vFairs is a SaaS solution that combines an in-person and virtual event platform to help host powerful and effective events that are meaningful to their intended audiences. It features customer support, a great user interface and immersive experiences.
Nathan Latka sat down with the founder and CEO of vFairs, Muhammad Younas. Key metrics of this company include:
- 250 team members
- 1,250 customers
- 40m run rate projected
Nathan Latka (00:00):
Hey folks. My guest today is Muhammad Younas. He’s the founder and CEO of vFairs, the leading virtual and events hybrid platform in the world. He led the growth of the company from two people back in 2016 to 250 plus today in 2021. He is going to share revenue here in a second. Muhammad, you ready to take us to the top?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (00:15):
Nathan Latka (00:16):
All right. What’s revenue today?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (00:19):
So right now we are at a point where we should be hitting close to $40 million in 2021.
Nathan Latka (00:24):
That’s incredible. Now, where were you exactly a year ago? Where’d you finish in 2020?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (00:28):
It was around 30 million.
Nathan Latka (00:31):
How are you doing this when you have competitors like Hopin and Bizzabo raising gobs of capital? You’re bootstrapped, I believe.
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (00:38):
Yeah, absolutely. So I think, I see in our case, as with all respect to Hopin and Bizzabo, within our customer base, we don’t hear much about them. Again, we primarily deal with enterprise customers who really care about the visual look and feel of how their event should look like. They want their events to be memorable. So we are a lot more in that 3D, highly visually appealing virtual platform, whereas many others are 2D enhanced networking tools and we don’t compete with those guys much within enterprise sector.
Nathan Latka (01:08):
I remember in March, when you came on last year, I was shocked by your average ACV, which backs up the story you just told. What is your average ACV today? Is it still in the 14 to $30,000 range?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (01:22):
Yeah, actually. I think as of now, our average customer is paying us $33,000. So that’s what they’re paying us now for the past five months.
Nathan Latka (01:32):
So why are they paying so much more? You mentioned visual customization. Are there other things you’re upselling against that no one else is doing or they’re doing a poor job at?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (01:40):
Sure. No, I think for us the following is a key. So first for our platform looks visually appealing. It’s one of the most beautiful platform out there, that’s one. The second thing is our platform is also something that is end-to-end integrated. So again, when we work with these enterprise customers, they care about integrations with their CRM providers like Salesforce, HubSpot, they care about integrations with the likes of Marketo. If it’s an ATS company, whether it’s a couple of others. So it’s a fully end-to-end integrated system.
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (02:08):
And third and last thing is that see, we have been in the market for almost more than five years, so we have far more depth in terms of feature set versus anyone else. When a customer is coming to us, they get far more depth in terms of feature sets. If they’re doing a trade show, they will have the ability to showcase their products, sell their products. If they’re doing a job fair, they can pull up their jobs or RSS feed, they can have candidates apply for jobs and so forth. So when it comes to the depth of feature set, we also have that versus a lot of other players out there.
Nathan Latka (02:36):
And how many customers today?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (02:38):
Roughly close to 1,250 plus active paying customers at this point?
Nathan Latka (02:42):
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (02:44):
That’s true, yeah.
Nathan Latka (02:45):
Wow, that’s up significantly. So you’ve gone on the show twice. Back in 2018 you had broken about a $2 million- Do you remember this? Back in 2018, you were flirting with a 1.7 million run rate and then pre-COVID, so this was I guess very early last year, I think this is right, you were at about just a $3 million run rate, you almost 10x in the last 12 months.
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (03:06):
Yeah, I remember telling you that number and I was like, “No, gosh, I wish I really hit that number.” But yeah, I was hoping to hit three million, then we hit 30 million. So that’s what happened.
Nathan Latka (03:16):
So where were you in early 2020 run rate wise? Do you remember?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (03:21):
It was closer to 0.4 to $2.8 million, yeah.
Nathan Latka (03:25):
Wow. So, okay, so essentially what happened was you went from $2.5 million in run rate to 22 million, or 20 million in terms of run rate in this past December. So almost 10x growth during COVID.
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (03:37):
Nathan Latka (03:39):
and so what drove that? I mean, COVID is obviously important, but there’s also a lot of hard work there.
