Voxgig ready for the main event

CEO Voxgig Richard Rodge.

The Waterford start-up has developed software specifically to help exhibitors, writes Trish Dromey.

Waterford start-up Voxgig is preparing for a US release of event management software that informs companies of the effectiveness of their participation at a conference.

“Most event management software has been designed for use by the organisers to sell tickets, ours is one of the few which been created for exhibitors.

"It can measure success in terms of sales leads generated and also of hires made,’’ said Voxgig founder and chief executive Richard Rodger.

Setting up the company in September 2017 to create a centralised platform to improve conference experience for

organisers and attendees as well as exhibitors, Mr Rodger identified a market opportunity for a specific product for exhibitors.

“Our software is now being trialled by eight large companies including some Fortune 500 ones,’’ said Mr Rodger, who has recently raised €1m in funding with a view to start selling to the market at the end of the year.

He is contemplating expanding into the US.

Mr Rodger is a serial entrepreneur who previously was the chief technical officer at FeedHenry — a mobile application platform provider which sold for €63.5m in 2014.

He was also the chief executive and co-founder of Waterford-based enterprise software company, NearForm which now has an annual turnover of €17m.

Seeing a gap in the event management market prompted him to sell his stake in NearForm and to start on a new venture, taking a slightly different approach to typical start-ups.

He wanted to follow the Silicon Valley start-up model, and, because he had funding from selling his stake in

NearForm, had more freedom to do so than a typical early stage company.

One of the unusual things about Voxgig is the fact that it does not have an office or premises, although it does have a full-time staff of 10.

“All our employees work from home or from co-working spaces.

“This was the best way to get the staff we want — we were not going to be able to hire them in Waterford and we don’t need them to be in one place,’’ said Mr Rodger, who registered the company in Waterford and works from a co-working space.

Two of the Voxgig’s staff are in London, one is in Spain and the rest of the staff are in Ireland.

Six months after Voxgig was set up it began trialling a basic viable product.

“Normally the first next step for start-up is to start registering users but we have taken a different route and have concentrated on validation by conducting trials,” he said.

Voxgig’s target market is IT companies with a staff size of more than 100 people.

The company exhibits at one or more conferences a year sending a team of five to 10 people, said Mr Rodger.

He says conferences have become hugely significant for the IT industry.

“Besides large ones like Web Summit, there are over 10,000 tech conferences each year around the world.

We estimate that the market for our software is worth at least $500m annually.

In developing sales, Mr Rodger said he adopted the Silicon Valley Freemium model which involves giving away the company’s software for free at the start to develop a user base.

“We plan to introduce charges in the second half of the year for companies with more than five users.

“For these we will charge a monthly per-user fee,’’ he said, adding that at the end of the year, he also plans to develop sales in the US.

To make this possible, Voxgig’s €1m in funding came partly from private investors and partly from Enterprise Ireland, which identified the company as a High Potential Start-Up in 2018.

The aim, using the Freemium model, is to work on getting user numbers of the Voxgig software to a certain level.

“When you get to a point when you see 20% month-on-month growth then it is time to start spending on marketing,” he said.

The big plans for this year include opening that US office and for the company to run its first conference of its own for exhibitors. And Mr Rodger expects to launch an aggressive global marketing campaign.

“Long term we would like to be the Number One choice for exhibitors at tech events,’’ he said.

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