World News – AU – Wonder is raising $ 11 million to make large virtual events more sociable


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Virtual event platforms have gained significantly in importance in a year marked by social distancing. Berlin-based Wonder is part of a new group of competitors and promises to make large online gatherings more sociable.

The startup, founded as Yotribe in April, announced today that it has raised a sizeable $ 11 million funding round led by EQT Ventures, with participation from BlueYard Capital.

As very large in-person meetups can become more intimate bubbles as networking begins, Wonder aims to enable smaller, more organic video-based interactions within a larger virtual conference setup. This is reminiscent of features in numerous other event platforms, many of which have breakout areas. Thanks to Wonder’s maplike interface, guests can see at a glance who is talking to whom and move their avatars to take part in conversations in a virtual room.

The idea is that online meetings are usually top-down and the organizers determine the structure and layout. This leaves little room for the guests and reduces the likelihood of spontaneous encounters and chats. Whether or not it is possible to truly restore physical meetups this way is not clear, as real world socializing and networking depends on social cues and non-verbal communication.

But Wonder strives to mimic real social signals through two core actions. When someone wants to initiate a conversation, they can point their « nose » (a small dot in front of the avatar) at a person or group, and the recipient can respond by pointing their « nose » back at the initiator. Another option is to « approach slowly », similar to what you would do in a live network situation. « If someone isn’t interested, they just walk away and go somewhere else, » Wonder co-founder Pascal Steck told VentureBeat. “Also, people can invite others to form a circle – or join an existing one – without reaching out to them. ”

This type of technology may be particularly suitable for certain corporate meetings, such as business meetings. B.. for days of absence, department meetings or other scenarios in which employees are already familiar with each other. But Wonder can be used for any type of video-based networking event, just as Zoom and others are currently used for everything from social gatherings to dance classes. And there is already at least one similar tool being developed by Gatherly in New York. “Spatial video chats” could become a new format in the virtual meeting room.

In general, a number of event platforms have made significant investments in the past few months, including Hopin which secured $ 125 million at $ 2 last month. 1 billion reviews and Bizzabo, which raised a mammoth $ 138 million after being forced to add virtual events to its existing offline events platform. Similar companies that have made significant investments this year include Hubilo, Welcome, Run The World, and Airmeet.

Wonder was founded in April by Stephane Roux, Leonard Witteler and Pascal Steck. The product was essentially an extension of Witteler’s first coding project, which he developed in his spare time a few years ago and tested with family and friends. With global bans on track by 2020 (and likely to be 2021), now is exactly the right time to bring the product to market.

In his brief tenure, Wonder has acquired clients across a broad spectrum from individuals to companies like NASA, SAP, and Deloitte to educational institutions like Harvard. With 200. 000 users, the company has seen 30% weekly growth of active users since the beta launch in April, based solely on word of mouth. A big question mark hangs over the business model, however, as the platform is currently free and there are few indications of the possible price structure. « We’re thinking about introducing pricing in mid-2021, » said Steck.

With $ 11 million in the bank, the company is well funded to continue expanding its product. However, unlike some established companies in this space, it will not focus on providing customers with interaction or engagement data anytime soon. However, this is on the longer-term roadmap. « Our main focus is on the guest experience, » said Steck. “We believe that the best possible guest experience is second to none. A big side effect of virtual space is that everyone – including the host – has a good view of the dynamics of the event and therefore a good understanding of interactions and engagement. ”

But there is a growing sense that virtual events will remain part of a new hybrid approach, even as companies are embracing physical gatherings with the same enthusiasm as they were before the pandemic. One of the reasons for this is that companies have now recognized the importance of potential virtual events in opening up a wider audience. Virtual events also provide organizers with valuable data that is difficult to capture in the stationary world. They include registrations, attendance, watched sessions, submitted questions, messages sent, connections made, and much more.

Europe’s leading technology conference, the Web Summit, recently confirmed that next year it will be equipped with a hybrid model – using an event platform developed entirely in-house. Reuters also said it would roll out a hybrid event model next year, combining local networking meetups with online incarnations, after seeing some success with that approach during the pandemic.

As the world slowly returns to a semblance of normalcy in 2021 and beyond, Wonder is betting on a hybrid future.

« We believe that in a hybrid event environment, a lively virtual space in which virtual guests actually meet, talk and chat, surpasses everything else, » said Steck. “We let hosts link the offline elements to the virtual ones through feeds and other interactions. This way, real social interactions take place both offline and online at the same time. ”

Berlin, startup company, seed capital, video telephony, financing

World news – AU – Wonder collects 11 million US dollars to make large virtual events more sociable
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