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (03:43):
Absolutely. See there are two things. First of all, I think prior to COVID, you have to be a very forward looking organization to try out virtual events. So you have to be one of those Fortune 500, Fortune 2000 companies in order to do something unique. Now with COVID, what has happened is that everyone is forced to learn about virtual events, to do virtual events. And when they went out there trying to look for a platform, we were one of the most trusted platform out there. So if you go on G2, again, with all respect to all the other people who have raised tons of money, you will see us as number one when it comes to the highest rated platform. So no one, and I say that with a lot of confidence, no one can beat us on customer support. As a softer play, one thing where we just are better than anyone else out there is how great our customer support is versus anyone else out there. That’s one.
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (04:29):
Then again, when they were researching who’s the most trusted pair, the pair with a lot of great reviews, and then again player who can help you run event that is highly memorable. We came out there at the top. So we were the one who got a lot of that influx of new business. We in fact had to turn away tons of business. This 30 million could have easily been 60 million had I’ve been not getting about customer support. In many cases, we let the customers… Just we have to apologize to them that the kind of support that we aim to provide, unfortunately, we feel that we may not be the right vendor exactly at that week when we got tons of customers.
Nathan Latka (05:07):
You have 562 reviews on G2, which means you probably get a lot of organic traffic from there, maybe some paid as well. But the playbook you run to make sure when you impress a customer, they actually take the time to go leave a review is an important playbook. What does that sound like?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (05:22):
Yeah, no, I think see, within the events industry, what happen is that anytime a customer is coming to any vendor, including us, I think they know that they’re going to work for weeks, if not months, for that one day. That one day for virtual event has to go just perfectly well, and they would always go ahead and do their research. So they want that social proof. So they will see G2, they will ask us, “Can you give us social proofs?” They will ask us for references and then once they are done doing a virtual event with vFairs, they know how much those reviews have helped them. So again, just by default they go out there and post some of those reviews. Of course, we encourage them as well that if you feel that you, whatever, whether it’s good or bad service, we would love for you to go ahead and share that internally as well extend it with the world.
Nathan Latka (06:07):
Talk to me about team today. How many folks full time?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (06:10):
Nathan Latka (06:11):
And how many are in support?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (06:14):
So in support we will have roughly around 120 plus people.
Nathan Latka (06:18):
Wow, okay. How did you scale that? So almost half your team is in support. Are they all based in the states or how’d you scale that team?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (06:25):
So they’re based all over the world. So from US, to Canada, to Australia, Singapore, et cetera. But bulk of our support is based out of either Pakistan or out of some of the other Asian countries. Again, they work US time zone, they work UK, European time zone. So we assign them based on wherever our customer base is.
Nathan Latka (06:45):
This is also just an insane amount of business. A lot of your time, you had 45 people on the team about 16 months ago, you’ve hired over 200. I mean, how do you hire 200 people in 18 months?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (06:57):
I think, we have that brand recognition in most of these countries. So again, when we were hiring, we went to this online university drive. We went to the best universities out there in the world, and we literally hired any good candidate that was available at that time.
Nathan Latka (07:11):
What did you do? You reached out to the deans of the schools and said, “Send them our away.” Or what was the playbook there?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (07:16):
We reached out to the career services team. So again, in some of these universities, we’re already well known. Some of them are our customers to begin with. So again, they would say that, “By the way, we use vFairs platform, they’re hiring, go ahead.” And they would recommend sometimes hand picked candidates and give it to us.
Nathan Latka (07:29):
Smart. How many engineers on the team?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (07:32):
Roughly around 50. 50 engineers.
Nathan Latka (07:33):
Five, zero. Okay. And last time we spoke, you were just scaling up your sales team, you had two quota carrying reps right before COVID hit and you had an annual quota of 500,000. What does that look like today?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (07:45):
So we have roughly around 27 of them right now.
Nathan Latka (07:48):
Okay, so that’s also scaled. Have you increased quota target or is it still about half a million?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (07:52):
No, each one of them have roughly around anywhere from one million to two million, depending on the stack size.
Nathan Latka (07:57):
How do they respond when you said, “Hey guys, we got to increase quota from half million to a million?”
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (08:02):
Each one of them have hit at least 3 million or above last year. So again, in most cases, this is almost… There’s no one who have not hit a target. In most cases, they’ve hit their targets within a quarter or two quarter that what had happened.
