Hopin, the UK-based virtual events company, has gone from four employees to a $2bn valuation in under a year, becoming one of the fastest-growing start-ups ever.

Hopin, which was founded in London last year by Johnny Boufarhat after an illness prompted him to seek alternatives to physical events online, said on Tuesday it has raised $125m in new funding, led by US investment firms IVP and Tiger Global.

After its expansion plans were dramatically accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic, it now has more than 200 employees in 38 countries, with hundreds of thousands of people attending its online events every week. The latest round comes swiftly after it raised $40m in June.

“My goal has always been . . . we want to be the fastest-growing company in the world,” said Mr Boufarhat. “It would be great to have that based in Europe.”

While Zoom’s video chats aim to recreate team meetings, Hopin looks to recreate online every facet of a physical event, including keynote presentations, exhibitor booths, breakout sessions, one-to-one networking and ticketed entry. Zoom also took more than five years to reach a $1bn valuation.

Hopin’s growth figures have created a frenzy among venture capitalists of the kind rarely seen outside Silicon Valley, creating intense competition that helped drive up its valuation.

“For a global enterprise [software] business to have grown at this pace, we are still scratching our heads to find something that is exactly comparable,” said Sonali de Rycker, partner at Accel, one of Hopin’s first investors.

Unusually for a fast-growing internet start-up, Hopin is also profitable, with annual recurring revenues — a metric used by enterprise software companies to track the future value of customer contracts — now reaching $20m.

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“We’ve seen other companies go through really rapid growth but nothing to the extent that Hopin is going through,” said Jules Maltz, partner at IVP, who has previously backed Slack, Twitter, TransferWise and Dropbox. “The company had very aggressive projections when we invested [in June]. They are beating those numbers by a wide margin.”

Mr Boufarhat said he plans to hire 150 more people by the end of this year and hundreds more in 2021. The company has always worked as a fully distributed team, allowing it to scale its remote workforce more quickly than start-ups that typically have to spend time hunting for new office space as they grow.

Hopin founder Johnny Boufarhat
Johnny Boufarhat, Hopin founder, said he plans to hire 150 more people by the end of this year and hundreds more in 2021

Being “remote” has also allowed the company to attract more experienced managers from the likes of Salesforce.com — whose venture capital arm is an investor — and Dropbox, which has bolstered investors’ confidence that Hopin will be able to handle the rapid growth.

“Yes [Hopin] are scaling very fast but it’s also being done in a very thoughtful way,” said Ms de Rycker, while adding: “I do think there is such a thing as ‘too fast’ . . . You always get indigestion at some point.”

Hopin’s online video, presentation and chat platform has hosted events ranging from larger conferences run by organisations including Nato and TechCrunch, to all-hands meetings, weddings and comedy shows. In total, more than 3.5m people have attended events put on by 50,000 organisations in the past eight months.

Surging demand has given investors confidence that Hopin is creating a new market for online events, which will eventually form a “hybrid” or companion to real-world conferences, even after Covid-19 lockdowns are lifted.

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News of Hopin’s skyrocketing private valuation comes just a day after many publicly listed companies that have thrived during the pandemic by serving people stuck at home, including Zoom, Ocado and Peloton, saw their stocks tumble, after Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their Covid-19 vaccine could be approved within weeks.

Despite Monday’s tech-stock volatility, Mr Maltz remains confident about Hopin’s long-term opportunity. “I don’t think the world is going back,” he said. “It’s so much more efficient for people to do things virtually.”

Via Financial Times