What do you love about life, Marco?

One of the things that I love is about learning new things. It keeps me excited and intellectually challenged in terms of learning new things. I also love, I have a list that I call the happy people list and on that list, I have family and friends that basically I enjoy spending time with them and one of my favourite things is to spend time and experiences with those happy people on a regular basis and a lot of time and effort trying to plan those experiences in advance.

What do you do to live well?

I try to balance life, I love working. I’m a recovering workaholic and I still love work and that could be amazing, but sometimes if I don’t balance that with other things, it’s not as good as it sounds. I was lucky to find balance through my family and wife and I’m grateful of that and I put a conscious effort into allocating time for wellness and health and sports and things that are good for mind and body and not only work. It seems I have so much fun working, if I don’t do those sort of things, I can probably lose balance as I did when I was very young and I don’t want to go back to that path.

I thinking a lot about ageing, I’m no longer a kid and it’s not getting better but on the other side, I love an active lifestyle. I play tennis, mountain bike, ski and many other crazy things at my age and I’m planning to do that as long as I can. I’m learning that if I don’t put the effort, the reward is getting more and more difficult. On the other side, you learn how to set priorities in the right way and allocate time to things that really matter and you enjoy. That’s one of the beauties of ageing you have perspective on many things, when you’re young you put a lot of energy and stress on things that at my age, you start to realise are not as important as what you thought 25 or 30 years ago.

How long have you been in the events industry? You’re very well connected. I mentioned this book that you’ve written amongst others. What’s your experience and wealth of knowledge? Where do you get all that from the events industry? What’s your story?

My story is like almost everyone that I met around events, I connected with events, not by plan, but by casual things in my life. My first corporate job and probably my only corporate job was with Apple, I was lucky and I was hired by Apple in Latin America (I’m originally from Argentina) to run marketing in Latin America. I was in my early 20s and it was my dream job and I put a lot of effort into that job for two, three years and part of that was running events. I immediately connected on how powerful events could be for a tech company like Apple. Like many of us, I was in love with events as a marketing tool and learning how powerful it could be. I realised early on in my career that I was not a corporate guy because I had my dream job in my dream company and I was always dreaming bout other ideas and business opportunities and I realised that I was more an entrepreneur type of person.

I quit Apple when I was 25 or 26 years old. I remember my mother telling me that I was completely crazy to leave a real job, to start my own thing but, I was young and naive and I started my own agency and we started organising events. I joined a B2B media company and fast forward, I’m connected to events for almost 30 years now. I started an events business and after that I did a joint venture with Reed Exhibitions. They initially invested in my business on a minority position. After that they bought Control, it was a 12-year joint venture we organised more or less 50 events across the Americas in different industries, that business was acquired by Reed Exhibitions. My B2B business company was acquired by Pearson in UK and I also invested in a technology company, digital media that was acquired by Liberty Media here in US. I was involved in those three companies from scratch to exit. When I exit my events business with Breed, I was in my early forties and I promised myself, wife and kids that I will never be a CEO of a startup again.

I did it, I know how it works, I enjoy it, but I tried to balance life and basically I was in my early 40s. I always knew that I will never retire officially and play golf but I balanced life and I started Vesuvio Ventures, which is now 15 plus years old. I decided to put time and effort into three things that I love. One is events. I keep investing in events as an investor, partner, co-founder, we do technology events.

I do M&A, I help founders when they’re ready to exit their business or private equity or strategic companies to acquire businesses. I did a lot of M&A during my Reed days and sometimes I can help buy or sell as an advisor on the opportunity. I also do investments, usually early stage in events and also in events technology, which was my passion, it was cool way before COVID. I realised as an event organiser that technology could and should fix many problems in our industry and I was lucky to invest in some amazing technology tools and companies during the last 10 plus years across areas that I believe that are very important for the industry, like, you know, matchmaking, registration, apps, and many other technologies that I believe that are relevant in order to facilitate a better customer experience.

What’s your thoughts now in terms of tech and the events industry?

My personal view was pretty much consistent before, during and after COVID. I think that technology will be more and more relevant for the events industry. There is no way back, COVID was just an accelerator in many ways for testing different ideas and concepts but I honestly think that if you are an event organiser and you don’t have technology on top of your agenda, you’re missing the point. Sooner than later, your customers will tell you that you do need to include more technology as part of your value proposition, of course I’m biased. I’m coming from tech, I’m a tech investor and I enjoy tech. But if you take a pragmatic approach, tech is basically eating the world and every single industry is tech centric. Why do we think that events are going to be different? I honestly think that.

The fact that we connect face to face, and I was always a big fan of face to face connection and how powerful it is as a tool, even during my early days at Apple. That concept is 100% intact now and more powerful than ever. But that doesn’t mean that we need to forget about tech and go back to our comfort zone and keep organising events as we did 50 years ago. Our customers are basically telling us, hey, I need to understand return on investment. I need to invest less money and collect better leads. I need this, this and that and many of the requests that our customers have are tech-centric in terms of the solutions that we could provide them.

From an investor perspective, what are you looking for now? If there’s an events company that didn’t embrace tech, would you see that as something that you wouldn’t even consider? Or what’s key for you now when you’re looking at organisations?

As an investor, the way that I see it is that a good entrepreneur is obsessed with fixing a problem. He’s not obsessed with selling his or her business. If an entrepreneur pitched to me and said I’m launching this technology or event and I’m going to be selling this into the years for X multiple dollars, I don’t like that. I love entrepreneurs who say I’m obsessed with this problem in this industry and I believe that this can fix that problem and help buyers and sellers to do better. Or an event tech founder who tells me, you know what, I’m obsessed with matchmaking and I want to be sure that my technology helps buyers and sellers to connect. If you’re a good entrepreneur, you’re obsessed with the problem.

Honestly, you’re going to figure out the monetisation after that, and after that, you’re going to figure out the way to build a sustainable and healthy business and after that, someone is going to call you and say, hey, do you want to buy, do you want to sell? Good entrepreneurs, they’re going to build that business based on those parameters and thesis and not I want to make money because honestly, it’s not realistic building a business that way. Having said that, I invest in events knowing exactly who could buy that event or technology after five years if we deliver because it’s a natural path to exit. but that doesn’t mean that I don’t need to understand the problem and more importantly, I need to understand how the team is going to be building something that is going to be fixing that problem and making that technology or event super sticky for that community.

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