Nathan Latka (08:12):
So if I was one of those sales rep that joined you during COVID and I hit my quota, what are you probably paying me base and what are you paying me in commission?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (08:20):
Yeah, it’s roughly 100 and 100. So you will get around, yeah, 200 plus.
Nathan Latka (08:25):
Yep. Yeah, that’s right in line with what we see, 200,000 and then above a million dollar quota, five to one ratio. Your sales people are profit centers, right?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (08:32):
Nathan Latka (08:33):
Any challenges? I mean it sounds like it’s all working. Any challenges scaling that sales team?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (08:38):
The challenge I think at that time was really we strive in being extremely transparent, and when there’s a lot of money coming to you, you want to make sure that as you want to win the customer, you also sometimes want to just be careful of what you’re signing up with. Because the way we have been able to scale is that we have been absolutely clear what our platform does, how we can support you, how we can help you. During the COVID times, a lot of customers would just want to sign up with you without even telling what they’re looking for. And again, we were very careful of, again, not having sales people who are just out there for money. We care about just, again, we don’t want to get a customer for first year. We want to get a customer for the next three to five years, and we just want to make sure that we are signing up with the right customers. So just having that transparency, having that extreme honesty within sales people, that’s what we typically look for when we’re trying to hire someone.
Nathan Latka (09:24):
If you sign up no new customers over the past 12 months, which we know won’t happen, but let’s just assume it for a second, how much will you grow revenue just because of the power of your expansion team?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (09:33):
Yeah, so historically speaking, it has been close to 140%. So our net revenue historically was 140%. We have to see because in 2020 of course we got a lot of these customers who were trying to do a physical one, now they did a virtual one. As of now, we are seeing that we will have at least a close, anywhere from 70 to 80% customer retention and hopefully a 100 plus revenue retention. So we see what will happen this year, but historic speaking has been anywhere from 140 to 150% revenue retention.
Nathan Latka (10:00):
Just to be clear, 80% retention would be 20% churn and then 60% expansion for 140 net. Is that right?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (10:07):
That’s historical numbers. We’ll see what will happen in 2021, but that’s exactly what happened in the prior years.
Nathan Latka (10:12):
Okay, let’s talk money. You must be turning down VC emails every single day. What’s the highest offer you’ve gotten?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (10:19):
So yep, I think we all have seen valuations for visible, et cetera, but again, we have seen anywhere from 10 times to 20 times revenue. So minimum 10 times all the way up to 20 times of our revenue is what we have seen so far.
Nathan Latka (10:34):
So you’ve seen basically soft offers above 600 million offers. Let us write a check in that valuation.
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (10:41):
Yeah, yeah. Roughly around 500 plus. Yep.
Nathan Latka (10:44):
Yep, interesting. You’ve obviously chosen not to take any of those offers, correct?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (10:48):
As of now, yeah.
Nathan Latka (10:49):
What would change your mind?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (10:51):
I think for us it’s less about the money, it’s really about finding the right partner. We are here for the long term, so we are not a company who’s just an afterthought of COVID. We feel that we always knew that there would come a time that similar to any company they have Microsoft teams, they have some, et cetera. They would come a time where every company will need a virtual event license. So we are here for the long term. I think at this point there’s a lot of money being spent for this industry and I think there are a lot of people who are looking for that short term gain, short term confirmation. None of us knows what will happen over the next 12 to 14 months, 12 to 24 months, given people are going back to normal. So just anyone who is there for a bit long term, five to seven years is what we are looking for primarily rather than someone who just there for the short term.
Nathan Latka (11:31):
And current captain. I mean, are you sole founder? Do you have co-founders?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (11:35):
So yeah, I’m the founder and CEO of the company. And then of course this company is there’s a parent company who own vFairs and that’s Bayt.com. But, yeah that’s-
Nathan Latka (11:45):
Do you own the majority of the equity though, or does the parent company own the majority?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (11:47):
Parent company owns the majority.
Nathan Latka (11:49):
Oh, because I didn’t know this, so this makes it more difficult probably for you to move, raise capital, exit, et cetera, I imagine. Who is that parent company?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (11:56):
It’s Bayt.com. B-A-Y-T.com.
Nathan Latka (12:00):
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (12:01):
And again, they act as just VC, so as such, yeah, I think they’re pretty awesome in a way that pretty much all the decisions are done and taken by me. So I think on that front we have completely retained that.
