Joe Colangelo told The company originally worked on the event organization side, but quickly realized there was an opening in event data. Pre-pandemic, he said, the company focused solely on large, live events, but expanded into virtual and hybrid gatherings with the expansion of its IaaS platform.

“We took the better part of the last year and a half, when our business was massively disrupted,” Colangelo said, and started learning about the kind of experiences event organizers were putting on — “and because of those experiences, what data was being collected and what they were interested in analyzing.”

With Bear IQ, Colangelo said the company integrates its technology with platforms that host and run events. As those platforms collect the raw data, Bear will analyze registration information data, exhibitor sales, sponsorship success and attendance of smaller breakout sessions or one-on-one Zoom meetings.

The result, he said, allows hosts to determine what parts of an event were most successful.

“Especially on the virtual side, your barriers to turning out an event are lower than ever, so why should your audience care?” Colangelo said. “Who do you think is going to win? The organizer that knows more about their audience and how their experience is performing in their constituency … or somebody who just goes, ‘We’re going to do it the same way we always have’?”

Joe Colangelo. (Courtesy photo).

With the new capital from VIPC — the entities declined to disclose an amount — the CEO said Bear will be ramping up its development team, adding five full-time members. Despite the stop-and-go nature of events in a pandemic, he’s confident in the strength of virtual and IRL events in the area. And, even before Bear made the pivot to event data analytics, Colangelo noted that DC already had a strong event industry and tech space. He pointed to local companies like Cvent and Social Tables, which both have seen success over the past few years.

“We have at least a little bit of a recipe on how to take things to the very, very highest level,” he said. “Personally, I think the region, because of how important tourism and hospitality is here, has an appreciation for event tech.”

As the region’s event scene grows, Bear leadership thinks the company will as well. With the expansion of its products and new capital, Colangelo said Bear has been able to extend into smaller events alongside large trade shows and conferences. The company works with a few dozen event organizers, platforms and companies, but Colangelo hopes to add as many new ones to its platform as possible. In the near future, he’s planning to extend that number to 100 in the next two quarters.

“We’re bullish on the DC region continuing to develop in those ways, and I’m rather bullish on the event space,” Colangelo said. “I think if the pandemic has taught us anything, folks miss engaging and we’ve developed new ways of engaging online.”

Companies: Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation

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