We chat to Philip Low, founder and CEO of BroadGroup, organisers of high-powered events from Scandinavia to Australia in the datacentre and cloud markets.
Please explain who you are, what your business is, and what it does/aims to achieve?
I started BroadGroup in 2002 to provide clients with research in the then niche and emerging webhosting and co-location markets. In 2004 we created the first regional conference for the sector, Datacentre Europe (DCE), a small transatlantic conference, attracting a few hundred delegates. Today it has grown into an international annual event called DataCloud Europe, attracting over 2,000 top industry players from 50 countries to Monaco.
We have also expanded into other regions including the Nordics, US and South East Asia. As well as pioneering special interest events such as the Finance and Investment Forums, designed to provide access to the investment community and Cloud Law which addresses hot topics such as cybersecurity and data movement between the EU and USA.
I believe it is important to create distinct conferences that not only offer delegates and sponsoring companies deep market intelligence and engaging content, but also quantifiable business opportunities. Deals and information are what brings people to events these days. To justify the investment of time and money in coming to an event, everybody attending has to be sure that they will return to the office with at least new information that will help drive their business and ideally new orders received or placed.
What is your favourite part of your job and what is your least favourite part?
The best part of my job is that I get the chance to engage with the top business leaders from some of the largest global companies as well as government representatives from different countries. I also really like having the chance to sit face to face with customers and do deals – there isn’t a better way to enjoy business. However, my least favourite part of my job has to be the administration and all that businesses encounter today and keeping the red tape at bay, but I am sure I am not alone here.
What inspired you to start your business? (and what made you want to be your own boss?)
The decision for leaving a senior employed position at a large multinational and to go it alone was driven by a number of factors, but primarily I felt that I had exhausted my career opportunities by working for a company and wanted to unleash my entrepreneurial spirit. I also identified a gap in the market and saw this as the right time to form my own company. It began as a process to make money, but not having to report to anyone was liberating too.
What do events bring to businesses? Are they essential for self promotion?
Although the conference business has gone through tough times, as company budgets have been squeezed and time out of the office restricted, well-organised conferences are still essential and relevant. Events, to an extent remove the need for cold calls, unresolved business trips and the associated costs.
How was market research important for the success of BroadGroup?
Today’s events have to be more geared to networking by attendees who have the authority to make deals or facilitate them. To achieve this, organisers have to specialise. They have to know their market inside out. They have to get down to some serious research into the market or sector the event aims to serve. This research is to ensure that the real key players are invited: buyers, sellers, the providers of funds for deals, legal experts to bring together the contracts, deal makers who can arrange collaborations.
Speakers need to be genuine specialists, thought leaders and senior executives active in the market with insights and contributions to make to the understanding of where the market is going and how it is going to get there. There are no short cuts, it requires a lot of time and effort, but research and market knowledge are the foundation of a good event. In addition, participants still need to prepare thoroughly and research who else will be there, who they need to meet, who is speaking and the format of the event.
Have you made any mistakes along the way and how did you overcome them / learn from them?
I don’t think that you can develop a successful business without making mistakes and I have certainly made a few along the way. I have learnt to be more discerning when it comes to forming business alliances as well as managing my own expectations. One of my biggest challenges has been to do with finding the right employees. I have kissed a lot of frogs, but I am happy to say that we now have a team that is very comfortable with each other and all attuned to the commercial needs of the company.