Nathan Latka (12:13):
That’s nice. So how much equity do you own today?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (12:16):
Yeah, I’m just unfortunately not allowed to disclose that one or I would’ve told you.
Nathan Latka (12:19):
Okay, that’s okay. All right, so, got it. That makes sense. I guess, couple other questions here. Johnny has to figure out a way to validate his valuation at Hopin. He does things like buy StreamYard, which is 30 million in revenue for 250. Are you right now in acquisition talks with anybody?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (12:36):
We are in discussion with… Within the sector we are again, we are moving towards hybrid. So anyone who has been doing physical events before, physical and even mobile apps, we are in discussion with a couple of people.
Nathan Latka (12:47):
Do you think you would exit before December or no?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (12:50):
Nathan Latka (12:51):
Got it. So it’d be a longer term play there.
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (12:53):
Nathan Latka (12:54):
Would you look it for a full exit or would you have them write a small equity check in business to stay close and scale that way?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (13:00):
Yeah, we would love to. I think we feel that we have the team and we have that vision to run this company for the long term. So we are not trying to really, just fix it at this point.
Nathan Latka (13:09):
And are you more interested in those kinds of partners that are direct competitors, Hopin, Bizzabo, et cetera, or adjacent categories?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (13:17):
It’s more adjacent categories, so we are looking for people who have done physical events before and as physical events are moving towards hybrid, virtual are also moving towards hybrid. Just trying to find the right partner who together we can work with them to build a stronger company.
Nathan Latka (13:30):
Very good. Muhammad, on that note, let’s wrap up with the famous five. Number one, favorite business book?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (13:35):
The favorite business book have been just Zero to One. That is always a favorite one, yeah.
Nathan Latka (13:40):
Well you’ve certainly done that. Number two, is there a CEO you’re following or studying?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (13:45):
I have always appreciated Steve Jobs, but nowadays it’s Satya from Microsoft.
Nathan Latka (13:52):
Yep. Is Microsoft one of the folks you’d potentially exit to?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (13:57):
They have never reached out to us, so yeah, I have no idea.
Nathan Latka (14:00):
Number three, what’s your favorite online tool for building vFairs?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (14:04):
I’m a big fan of HubSpot, so again, with this influx of new leads, HubSpot have helped us a lot, so pretty fan of them, yeah.
Nathan Latka (14:12):
Are you using any these new tools, remote.com, Pilot, any of these?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (14:18):
We are primarily, again, yeah, I think just sticking with HubSpot, with Slack, those regular channels, none of the other fancy ones as of now.
Nathan Latka (14:28):
Number four, how many hours of sleep do you get every night?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (14:31):
Yeah, I think hardly four to five hours max at this point.
Nathan Latka (14:33):
Four to five? Mohammad, how do you survive on four to five hours?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (14:38):
Yeah, I think when you keep on hitting those great numbers, you know have this adrenaline rush, you hardly get to sleep. Even in those four to five hours you have again, a deal or something on your mind, yeah.
Nathan Latka (14:47):
How old are you?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (14:49):
Nathan Latka (14:50):
Okay. You got plenty of energy then. And what’s your situation? Married, single, kids?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (14:54):
Married with two kids.
Nathan Latka (14:55):
Two kiddos. Okay. Last question, what’s something you wish you knew when you were 20?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (14:59):
Yeah, I think, again, the early you start your business, early that you get into things that you’re passionate about, the better it is. I think the longer you delay, you’re just missing out on tons of those great energy years that you have.
Nathan Latka (15:11):
Are you the largest player in this virtual event space that is still bootstrapped?
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (15:18):
Yeah, I would like to believe that. Yeah, I don’t think so. When I look at others like Intrado, 6Connects, Hopin, I think each one of them is no longer bootstrapped, so I would like to believe that, yeah.
Nathan Latka (15:30):
Okay. That’s the headline. Biggest bootstrap company in the virtual event space grew 10x over the past 12 months, flirting with 30 million bucks in terms of run rate today, hoping to break 40 million by the end of the year, over 1,250 customers up from 170 just about a year and a half ago. They’ve hired 200 people over the past 18 months. Now, 250 full-time on the team. They’ve turned down valuations in the $500 million range. They want to find a long term partner in acquisition talks now, but might not pull the trigger. We will see what happens. Mohammad, thanks for taking us to the top.
vFairs CEO Muhammad Younas (15:57):