December 19, 2022   |   Aprilynne Pike

Swoogo’s Story

Hey, we’re Swoogo. 

We’re very serious people.

Well, maybe not that serious.

But you know what we are serious about? Swoogo. 

Swoogo is an award-winning, best-in-class event management platform, with a 98.7% customer satisfaction rating, that secured 20 million dollars in Series B funding last year, and we’re scaling like mad. Nifty.

But it wasn’t always like that.

Humble Beginnings

A long, long time ago (2015) in a galaxy far, far, away (Rhode Island) the absolute event management dream team of Leonora Valvo, Tim Cummins, and Neil Keefe, had a problem. The events industry was growing and thriving, but no one had brought together a single platform that truly addressed all the needs of event profs: from small and medium businesses, to huge global Enterprises, and everything in-between.

Well, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. (Can you tell Leonora was an event planner?) They brought Swoogo to the market with simple solutions, transparent pricing, and outstanding customer support. Simply put, Swoogo was created by events profs, for events profs. Swoogo was founded out of necessity.

What the heck is Swoogo?

With an emphasis on simplicity, functionality, and the true DIY spirit, Swoogo is a user-friendly event management platform that helps you execute your in-person or digital events, that is perfectly suited to your needs. There isn’t another event platform in existence with the degree of personalization that Swoogo offers every single customer, in every single package.

So, of course, with such a fantastic premise Swoogo floated through the rubble of dozens of other event management software offerings that … didn’t take off quite so well. Swoogo built a name, (yes, a funny name) a reputation, and a not-too-shabby client list.

But it was time to grow.

Enter Chris Sykes in … May of 2020.

Did every event planner hear doom-filled music in their head? So did he.

But even pre-COVID, the decision to acquire Swoogo wasn’t taken lightly. “The initial thing that drew me to Swoogo was the product. Swoogo was a young company, but the software felt mature beyond its years. And the COVID lockdowns really tested it. Tested all of us.” Wise words, Chris.

A team with a plan

You know that moment in Friends when Ross is trying to move the couch up the stairs and shouts “Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!” That’s exactly what Swoogo had to do. Though they specialized in event management software for in-person events, Swoogo had already begun wading into virtual functionality, running webinars and 1:1s with some of their clients. But now Swoogo needed to become an expert in virtual, and fast. 

Not just for themselves. Swoogo had a chance to save itself … by saving their customers.

Swoogo’s very first employee, Rachel Carter—who remains with the company as SVP of Customer Experience—remembers it well. “It happened in one week,” she said. “There were rumblings earlier, of course. But there was one week, when shutdowns were announced across the country. That’s when I started getting messages from our Success Team. Their clients were asking how to mass-refund every single registration. We had never seen that.”

By Thursday, an all-hands meeting was called. Tim Cummins, founder and Chief Software Architect, (and yes! Still at Swoogo!) joined forces with Rachel, who had just stepped into a newly created role as Head of Swoogo Virtual, came up with the solution. Open up the virtual capabilities they’d already been exploring, link them to every aspect of the platform, and they were pretty sure this could allow every single client to go 100% virtual. 

That was Thursday.

The following Monday, Swoogo began offering fully virtual events to all of their clients. Bam! 

Okay, there was a lot of hand-holding (on both sides!) as everyone learned how to transform in-person events into digital experiences, but that Monday was the day everything changed from impossible to possible.

Being the lifeboat

It was about more than just saving Swoogo. Swoogo had to save its customers. Because what is Swoogo without its customers? The people we serve are the only reason we exist.

By the end of the first month, after their screeching spin to virtual, Chris began getting emails from clients. They were starting to think things were going to be okay. Without Swoogo—without the ability to move their events online—many of them would have gone under. “I’m proud that we could help businesses survive,” Chris said. “It’s what we do. It’s what the team does.”

Was there ever a moment when they thought Swoogo would fail? Surely there was a moment. “Not one,” Rachel said. “Swoogo is too good a product to fail. I never, for even a second, thought it would fold.” Maybe every business have the confidence of Rachel!

Climbing out of the valley

This story isn’t without casualties—no story about 2020 is, especially in industries like events what got hit hard. People everywhere got laid off, Swoogo included. Everyone in the events industry flailed about, trying to find a path forward when it was hard to see a week ahead, much less a year. But when the dust settled, Swoogo emerged, not simply having managed to add virtual capabilities; the company was transformed.

