Elizabeth Perry is co-founder of White Bull, one of the most creative European conference producers focused on top tech companies. Their mission is not simply to produce events, but also to connect people, to help them on their “Pathways” to to success – including the Exit. In fact their anchor event was originally called “Pathways to Exit” (now shortened to “Pathways”) She has a degree in journalism, a background in marketing and communications, and experience living in multiple countries. Her strong passion for connection, and telling valuable stories about people,turned into founding White Bull with her partner Farley Duvall. The idea of White Bull comes from the Greek mythology, and the story of Zeus, who transformed himself into a beautiful white bull. Their sophisticated logo, utilizing the idea of the “white bull,” plays an important role in making their conference distinct from others.
According to Elizabeth, European innovation remains quite fragmented, despite an abundance of creative ideas and great technologies that come from multiple languages and cultures. Thus, the aim is to help better connect the disparate ecosystems, with an emphasis on the face-to-face, and valuable opportunities for visitors, participants, and corporations from multiple countries to establish long-lasting relationships that can help them on their journey to success – including the Exit (such as commercial partnership and M&A). In fact, over 75% of White Bull attendees, have gone on to become successful including M&A, fund raising, and corporate partnership, etc.
This significant percentage may be in large part due to the design of the White Bull conference. The aim has always been to maintain quality – not only of the events themselves with the caliber of guests, the atmosphere, etc, but also in the number of people invited, to keep setting intimate. The main “Pathways” summit (October 6-8 in Barcelona) will take place over 3 days in order to give participants a unique chance to bond. Unlike in other larger conferences, participants typically forge meaningful and personal relationships that very often result in successful partnerships.
Elizabeth’s work is significant, and she was willing to share her experience with Key Success Factors.
1. Why do you focus on Technology, Media, and Telecommunication? Is it because those are markets that move fast?
We focus on TMT because that is our core expertise, and because these are the areas that we believe are currently driving the most important change worldwide. … That being said, TMT is an acronym that has been used for some time. Perhaps a new one should be created!
2. Instead of being an accelerator, why do you focus on organizing events in order to connect people, companies, and investors?
We help facilitate connections across various domains. We believe that connecting people to help them find their way is more powerful than putting them into one particular “house” or program, with daily supervision. Entrepreneurs need opportunity and tools, not a specific or limited “house.” We aim to bring people in from across various ecosystems — where hundreds of people over multiple disciplines can help each other. We’re building a large community – without the constraints or country- or city-centric rules – of people who can connect at any time to others who can help accelerate their success.
3. What was the first step you took to embark on organizing White Bull?
The first step was to find a name that reflected both the vision, and the brand we wanted to build. Hence, White Bull, from Greek mythology. http://whitebull.com/lore-white-bull-whats-behind-name.
4. What was the biggest failure in the past and how did you overcome it?
Our biggest failure was the assumption that everyone we knew would jump on board our train, simply because they knew and liked us. Building a brand is a lot harder than that. It must include proving to your network that you mean what you say, and that you will deliver on your promise. We’ve worked hard to deliver on our promise over our 5-year history, and we’re happy to say, the brand gets stronger and stronger.
5 What is your revenue/business model?
Most of our revenue comes from sponsorship, and for our main event in October, we charge a reasonable fee for admission. We also work with firms in advisory roles, and as experts in communications and business development strategy.
6. How did you get enough amounts of people together and how did you raise the capital to invite speakers at the beginning?
Aside from Farley’s already established reputation as industry “connector,” we do spend enormous amounts of time reaching out personally, and expanding our network. We were fortunate enough to have had significant supporters from the beginning, and a plan and vision that people believed in.
7. What is the most important thing when you find sponsors and partners?
I think the most important thing, when we bring on a sponsor or a partner, is to be sure that it’s a whole lot more than just their logo out there. We do our best to find meaningful ways for our supporters to engage with relevant attendees and firms that can help them reach their goals. And, we count on long-term relationships with all of them.
8. When you select speakers, participants or supporters, what are criteria? What are the important factors?
Our company and our events are all about engagement. So, we select people and firms that we feel are both relevant to the industry, and to each other. And, we love great storytellers!
9. What are the key success factors to organize the conference do you think?
I think the success of an event can be achieved in a variety of ways. It depends on the goals. For some it’s sheer numbers. … We believe striving for sheer numbers can lead to short-term satisfaction, but not necessarily long lasting results. Some of the larger events, for example, have become somewhat diluted, even gone down hill over time. … For us, it’s about quality … and staying around for the long haul. We deliberately stay small, because we believe in the power of the intimacy we create. Instead of a mad dash to collect business cards, our attendees are immersed in the experience, and surrounded only by other c-level decision makers, who can potentially help them succeed. Over the course of 3 days at Pathways, for example, there’s the opportunity to do more than just exchange business cards. There’s also an incredible opportunity to shake hands with leaders, potential partners, and like-minded peers … to make eye contact, connect … bond. It’s the long lasting, meaningful connections we’re going for.
10. Congratulation for 5th anniversary!! What is your future vision and how do you plan to develop White Bull?
Thank you! This year we’re happy to have partnered with Foundum (www.foundum.com), the first online platform connecting global entrepreneurs with investors, and industry “movers and shakers” who can help accelerate their success. Foundum provides us and members of our network a whole new way to engage with the community, with tools to connect with potential stakeholders, and a place to “live” between our events throughout the year.
Our vision is to expand beyond European innovation, to the global marketplace, while keeping the same intimacy and elite network, creating events worldwide. It IS a small world after all!
11. Give some messages to young people who dream to be entrepreneur or to start something new.
The message is to build something you believe in. Stick to what you know and do it well. Never give up, never stop moving, but don’t lose sight of the personal side. Personal connections and relationships are going to be critical to your success. And, on that note, don’t be afraid to ask for help and support and forge partnerships with others who complement you, and can help you build something meaningful. (No one is a Jack of all trades!)