With a new CEO, Zerista is “blowing minds” in the old school field of conferences and events

by Carlin Sack
December 11, 2013

Under the leadership of new (yet well-seasoned) CEO Eric Olson who just took the helm this fall, Denver-based Zerista is continuing to disrupt the “old school” world of events and conferences by allowing event attendees to build schedules, set up one-on-one meetings and keep track of event content through a single app. (Yes, so that means with Zerista you wouldn’t receive a separate Eventbrite confirmation email for each, say, Denver Startup Week session you attend!)

Although obviously quite applicable for tech conferences, Zerista has actually gained the most traction with life sciences associations such as Biotechnology International Organization which puts on a 20,000-person convention each year. Olson said that life sciences and healthcare media associations are scrambling to use Zerista because their conferences are so content-rich; if they don’t have a tool to organize and extend the material covered , as well as encourage users to generate their own, then much of the conference’s learning potential is missed out on.

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But clients in the often outdated conference and event world haven’t always been lining up for Zerista though. Often, Zerista is an idea so new to event planners that Olson said “they don’t know what they are buying.” To that, Olson said he zooms out and explains Zerista’s community-oriented goals:

“Don’t think about it as an app for your event, think about it as technology to extend your event: those are two different things,” Olson said. “That sort of blows their minds right now because events are as old school as you can get. But because we are coming at it from this community angle, they do understand that because that’s what associations are all about.”

In addition to the “community angle,” Zerista also reels clients in by showcasing its focus on revenue and gaining insights on attendees. These approaches have earned Zerista hundreds of clients around the world (they set up a London office to keep up with demand) in addition to about six local clients like the Colorado Association of Realtors.

“In the end, we are making more money for the event and the sponsors because people are having a better experience,” Olson said. “But also you learn a bunch about them and what they are interested in and use that to do more modern sponsorship and advertising.”

With its ability to up revenues, increase relevant content, gain insight on event attendees and help them to avoid “awkwardly running around looking at people’s badges,” Olson said Zerista is the one-stop shop that the event space needs.

Since 2009, Zerista has been skillfully maneuvering the event world thanks to the expertise of its 15-person team and of Olson, who recently hopped from the COO role to the CEO role. Before Zerista, Olson provided event management solutions at The Active Network for six years. After the company went public, he left because he said the company’s stage was no longer a fit for him, something he recommends everyone to evaluate: “Be honest with yourself about what stage is exciting and then, when it’s not, you have to get out; you aren’t doing any service for the business anymore.”

Right now, Zerista is just the right fit for Olson, he said, because he gets “most excited from learning from clients, turning that into products and marketing things; and the bigger you get, the further you get from clients. I like to be at that stage where we are partnering with clients and helping them build cool crap.” And by that, he means working with clients to show them how Zerista can help them put on the best customer-centric events possible!

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