WHEN IT RAINFOCUSES, IT POURS. This end-to-end event management platform is showering its clients with data insights like never before. The $22-million company is making it rain (much like we are with these puns) — and from lanyards to leaving, RainFocus is ready whether it’s a meeting of 10 or 10,000. And get this: In COVID, where meetings have been fleeting and rooms became Zooms, RainFocus’ technology only proved more invaluable. “Companies need the data either way,” says co-founder Doug Baird. “The world was on fire — but it has propelled us into the future and is making us better positioned for a hybrid event world of screens and real life.” Hail yeah.
JR SHERMAN: Doug started a software company called WingateWeb in the late ’90s. It was tech that tracked the attendee journey of what people did when they got to an event — what sessions they attended, exhibitors they visited, feedback, registration data, etc. All on Palm Pilots, of course.
DOUG BAIRD: But it wasn’t until we moved into this decade that we could finally accomplish what we set out to do all along. It took us nearly 20 years to get it right.
In starting RainFocus, we not only want to help people get data in their databases — we want to help them make sense of the data. The name RainFocus points to that. The rain is a play on the cloud and computing, while the focus is all about finding a clear vision.
JR: Plus, the domain name was available.
DOUG: Think about someone going to a big conference. There are hundreds of touch points with the customer that would take you literally months or years to go through.
And that’s the interesting thing about events. You have operations people who are getting badges on attendees, and you have the marketing team thinking through strategy. Executing the event is not the same skill set as analyzing the data from it. The secret sauce to RainFocus is that we’ve figured out both sides of the equation.
JR: Our company has gone better and faster than expected, and there is a clear, easy reason: Early on, we hired two fantastic people — Travis Cushing and Mike Bushman. They’re world-class engineers, and because of that, we get better third-party reviews on our tech than companies 50 times bigger than us.
DOUG: The pressure of events is different than any other industry. Not everyone likes that kind of environment. It requires both spontaneity and a willingness to run toward the fire.
I love solving problems alongside a team that loves to solve problems. And then we like to go home and be with our families. We work for our personal lives — not the other way around.
In 2018 we took on an investment partner — JMI. It was a bit of a fluke because we never take those kinds of calls. But we couldn’t be happier with the partnership. It’s enabled JR and I to move away from day-to-day duties so we can focus more on the big picture.
JR: When COVID hit, there were phases in the event industry. The first was fires exploding and papers flying in the air. True panic. The second phase was either canceling events or moving them online. The third phase was our clients’ realization that an event is a captive audience — whether online or face-to-face.
What COVID has done is shift society. Online meetings are now acceptable. And that creates another exciting trajectory for our business.
The processes we meticulously established and honed got us through COVID. While the waves were rocking high, our boat was stable.
DOUG: We’ve had a ton of growth over the past six months. It was chaotic. There were days I didn’t want to get out of bed. But when I started thinking forward to 2021 and all of the possibilities, I would shoot straight up.
We’re inventing a whole new world. It’s uncharted. And it’s exciting.