Startups

Why SaaS company Crossbeam is betting on IRL events with its partnerships conference, Supernode

Over several days this spring, partnerships pros from around the world will gather at Philly cultural institutions to connect with each other, and the city. It makes sense for the community they're trying to serve, organizers say.

Crossbeam's Supernode conference will be held across cultural institutions like the Barnes Foundation this spring.

Photo courtesy of the Barnes Foundation. Photo by Michael Perez.

While the world gets back to a place where gathering in person is once again normal, SaaS company Crossbeam is executing on a plan a few years in the making.

Since before the pandemic, Sean Blanda, Crossbeam’s VP of content, has been conceptualizing a way to bring the Center City-based company’s growing partnerships community together — professionals who use its platform to find overlapping customers and prospects with potential partners (while the rest of their data is kept private). A few contracts were signed for a TBD event in February 2020, but like everyone else with an IRL plan that year, the team vowed to revisit it.

This spring, after hiring Marketing Events Manager Kate Young and closing a $76 million round of venture capital, the team will go forward with what’s now known as Supernode.

The two-day Philadelphia event will gathering roughly 250 partnerships pros from far-reaching SaaS companies. The talks, workshops and networking-focused gatherings will take place across some of Philadelphia’s oldest cultural institutions such as the Barnes Foundation and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). At night, attendees will spread out across some of the city’s best restaurants for intimate networking dinners to ensure everyone’s meeting someone — and so Crossbeam can show off Philly’s culinary scene, organizers said.

“This is such a new industry, and there aren’t a ton of opportunities to come and network together in person,” Young said of the conference. “The focus is not about our product specifically, it’s more on meeting and building our community. We’ll do that by taking over a museum, sending them to a restaurant and get them talking.”

And Crossbeam’s bread and butter — partnerships — is an inherently more social line of work, Blanda said.

“Most SaaS companies are building media companies and communities on top of their products,” the VP said. “To be successful and last, you do need these community-building avenues. If it’s not Supernode, it’s going to be something else to bring people together.”

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Crossbeam’s office mural in Center City’s Philadelphia Building. (Courtesy photo)

Another Philly-based but remote company, dbt Labs, entered the events space in 2020 with its user conference, Coalesce. Though virtual for the last two years, the company’s planning an in-person version for October, CEO Tristan Handy said recently.

“I don’t think the purest version of distributed is enough,” Handy said. “We need to allow our little pockets of humans to gather and connect.”

Though Blanda and Young have both executed plenty of events, they know with any “first” there’ll be plenty to learn from — “we’re going to do things that don’t resonate, and we’ll learn,” Blanda said.

Young, who comes from a background working with nonprofit and cultural institutions, said there’s something special about hosting any event in a crown jewel venue of a city. In her experience, she said, it gets people talking more and feels like a treat, versus a stuffy networking event. And as COVID has changed the landscape of what makes and event worthy of coming to, the team has had fun planning a series that will get people together and show off the city. Most attendees are coming from outside the area, Blanda said, like San Francisco, New York, and clusters from Europe and South Africa.

“We’ve talked a ton about who uses our product and who our community is, but seeing them in a room together will be really special,” Young said. “People are pickier about what they’ll get on a plane for now. So we’re going to be using these tools we’ve talked about for a year, applying them and get the chance to see if it sticks and works. That’s extra motivating.”

For those who are interested in soaking up a bit more of Philly, the conference will kick off Monday, May 16, with a happy hour and bowling at Center City’s Harp & Crown, followed by two full-day events at PAFA. Tickets run $549 for the multi-day affair.

“Every industry needs a few cornerstone moments to pay attention to and gather around,” Blanda said. “We have no delusions that we’ll be the only one, but we hope Supernode can be one of those touch points of our industry.”

Companies: Crossbeam, dbt Labs
People: Sean Blanda
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