Why did you start Assenty?
I started Assenty as a response to a real problem I had experienced at an event.
I was part of the audience at a conference in Manchester where we had been asked to send questions to a mobile phone number by SMS ahead of the Q&A session. The questions would then be typed up and displayed on the large screen at the venue before the Q&A started.
A few people obliged, but when it came to the Q&A session itself, it became immediately apparent that there was no way to prioritise what was being answered, the moderator had to answer each question in the order in which they had been typed up, and some questions were more relevant than others.
As a software developer in the audience, I felt that there would be a simple technical solution for bringing order to the process of getting questions from an engaged audience in a room.
My background in social media marketing also meant that I knew people would take ownership of their questions if given the chance to post them via social media. That experience led me to start working on a service for posting questions to speakers at conferences via social media. Eventually, it had a name, Assenty (because there was already an app on the App Store called Assent, my first choice of name) and, along the way, I decided to make it a web app, not a mobile app, to get it out of the door and into the hands of users.
This turned out to be a unique selling point – most competitors on the market require users to download an app to use them and this can be a barrier to the audience using it at large gatherings and events.
With Assenty you simply send people a link to your ‘question board’ before the event, to invite questions for speakers and to invite anonymous votes for quick polls that can run on any digital platform.
Features like the ability to post anonymous questions, to answer and reward questions, and to run multi-platform polls were all added as I worked with a handful of early users.
Since launching in August 2016, the platform has been used by a growing list of companies including PwC, BusinessCloud, NewcastleStartupWeek, WIN Conference Manchester and Creative North. We are thrilled to be partnering with pro-manchester for the upcoming Trailblazing Tech 2020 conference at The Lowry Hotel in a few weeks.
I also organise the city’s highly acclaimed monthly #FemaleTechFounder night, sponsored by ThoughtWorks – and the platform is regularly used to poll our audience before, during and after each event. It has shaped the community a great deal and helped identify what areas to focus on for this under-represented part of the tech startup community Speakers have told me that they have felt the most prepared they’ve been attending an event because they were able to take the temperature around the room before the event happened using our social polls.
Tell us more about the tech behind the product.
The platform is written in Elixir, a functional programming language that provides some incredible benefits due to its roots in Erlang, the language most of the world’s telephony systems are written in. This means that practically speaking, the platform comes with concurrency built-in, and can handle millions of users posting questions on the same question board at the same time without breaking a sweat.
It uses the same virtual machine that WhatsApp runs on which makes it an incredibly scalable, fault-tolerant and powerful platform. There is so much more to gain from using Elixir on Assenty, we’ve only just scratched the surface.
Where are you at right now?
We are currently building out a world class product in Assenty with an impressive roadmap that sees the addition of Eventbrite integration and the addition of machine learning capabilities so that you can discover relevant events through the questions and insights posted by others on Assenty.
We are also working with some forward-thinking event organisers in the region and demonstrating the incredible value add we provide. Assenty is the only audience interaction platform that allows an event organiser to significantly extend the reach of an event by creating buzz and momentum around the event before, during and after it happens. They do this by running social polls and inviting questions for speakers anywhere a URL can be received.
What are your aims for the next year?
The aim is to grow the user base for Assenty and to start building out our sales funnel.
What’s been the hardest thing about getting Assenty off the ground?
The development! I’m a solo technical founder so it’s been hard work writing the code, deploying it live, managing business development, updating the blog and doing all the other things that need to be done to get a startup off the ground. I also work full-time as a contract software engineer.
Recently I started working with an incredible marketing consultant who has supercharged the strategy side of things so things are already improving in that regard, because she has deep experience of the events sector.
Why should more people be using Assenty?
No other audience engagement platform makes it easy to get insights from your audience from social media before, during and after the event. And no other platform makes it easy to extend the reach of your event by inviting questions for speakers on social media too!
We are developing case studies that prove that this pre-event engagement significantly increases ticket sales because more people become engaged with the event earlier in the sales cycle.
How much will it cost users – and why is it worth the investment?
Question boards cost £125 for a single event. We also have a monthly subscription at £70 and a yearly subscription at £770. The monthly subscription gets you 30 question boards while the yearly gets you 360 question boards. Each question board supports an unlimited number of questions and polls.
For new clients, each package comes with a free trial which includes some pre-event support and some on-the-day support.
We are still working on the specifics of the pre-event support but it does include promoting the event on social media and assisting with the content creation for quick polls. We aim to help our clients deliver incredibly engaging events by functioning as an extension of their marketing team.
Come the day of a big event, everyone is so busy running round getting things done that no one has time to engage with audience interaction technology that could actually get helpful insights from the attendees that are there and willing to provide it.
With Assenty’s platform, and our event marketing support, we help organisers take advantage of the insights from the audience online well before the event, and use this knowledge to deliver better planned events that truly speak the attendee’s language.