As the Industry Pivots, LA's Event Hub Aims to Bring Vendor Booths Back to Virtual Concerts

Sam Blake

Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake

As the Industry Pivots, LA's Event Hub Aims to Bring Vendor Booths Back to Virtual Concerts
Photo by Jerome on Unsplash

Event Hub began 2020 with optimism. It was picking up steam after graduating the mostly virtual 2019 Techstars Anywhere accelerator program and ready to launch into a booming events industry.

At the time, the L.A. startup was primarily a marketplace for connecting event organizers with companies and entrepreneurs to sell their wares and promote their brands at exhibitor booths.

"Then the bottom dropped out completely from live events," founder and chief executive Michael Bleau told dot.LA. "New sales disappeared (and) we saw a wave of cancellations and postponements."

As they watched organizers struggle to convert their in-person events to virtual get-togethers, Event Hub saw an opportunity. Since then, it has pivoted — not only to keep itself afloat — but to throw a lifeline to the sinking events industry and its many stakeholders.

The damage that the pandemic has inflicted on the event industry goes beyond ticket sales. Bleau notes that many events earn over half their income from sponsorships and revenue shares with vendors. Many craft vendors and artisans count on the summer circuits for their livelihoods.

According to a survey conducted earlier this year by IEG, an advisory and research firm, there is widespread concern that the events industry will never look the same. New guidelines from the Event Safety Alliance, a nonprofit trade group, highlight the need to limit event attendance in order to comply with social distancing. Bleau points out that this likely means fewer sponsors and partners as well, which further threatens the viability that event producers can cover their costs.

So Event Hub created a new digital platform.

The company will build on the traction it created from a pilot launch event with Seattle's Pride Parade at the end of June with the upcoming Retrospekt music festival, which is based out of L.A. and will be held virtually from July 11-12.

Viewers tuning in to the event will see a virtual "vendor village" showcasing exhibitors below the "main stage" at the top of their web browsers. Vendors will be able to interact with attendees who visit their "booths" via video chat or text, engaging with them in real time as they browse the offerings for sale. Exhibitors can also post their own media files and external links to customize their virtual stalls. And once the event is over, the vendor pages stay live for up to 30 days to allow for residual traffic.

The organizers can use the booths for extended programming, too, such as side stages or breakout rooms.

Bleau says that Event Hub serves clients in a way that current livestreaming platforms do not.

"YouTube livestream monetizes for YouTube," he says, "not the event organizer." In contrast, Event Hub allows organizers to retain control in exchange for a flat, per-event license fee.

Looking beyond the realm of entertainment, Bleau says he has been in talks with political event organizers. Candidates would be able to livestream their speeches and then meet with attendees via virtual tables.

He expects to see somewhere between 50-100 vendors at Retrospekt, and says he's in discussions with other event organizers interested in featuring up to 600.

"There's really no limit to how many vendors the platform can support," he says.

If and when in-person activity becomes more realistic, Bleau thinks Event Hub will continue to be an appealing option.

"This is a great virtual standalone venue, a great hybrid option, and a great supplement when in-person events return," he says.

However it plays out, Event Hub will be flexible thanks to its pandemic pivot.


Sam Blake primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Find him on Twitter @hisamblake and email him at samblake@dot.LA

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.