Will digital events become the norm? MAGNiTT interviews Mohammed Tayem, CEO and Founder of Entourage

Eve virtual, MENA’s first virtual hosting platform, recently raised $1M in a Seed funding round from Dubai-based Wiz Holdings and angel investors. Eve is owned by TGW live and powered by Entourage. 

Following the investment, we caught up with Entourage's CEO and Founder, Mohammed Tayem to explore how the platform works, if digital events will become a norm post-COVID-19, the most exciting things happening in the 3D technology world right now, his big-picture vision for the future, and more.

Q1. To start, tell us briefly about eve virtual. How does it work?

Eve is a virtual hosting platform, with a fully immersive 3D environment. It is available as an application for mobiles and desktops. Complete experiences of offline enterprises can be adapted on eve virtual to create a holistic virtual experience, with engagement and interaction. The app is integrated with video conferencing tools and payment gateways for in-app purchases. The engine is built in such a way that it can accommodate various formats and can be completely customized to requirements.  

One of the most important offerings of the platform is the reporting system. The app is equipped to track customer journeys and behaviours and give detailed analytical reports. For example, Mr. X interacted with Mr. Y, visited Mr W’s exhibition stand, bought a particular product, attended A, B, C sessions, spent 3 hours in the networking area and so on. Imagine all of this data for each person who engaged with your virtual activity that can be leveraged to tailor marketing activities, improvise products and services, understand the most popular topics and speakers, etc.

Q2. The current climate has undoubtedly accelerated digital transformation. How has this affected eve virtual? 

The pandemic brought a lot of things in perspective and definitely accelerated the digital transformation. The idea of eve was born from this situation. It was conceptualized to provide a solution for business continuity in a situation when physical gatherings, meetings, offices, schools, universities, etc. everything had to be shut down. Eve is a platform where all these activities can be done seamlessly with maintaining social distancing rules and without anyone being exposed to the virus.

The demand for virtual events and platforms increased a great deal during the pandemic, but we definitely see this trend continuing even after the situation has been controlled.  We have seen how e-commerce has changed purchasing behaviour in the past few years, disrupting the retail sector. Taking inspiration from this disruption, we want to revolutionize live experiences and bring them to the virtual world.

Q3. Given there has been a considerable uptick in digital events recently, do you believe this will become a norm post-COVID-19?

Prior to the pandemic, live events attracted massive numbers of people but with venue, time and accommodation limitations. Only people physically present could attend the event. Virtual events eliminate this limitation of being physically present, as the event can be attended from anywhere from the world. This virtual format of events is definitely not a substitute to the live event format, but I believe an amalgamation of both the formats, a hybrid format, so as to say will be the new norm. This integration will bring the best of both worlds to audiences, maximizing reach across the globe.

Q4. It is quite extraordinary that you managed to raise this round with the current COVID-19 crisis. Was this in the works from much earlier?

COVID-19 changed not only our lifestyle or our consumer behaviour, but also changed investment behaviour. We have seen a lot of investors looking for technology investment opportunities all over the world. Therefore, this one-of-a-kind platform with its unique propositions helped us justify our vision to our investors and convince them to come on board. I believe, post the launch of the application that happened in the first week of July, we will be able to attract more investors to come on board to invest in technology development and R&D for the platform.  

Q5. It’s safe to assume that after this round, you're going to have some exciting growth plans. Can you share some of eve virtual’s short-term plans for expansion with us?

The reason behind the Seed investment was to cover the initial phase of eve, but the possibilities with eve are limitless. At this point, we will be expanding the offering of the platform from a virtual events platform to a virtual hosting platform that can accommodate all type of virtual experiences.

Our students have suffered since the shutdown of schools and eLearning systems were put in place. With the eve engine, we can build a 3D journey of a school, whereby the students and teachers will enjoy an immersive experience of the live school, but virtually. eve can be customized to develop virtual innovation labs, museums, and more.

Q6. What were you looking for from your investors, beyond capital?

Support and faith in our long term vision, as well as opening new avenues for business.

Q7. What do you foresee as the largest challenges to scaling eve virtual in MENA / beyond?

Since its new technology, the biggest challenge we will be facing is migration into the virtual world, as people in this part of the world (or anywhere) can be attached to tangible things.

Q8. In your opinion, what are some of the most exciting things happening in the 3D technology world right now?

3D technology has been around for a while now, but the progress we have seen in visuals has been amazing. We are seeing vast improvements and enhancements in various 3D implementations like gaming, education, scanning, printing and so much more. It has expanded to spectrums such as food and astrophysics. It is safe to say that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Technologies like VR and AR have been available for years, but now we see wider acceptance and implementation of these technologies in different segments, making them more mainstream.

3D scanning was initially used only for industrial purposes such as creating 3D models for construction and architecture. But now, 3D scanning is expanding to other sectors. We are planning to use 3D scanning on the eve platform as well. You can scan a person and the person can be represented in a 3D avatar format on the platform. This is still work in progress, hopefully, we can introduce it soon.  

Q9. What is your big-picture vision for the future of eve virtual?

We started building eve back in April. Today, we are expanding the technology team and infrastructure, and are investing heavily on equipment and tech adaptations. Once we finish doing so, we aim to see eve as an international platform by the end of this year.

Q10. Finally, what advice would you give to yourself five years ago? :)

Adapt and evolve... what you do today may become obsolete in 5 years.

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2019 has seen $516M invested in GCC-based startups, a 22% drop in total funding from $661M in 2018, mainly concentrated in the UAE. Discover more trends and insights in our 2019 GCC Venture Investment Report.