The switch to digital experiences fed the demand for Swoogo’s services, and the demand started to let Team Swoogo grow again, sooner than they could ever have imagined. “As soon as we could afford to hire new employees, we did,” Chris said. “We got back on track pretty fast.”

Getting back on track is the least of what they did. With Chris at the helm of the S.S. Swoogo, the company nearly tripled its recurring revenue from May 2020 to February 2022—an astounding accomplishment for any event management platform.

So astounding, it brought some mega investors to the table. In February of 2022, Swoogo announced it had raised $20 million in Series B funding. Sure, anyone would be excited about $20 million, but what that funding meant specifically for Swoogo was more engineers, more features, better product offerings for our customers.

And a bigger team. A lot bigger.

So we’re up to the present, and not only is Swoogo an award-winning event management platform for in-person, digital, and hybrid, we’ve been scaling for more than two years, and a three-figure employee roster. Not too shabby.

A culture to count on

What makes this growth possible? The captain of the ship can only do so much; so much credit goes to the crew. So what makes the Swoogo crew different?

Our very first day at Swoogo, we’re presented with three rules. The first one is Assume positive intent. I don’t think there’s any one sentence that better describes Swoogo’s corporate culture. Rachel Carter—whose job it is to maintain this culture of awesome—says, “Swoogo does things that other businesses talk about. It feels simple to me; don’t talk about how to value your employees, just start valuing them.”

It’s incredibly easy for a CEO to come in and change the corporate culture. But that very culture—and the people behind it—was one of the big aspects that made Chris choose Swoogo in the first place, and he’s dedicated to doing what it takes to keep it. Key aspects of maintaining the camaraderie at Swoogo? A weekly online huddle with the whole company, a Slack channel dedicated to kudos call-outs, and incentive offsites. Also, massive transparency and lots of 1:1s. “I don’t want to be thought of as a boss,” Chris says. “I want to be a team member, who happens to be on the letterhead.” Key personnel decisions are important too. It took months to find the right HR employees and picking our perfect (awesome) COO? Almost a year. Because our company culture really matters.

Looking forward

Companies everywhere are all-in on in-person, and in some cases, virtual is actually struggling. So Swoogo is pivoting again—but not all the way back.

Swoogo grew up supporting in-person events, but over the course of the pandemic we connected hundreds of thousands of people through digital events. Now, with both in-person and digital capabilities, we’re poised to take on hybrid events, and we’ve emerged as a leader in a space that is being completely redefined and reinvented.  (Wooo, Swoogo + Zoom Events, for example!)

There’s a distinct purpose to both in-person and digital events, and hybrid offers the very best of both worlds. There will continue to be digital-only events, and we suspect there will be a resurgence of in-person only events, but we think a majority of events will be a blending of both, and Swoogo is all-in on that! Ready to streamline and enhance your event, no matter what ratio of in-person and digital you decide to go with.

So, what’s in store for Swoogo? Every single employee in the company is looking toward the future with extreme optimism. Every team has grown, specialists have been onboarded, and everyone’s got scaling on the brain. No one more than our new(ish!) CEO, still hungry to prove himself further.

So what are Chris Sykes’ specific goals for Swoogo?

Swoogo’s mission is to empower anyone to bring people together. In concrete terms,  that means being the go-to event partner for our customers as they return to in-person events, scale their digital events, and adopt hybrid strategies—pushing the limits, and conquering them, natch.

The underlying philosophy

The fact is that no business survives an industry-devastating event and thrives without something beyond just a great business plan.

“There’s nothing more important to me than getting people together,” Chris says. “It’s so crucial. Family, friends, co-workers. Whoever is meaningful to you—including customers—gathering them together is key. But it’s so much work. If I can be part of a company that makes it easier to have those times together, in whatever form, then I’ve put something of value into the world.”

Chris’ philosophy is reflected in every aspect of Swoogo, and it’s explicit in Swoogo’s employees and corporate culture. The customer success team’s mission is to be helpful, the engineering team to ensure every event runs smoothly, and product aims to give event profs tools they didn’t know they desperately needed. Marketing? Well, we just work hard to make sure everyone knows about Swoogo; what we do and who we are. And make it all look beautiful (hello Maggie and Ira!!)

And now that you do know, we’d love to have you come on board. Book a demo to see how Swoogo can make your events easier and more meaningful. Welcome to the crew.