This start-up gave big events a virtual home in the pandemic — it's now worth $2 billion

Key Points
  • Britain's Hopin announced Tuesday that it's raised $125 million in a round of funding that values the firm at more than $2 billion.
  • The company saw a spike in growth this year as the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of several major conferences.
  • That growth is translating into revenues, with Hopin claiming to generate over $20 million in annual recurring revenue.
A session on virtual events platform Hopin.

LONDON — British start-up Hopin has seen rapid growth this year amid demand for virtual events. That's attracted significant interest from investors.

The London-based firm's software allows conference hosts to run their gatherings online, aiming to emulate the experience of a physical event with tools for virtual talks and networking.

On Tuesday, Hopin announced that it's raised $125 million in a round of funding that values the firm at more than $2 billion. That marks a dramatic climb from a previous valuation of $350 million and comes just under two years since the company was founded.

Hopin saw a spike in growth this year as the coronavirus pandemic and resulting restrictions on public life forced the cancellation of several major conferences.

It's gone from 5,000 registered users to 3.5 million in the last eight months, while the number of organizations hosting events on its platform skyrocketed from 1,800 to 50,000. Some of its most notable clients include NATO, the UN, Slack and Salesforce, which is also an investor in the company.

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Hopin's wild growth hasn't gone unnoticed by investors, who have poured over $170 million into the company since February. Its latest cash injection, a Series B round, was co-led by late-stage investors IVP and Tiger Global, while Coatue and DFJ Growth also invested.

Northzone partner Paul Murphy, an early investor in the firm, said there was a lot of competition when it came to backing Hopin's latest round. He added: "We always expect the first round to be competitive; what I don't usually expect is for each subsequent round to also be so competitive."

'Stay-at-home' trends

The growth of Hopin echoes several "stay-at-home" trends in technology that have been driven by the Covid-19 outbreak. Video conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, for instance, saw usage spike on the back of lockdown measures around the world.

For Hopin, which launched ahead of schedule in the spring to address increased demand, that meant having to bolster its in-house infrastructure to ensure "stability," according to founder and CEO Johnny Boufarhat. And that growth is swiftly translating into revenues, with the company claiming to generate over $20 million in annual recurring revenue.

"We're profitable and have been growing really, really fast month-on-month," Boufarhat said in an interview Tuesday. "Our goal is to create the best product for customers and, if we continue doing that, it's going to continue at this pace."

Some investors question the extent to which such pandemic-linked trends will continue once there's a vaccine. On Monday, for instance, shares of notable "stay-at-home" stocks like Zoom and Netflix fell sharply after drug maker Pfizer announced its Covid-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective in preventing infection.

But Boufarhat says the company is ready for a broader reopening of economies, claiming Hopin's first paying customer actually wanted to use it as a "hybrid" service that would run alongside physical events.

"If we could blueprint Hopin as a public company, it would be that we're going to invest in innovation," he said, indicating the firm's interest in eventually going public. "We're investing quite heavily into hybrid events to make it a new experience for people."

With an extra $125 million in the bank, Hopin plans to use the fresh funds to ramp up hiring and invest in new product features. The company has grown to 190 employees from just eight in March and expects to hire an additional 150 people by the end of 2020. It's also rolling out an Eventbrite-like marketplace called "Explore" that lets users search for events.