May 25, 2021
On May 20th, Filo hosted Virtual Innovators: Lessons from Online Demo Days, Sprints & Accelerators, a webinar featuring Andrew Hippert, Sr. Program Manager at Techstars Sports Accelerator, Sibyl Chen, Sr. Director of Program at Berkeley SkyDeck, Lauren Kellum, the Chief of Staff at High Alpha Innovation, and Matt Compton, Filo.co’s Co-Founder & CEO.
During the panel discussion, each panelist shared the unexpected benefits of hosting virtual events. Here are five benefits that emerged from the conversation.
Not needing a physical space saves money on the venue itself as well as on-site staff. Andrew mentioned how great it was not having to think operationally about configuring a space to fit people comfortably.
"We don't have a permanent space in Indianapolis. Instead, we rent a space for the duration that is needed, and it is challenging to find a place to put the companies. Before the pandemic, we were concerned about how many conference rooms we needed and finding the perfect space size. Doing it virtually was easy; we didn't have to deal with any of those logistical nightmares." -Andrew Hippert, Sr. Program Manager at Techstars Sports Accelerator
Travelling to attend an event in person is a significant barrier. By going virtual, people are able to attend where they are located and it is great to get more people to participate.
"In 2019, we hosted our demo day at the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, and about 300 people attended. In 2020 we held it virtually, and almost 800 people participated. The virtual demo day gave us incredible access to more people that can make an impact." -Andrew Hippert
The ability for attendees to participate in virtual events from anywhere they may be expands not only program reach but also engagement. Each panelist saw increased overall engagement with their online demo days and accelerator programming.
"Once we moved to remote acceleration, we began working with more advisors that didn't live near Berkeley. It made it easier for people to jump in for their office hours, so the engagement in both startup founders and our network went up. To meet the content demand, we ended up adding more workshops than ever before." -Sibyl Chen, Sr. Director of Program at Berkeley SkyDeck
When planning a virtual event, it's necessary to hone in on objectives. Event producers found that putting things on paper allowed them to think about interactions in the virtual space as well as brought clarity to the event's goals.
"A pleasant surprise was creating a little more clarity around the magic of Sprint Week. Sprint Week can be hard to explain, but we forced ourselves to put it on paper." -Lauren Kellum, the Chief of Staff at High Alpha Innovation
Each panelist also recommended being deliberate about making sure people feel involved and part of a community.
"Anything you can do to make people feel appreciated or that there is something tangible to connect them to the event is great. We shipped out curated boxes to participants with local Indianapolis goods to make them feel part of the community." -Lauren Kellum
Finding tools that help day-to-day operations was another big win. Lauren mentioned that her team at High Alpha Innovation are Mural experts now. During the company's Sprint Week, the team was able to collaborate in Mural thanks to Filo Tiles. However, the team now uses the tool every day and not just for event collaboration.
"To bring clarity, we mapped out core processes and milestones on Mural boards that we could then share for remote collaboration. That has been such a significant impact on our team that we will continue to use Mural even if we go back to in-person sprint weeks or hybrid." -Lauren Kellum
Although the virtual events were a success, the panelists did mention that this was challenging to shift. "It has been a learning process. We've tried so many software platforms to host our workshops, networking events and demo days. Filo is the closest platform that gets us to an in-person setup," Sibyl exclaims.