Steve Monnington (pictured), managing director of Mayfield Media Strategies

Some larger organisers are seeing a shortage of acquisition opportunities for their M&A pipeline. However, there were still eight transactions by eight different buyers in five countries announced in the last two months, although these are all relatively small businesses. 

In my last column, I highlighted the emerging trend for the acquisition of businesses that are different from the traditional trade show model. The focus is starting to shift from exhibitor/visitor to tighter relationships through 1-2-1 meetings whether they are in person or online. The digital element of these is also pushing the development of an omnichannel approach to data utilisation. The acquisition by Hyve of US organiser Fintech Meetup in March continues this trend. As Covid-19 becomes something that we are learning to live with (at least outside of China and Hong Kong), mainstream exhibitions have now returned in force. Meanwhile, 1-2-1 events have adopted a hybrid online/in person approach – or have they?

Fintech Meetup is an interesting case of a business following what their community wants rather than what tradition dictates. The business was launched in early 2021 by Anil Aggarwal who has a history of creating and selling technology events – Money 20/20 sold to Ascential and ShopTalk, Groceryshop and Retail Meetup all previously acquired by Hyve. 

The launch edition of Fintech Meetup in 2021 was virtual and boasted 20,000 meetings. The second edition, which opened on 22 March, was originally planned as a physical event. However, following feedback from the community it continued as a pure virtual event. 

The business is at a very early stage – 2021 revenue of US$1.3m and a loss of US$3.8m – but growth expectations are high, as evidenced by the deal structure of US$5m paid now and an earnout of up to US$50m based on results. Hyve sees several of its key opportunities for accelerating its omnichannel strategy in the fintech market, so we can expect Fintech Meetup to expand its operations using Hyve’s infrastructure. 

The growing focus on digital events businesses is also creating acquisition opportunities in the event tech area. Infopro Digital, one of the top 10 French technology groups, has acquired EventMaker, a French company that has created web-based software to manage physical, virtual and hybrid events. With virtual events booming during lockdown and hybrid events popular as organisers combine physical and digital, this is a crowded market, but Infopro is present in 17 countries and the potential for international expansion must have been a key factor in the sale.

Finally, anyone who is tempted to start their own events business should take inspiration from UK consumer show organiser Raccoon Events. Founded on the launch of The National Running Show, Raccoon has quickly grown through regional launches, new sectors (outdoor, cycling, snow and horses), geographical expansion (Run Shows in the US) and the start of an omnichannel business with Run Show TV and the Outside and Active digital platform. Now it has announced its first acquisition – the Snowbound festivals – acquired from Snowsports Industries America (SIA), a not-for-profit member-owned association for the US winter outdoor industry. Raccoon and SIA have committed to launch new Snowbound events across the US. Crucially, the move has been supported by some of the biggest brands in the snow sports industry and is one of the first examples of a Direct to Consumer model for the exhibition sector.