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Consolidation has been a constant in the event technology sector for years. Significant senior leadership changes, however, are much rarer.
Jim Sharpe, a newcomer to the event technology sector, has replaced Aventri CEO Oni Chukwu at the helm of the company. Chukwu has become executive chairman of the company’s board; he has served as CEO since 2013.
Aventri, formerly known as Etouches, is one of the biggest companies in the event technology space. It provides a variety of sourcing and planning products to event planners on its platform. The company, originally founded in 1998, was purchased by private equity firm HGGC in May 2017.
New CEO Sharpe was managing director of Gerson Lehrman Group, a professional education services company, before joining Aventri. Despite being new to the space, Sharpe had experience facilitating events during his prior role. He noticed the importance of data science and technology during his time overseeing events for global leaders and executives.
“It’s definitely a competitive space and something that I’m somewhat new to… but we’re going to continue to leverage our very talented team with a great track record so that goes without saying,” said Sharpe. “Aventri is a top two market player in terms of size and breadth out there. The thing that really makes me really excited is that we’re really the only fully integrated solution out there. A lot of people are a hodgepodge of acquisitions but the way Aventri has turned that into an integrated event platform is something differentiated in the space.”
Aventri offers a variety of products on its platform and is working to better integrate its existing products into tools for planners and organizations. While the focus will be on stronger integration of its existing products, it seems like Aventri will consider acquisitions going forward.
“There’s a big trend toward consolidation here in the industry, a lot of people scooping up different widgets and technology that they need,” said Sharpe. “You have to continue to really focus on the integration of what is acquired. The good news is we’re well positioned to acquire and onboard new technologies; yes, that will be something we think about going forward. What I will say though is that there’s a point to investing in this business, in taking the core what we have today and making that even better.”
He mentioned strategic meetings management and artificial intelligence as two key investment areas, along with customer experience improvements.
Finally, Sharpe has experience exiting a private-equity backed company past, having done so as CEO of manufacturing company Standard Purification. An exit, though, isn’t in the cards for Aventri in the near future.
“I didn’t come here to exit the business,” said Sharpe. “I came here to really build the business. From my perspective it’s far more about how can we look out five years and see where this business should be and build a first-class industry participant… I do have experience luckily, exiting businesses, but that’s not the focus.”