3 California Meetings Tech Companies That Thrive in the Golden State
Left to right: Peter Micciche, Certain; Ravi Chalaka, Jifflenow; and Ron Shah, BIZLY.
California has always been a beacon for those blazing their own trails, from the Gold Rush and flower-power ’60s to the greatest cultural and economic revolution of our time, the explosion of technology.
The meetings and events industry is also rapidly being transformed by technology, perhaps spurred by the pandemic and the rapid adoption of virtual meetings, which has evolved into what many see as a model for the future: hybrid meetings. Advancements in attendee data collection technology alone promises to reshape meetings and events as we’ve always known them.
Continuing on a story published in early 2022, Meetings Today touched base with executives from three California-based technology companies to ask why the Golden State is such a magnet for tech, and what makes their products relevant in the changing dynamics of meetings and events programs.
For Ravi Chalaka, CMO and VP of product for Jifflenow, which maintains offices in Silicon Valley and Sacramento, California, the Golden State, and the San Francisco Bay Area in particular, remains the capital of tech for a variety of reasons.
“This is probably the mecca of technology, and there are many reasons for that,” he explained. “There is a culture of innovation; when the computer age came into being, it started here because it started with culture and innovation. If New York is at the center as the financial capital, then San Francisco is at the center between Asia-Pacific and the West. There are prestigious universities and innovative people…you can go on and on. And it welcomes people from around the globe. All that matters is, ‘Do you have the talent, do you have the skills?’ If so, you’re welcome here. It’s the place to be.”
Jifflenow specializes in scheduling automation and managing and reporting on meetings and events for large enterprises.
“One of the most important activities that happens during events is engaging with people. That is the No. 1 reason people want to attend an event or people want to sponsor an event,” Chalaka said. “Almost all of our customers are exhibitors, such as IBM, Cisco, etc., who have their own events and then have meetings with hundreds of their customers.”
When the volume of these meetings is so large, automating the process eliminates mistakes such as the incorrect entry of time zones, allowing a sales team, for instance, to easily nail down times and locations for a sit-down with potential customers.
“We set the topics, who’s attending, what products are presenting, so salespeople can look and match clients with them and find out what rooms are available,” he said. “And now the meetings are happening in automated fashion. I don’t need to send an email to the team to schedule.
“We collect the data up front, so people can go prepared to be the most effective during that meeting, and then after the fact, those meetings can go into different reports for follow-up,” Chalaka added. “Pipeline is the leading indicator of revenue, and meetings are the leading indicator for pipeline.”
The launch of Jifflenow has massively streamlined the process while eliminating the mistakes caused by such a large volume of meetings needing to be scheduled by different people.
“Before Jifflenow, I had to have four or five people to manage the meetings, and after Jifflenow, I just need one person, and with less headaches,” he said. “We would go to an event and 80% of the people were using spreadsheets and pulling their hair out!”
[Related: Meeting and Event News in California]
Representing what may be a legacy company in an industry famous for skyrocketing startups and mergers and acquisitions, Certain stemmed from Certain Software, a San Francisco-based company that launched in 1994, with Certain born in 2011.
“The company has very strong roots in San Francisco, but now, like many companies, we’re operating in areas that transcend any geography,” said Peter Micciche, CEO of Certain, an enterprise event automation solution that delivers events data to marketers. “The company has deep roots in California and San Francisco and that colors our perspective, but that perspective has broadened. Our clients are corporations in multiple geographies that operate throughout different time zones, so we operate under that philosophy.
“California is a great seedbed from which they take their knowledge and move it around the world,” he continued. “Although California has traditionally been the superior place for getting technology companies off the ground, ironically, the model has been adopted to other areas. California continues to have a very strong influence, but that influence is balanced by technology and influence from around the globe.”
Micciche said a differentiator when it comes to Certain’s model as an end-to-end event management platform is its focus on delivering data-driven marketing results to clients, including Fortune 500 companies that run tens of thousands of events per year.
“We saw early on that events are going to generate data, so we built into events technology to support that and drive that,” he said. “What we’re finding is field marketers, event marketers, etc., are tuned into the fact that data is telling you exactly what your buyers are interested in. So, we have a rich mobile app that integrates with our software so that when you analyze it, it tells you what your customers want and need.”
Micciche, whose sister is an event planner, said that Certain’s latest offering is a highly visual solution named Certain Event Intelligence that helps bring data to life in a very user-friendly graphic interface.
“The reason why I moved here is because I had always heard about the Silicon Valley dream—building a startup, having a high concentration of talent here, and having a culture to build a great product. And there’s a strong AI community here,” said Ron Shah, CEO of BIZLY, a Palo Alto, California-based software company that Shah started in New York City.
BIZLY specializes in streamlining meeting and event scheduling, with its genesis springing from Shah not being able to secure a conference room for meetings when his main conference room was under construction over a summer.
“I tried to find space at nearby venues, but I couldn’t book them because I had to sign all of these contracts, fill out forms, sign up for insurance—the room was empty and I can’t book it, and that’s crazy!” he said.
Now, many top Fortune 500 companies use BIZLY’s software to book rooms with one click, which is especially helpful when booking rooms to meet with clients during larger conventions.
Like so many others in tech, Shah is mesmerized by the openness of California’s culture, both in business and socially.
“Overall, the United States is a fertile ground for new ideas, but California and the [San Francisco] Bay Area in particular, when you say you’re working on a new idea, people want to hear about it,” Shah said. “There is truly a community here for inventors. Within seconds of arriving at any event in the Bay Area, people ask you to introduce yourself and ask, ‘What are you working on?’ So, there isn’t that apprehension—people are very, very open to connecting here around new ideas.”
Shah said the Silicon Valley’s culture of not signing non-disclosure agreements (NDAs)—as opposed to other tech-pioneering cities—has been a key to the cross-pollination of ideas.
“Route 128 in Boston is a famous tech belt that came up way before Silicon Valley. The reason why it didn’t become Silicon Valley is that everyone wanted people to sign an NDA,” Shah said. “In the Silicon Valley area people wanted to share their secrets which each other, and that’s the culture that lasts today, and that has led to some amazing things.”
Download Meetings Today's Free Meetings Tech Update eHanbook
This article was produced in partnership with Visit California