JUNO: “We define the future of hybrid as intersections of connectivity”

24th Mar, 2021

The growth prospects for JUNO could not be more optimistic these days. In less than a year, a California-born idea has quickly turned into a million-dollar business that helped lift the digital face of Convening Leaders 2021. But they have no desire to be just a transactional event platform: “We want to be a 365-day ecosystem for people to consume content, engage in communities and exchange in commerce.” CEO, Josh Hotsenpiller (right photo), helped us understand their vision during a call from San Diego.

1) Tell me a little more about your company's performance last year? How do you assess business growth for Juno during the pandemic?

I spent the last ten years building community software and pretty extensive community platforms. We build and create the global sales and enablement tools for HP, and the learning management systems for the United Nations. When the pandemic hit, I sought out my business partners to respond to our clients' needs in the virtual space. Just to give you a timeline, we decided to start Juno on March 17th, the actual day that California went on lockdown. So, we spent the last Summer building Juno. We soft-launched it in October with sales in September, and grew multiple millions in sales in one hundred days. It was fast out of the gates! We took funding from the founder of Insights Partners, which is a growth-stage venture capital firm, we quickly hired 40 people in 60 days and now, we have in our hands 177 opportunities that came just in this month. Obviously, the PCMA Conference was a great success. We saw incredible engagement, and complimentary thoughts back on the platform and now we are working with PCMA to expand it. We want to provide even more solutions for the industry so we are working hand in hand with PCMA in a strategic plan.

2) What kind of solutions are these?

We look at three buckets of content, community and commerce and we asked ourselves how do we make sure that we’re creating what we called interactive networks. The flywheel growth. So how do people get into content and network? How do they get into community functions and network? How do they buy and sell from one another, in that network effect? We want to make sure that we’re driving education, collaboration and financial exchange to people who are inside our ecosystem. So that’s the big vision we are mapping out of it. If you are in Brussels trying to sell something that I need in San Diego, how can we make that transaction? Sherrif (Karamat, CEO of PCMA) likes to say that “the digital world has no knowledge boundaries”. That’s what we are really creating with them.

3) What was asked by PCMA in the digital assembly of “Convening Leaders 2021”?

The most important thing that they wanted was to create collaboration. How can we reimagine collaboration? So, we rolled out what we effectively call “cohorts” which allows us to do two things: pre-assign people to go through content journeys together; and randomly assign people to go through content together. For example, let’s say that two people meet in Singapore and both are interested in “leadership”, “wine”, and “governance”. We pro le each of them, we try to find what they have in common and because of their pro les, we drop them on an experience together. Lastly, they meet one another while they go through that same content. That was the big proposal we wanted to achieve together and we did.

Marina Bay Sands' Hybrid Broadcast Studio

4) Can you point out some challenges and undertakings when dealing with such a big conference like this?

The biggest challenge was the execution of support. How do you support basically 24/7 in multiple continents, and how do you execute that well? I think it was the same even for the main team of PCMA. They were in Chicago and they still wanted to support people at their conference. Secondly, it was the multiple streams and capabilities from all these different imports and requirements. From a human standpoint, it was support; from a technical point of view, it was the assimilation of different types of streams to deliver in real time around the world. If there was some sort of setting in that machine and in that country preventing access, we had to come up with technical responders.

5) How are VR and gamification affecting value propositions for your clients?

Fear has absolutely driven everything, for good and bad. Fear comes out of the fact that many of these conferences and associations have not hired people on their teams to do this. They’ve hired physical event planners but there is still a gap in staffing. We’ve got to fill that gap and make them feel safe about technology. At the end of the day, every one of these fun words like VR, AI and gamification have to be distilled down in a way that everybody can understand. It sounds fun and sexy to say the words but then, you actually have to explain them. For instance, this is how we, at Juno, explain AI to someone. There are two ways to build an artificial intelligence machine learning to target some- thing to the user: the first is when we bring people on-board, asking them to declare what they are interested in by clicking tags; the second one is what we call “discovered”, that is, the things that they actually chose on the platform, and that differ from their previous interests. Those two value sets create a profile and then Juno acts to serve these three things: content, experiences and people. They will lead you to your future interests based on the “declared” and the “discovered”.

6) How exciting is it for you to see this new digital mould taking shape?

The term digital migration is happening and people are finally embracing the process of, “wait a second! I can actually sit here and have a stimulating conversation with someone in Brussels, and not just Rick in Texas.” We de ne the future of hybrid as intersections of connectivity. Think of a triangle; we have someone physically, another person on the virtual side and then there is a point of connectivity. We triangulate these relations. What Juno is looking to do is map all of these global intersections of connectivity - so if I show up at a physical event in Texas but you are watching in Brussels, Juno can serve up a connection for us to talk and network. Instead of associations segregating people by region, they should join their regional hubs in any format possible. We should never go back to segregation.

7) How do you see the future of social events and your actual business?

We all want to get back to where things used to be, but that’s never going to happen. I think there are four main reasons for it: future health risks; financial burdens; an otherworldly digital experience in terms of network and knowledge; and finally, evolution of opportunities. When you pull all of that together, associations will have to meet this new world that they never got to before, because of digital. They will not want to give that out! Therefore, the hybrid world is only going to evolve. At the same time, people will always want to get together, shake hands and hug. I like to say it will be an “and-world”, not an “or-world”. That’s where the world is going to head: a “yes-and-world”, not a “yes-or-world”.

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