When SpotMe was founded it had a bold vision: to develop a handheld device of its own. It was 2001, and the Lausanne, Switzerland-based firm had just spun out of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Its team wanted to develop an innovative solution that would facilitate face-to- face interactions.
That year it partnered with the St Gallen Symposium, one of Switzerland’s premier technology events, and which today draws 800 of the country’s brightest and best in innovation.
Today the company’s partnership with the event is one of its few constants, throughout a striking 16 years of change, development and pivots that few other startup C-suites could imagine. And it was the event itself that would provide SpotMe’s team with the eureka moment it needed to push outside its comfort zone.
SpotMe is an enterprise platform that helps people engage at events. It is flexible, robust and interactive: ideal for any meeting, and any device. The company has now spread its wings way beyond Switzerland. In February its Singapore subsidiary reported 310% growth across Asia Pacific. In September it announced it would be opening an office in New York City – its sixth location worldwide.
CEO Pierre Metrailler was one of those present at SpotMe’s academic genesis. The focus on meetings and conferences was an “aha moment on finding a niche market and a revenue stream,” he tells Red Herring. But what followed was about adaptability, and resilience. SpotMe’s founding team was all-white, and all-male.
“Retrospectively, this was a weakness,” says Metrailler. “It is comforting to be surrounded by people from the same background, culture and beliefs, as they will essentially always agree with you and never challenge anything. Today women make up 38% of SpotMe’s fast-growing staff. It includes 25 nationalities and 29 languages.
Transparency with those colleagues, Metrailler says, is key to keeping on top of the business’ multifaceted goals. He fosters financial literacy “to the point your engineering team will be discussing revenue, profit and cash at your coffee machine.”
Tech revolutions–WiFi, NFC, the iPhone and App Store–have constantly transformed the way SpotMe operates and attracts new clients. They informed the company’s 2011 decision to pivot from proprietary hardware rental to a pure SaaS business and delivery model – which Metrailler is proud to have done “without losing revenue our brand equity, which is remarkable.”
As a software firm, that is profitable and reaching into new territories seemingly every month, SpotMe has one goal: Fortune 500. “This requires discipline and relentless focus as it very easy to get distracted by low-hanging fruits,” says Metrailler.
“As a Swiss company, we were born with a tiny, almost non-existent domestic market, so we have gone international from day one, conquering Europe first, entering the US in 2007 and Asia in 2012.”
Today 99% of SpotMe’s revenue comes from export – with over 50% from North America. With 84% of new business coming from referrals participants have become, Metrailler says, “our marketing department. We put a massive emphasis on building strong customer relationships, on customer advocacy, on net promoter score and on customer satisfaction.”
It is a winning formula. And one which owes much to Metrailler and co’s willingness to roll with changes in technology, office culture and business models. With no shortage of global events to service, SpotMe is perfectly positioned to leverage its deep tech pedigree into market dominance.