Connect Group is an organiser of impactful events around the world, connecting family offices with their peers and promoting collaboration.
We're not just about bringing people together. We're about bringing the right people together, resulting in long-lasting, fruitful relationships which leave a positive impact on the world.
An Exclusive Interview with Connect Group Co-Founders and How It All Started
13 December 2023
An Exclusive Interview with Connect Group Co-Founders and How It All Started
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In this insightful interview, Simon and Alex, the visionary founders of Connect Group, share the compelling story and strategic vision behind their company's inception and evolution. Connect Group emerged from a desire to address the prevalent industry challenges, especially the imbalance in perspectives at industry conferences, where family office and LP views were often overshadowed. Their mission: to create a platform where asset owners, crucial in the alternative investment ecosystem, are the primary focus.
Company Origin and Founding Story: Can you share the inspiration and background behind the founding of Connect Group? What motivated you to start this venture, and how did the idea evolve into the company it is today?
Connect Group was founded with a global vision to address several key challenges observed within the industry. One of the primary issues we identified was the prevalence of industry conferences that were heavily skewed toward the sell side. These conferences often featured content that was not necessarily driven by the perspectives and needs of the limited partners (LPs). Additionally, the seniority of the conference attendees tended to be mixed, which could make it challenging for delegates to connect with the most relevant parties. We have made it our mission to tackle these industry-wide shortcomings. We recognize the importance of providing a platform where LPs, who are a crucial component of the alternative investment ecosystem, can take center stage. By placing LPs at the forefront of our events, we ensure that the content and discussions are driven by their unique insights, challenges, and requirements.
As Simon pointed out, many of the family office conferences we encountered had far more sell-side asset managers in attendance, with only a few family offices or LPs present. It's important to have asset managers in the room, but we felt there should be a greater presence of buy-side family offices or LPs. We decided to take a different approach when starting Connect Group and having a stronger buy-side presence (>70%) at each of our events. By doing this, we shifted the focus from quantity to quality. We wanted our events to be more than just a gathering of professionals; they needed to foster meaningful interactions and discussions that truly resonate with our attendees, especially those from single and closed multi-family offices. This emphasis on creating an family-office-centric, less commercialized environment is a cornerstone of our philosophy. It's not just about changing the ratio of attendees; it's about redefining the entire conference experience to ensure it aligns with the real needs and interests of the buy-side community. This commitment to quality, relevance, and balance is what distinguishes Connect Group in the crowded world of business events.
Building a Global Presence: As we know, Connect Group hosts events across the globe. Could you elaborate on the challenges and strategies involved in establishing and maintaining a global presence in the industry?
One of the key elements that sets Connect Group apart is our commitment to thinking globally. We firmly believe that the most impactful solutions and innovations often emerge when professionals from different regions and backgrounds come together to exchange ideas and perspectives. By organizing events around the world, we create a platform where global leaders can connect, collaborate, and collectively address industry challenges.
Furthermore, our approach extends beyond geographical boundaries. We have embraced the concept of a fully remote team, with team members located in different countries. This remote setup not only reflects our commitment to a global mindset but also allows us to draw on a diverse range of talents and experiences. It enables us to operate seamlessly on an international scale and ensures that we remain adaptable and responsive to the evolving needs of our participants and the industry as a whole.
I agree with Simon, thinking globally is an important strategy, it also proved to be a real test, especially during COVID-19, when we kicked off. Switching to online events was a whole new ballgame. But we leaned on our clients' good words about us, and that's been a huge help in growing our reach. It's pretty cool how positive feedback has opened doors for us worldwide.
Educating and Connecting Industry Leaders: One of Connect Group’s imperative focus is to educate and connect industry leaders. How do you curate events and speakers to ensure they provide the necessary apprehension and overall theme?
Our events are all about creating opportunities for peer-to-peer learning. We take great care in meticulously researching and handpicking the very best speakers to ensure our events are both informative and engaging. It's all part of our commitment to providing our attendees with a top-notch experience. Our approach involves staying on top of industry trends and hot topics to make sure our event agendas are always up-to-date and relevant. We want our participants to walk away with practical insights and knowledge.
Echoing Simon's emphasis on peer-to-peer learning, we put considerable thought into our event planning. Our speaker selection and topics closely mirror the evolving trends in the family office world. We're not just about sharing information; our aim is to encourage real connections and conversations among attendees. It's important for us that our events provide both insightful content and opportunities for meaningful networking. This balance is what we believe makes our events both effective and engaging.
Success Stories: Can you share a notable success story or achievement that stands out in Connect Group’s journey? How did overcoming challenges contribute to the growth and success of the company?
One thing that immediately springs to mind is the impact of the pandemic on the events industry. With live events off the table and uncertainty surrounding their return, it was indeed a trying time. We faced significant hurdles during this period.
We responded by pivoting to a virtual platform and introducing new networking software to facilitate remote connections among our participants. To our surprise, this transition was highly successful, demonstrating the remarkable potential of technology in bridging gaps when physical gatherings were impossible.
Even as live events gradually resumed, we recognized the value that technology brought to our events and decided to continue its integration. Thus, this challenging period also offered opportunities for innovation and allowed us to enhance the overall event experience, maintaining our commitment to providing the highest level of engagement and value for our participants.
I agree. Our move to virtual events was a significant step for us. It was challenging, but it helped us keep in touch with our clients during those uncertain times. This shift showed us that we're capable of adapting to tough situations. It reinforced our commitment to our community, and we also realised the importance of technology.
Industry Impact: How do you see Connect Group Global making an impact in the family office industry? Are there specific trends or developments that you find particularly exciting or challenging?
We’re honored to be at the center of many important discussions. Among the core themes at both our Family Office and Institutional events, impact, and sustainable investments have undoubtedly taken center stage. We've observed a noticeable and significant uptick in the emphasis placed on these types of investments within our global network and we’re proud to be serve as the catalyst to these discussions.
Connect Group is making a significant impact in the family office industry by facilitating collaboration among wealthy families. Our focus on social and environmental impact, as well as responsible investing, is particularly exciting. It's exciting to think that the connections and knowledge we're sharing could lead to some real positive changes out there.
Maintaining a Buy-Side Focus: Enforcing a strict 70/30 buy-side/sell-side split at events is a unique approach. How does this focus on the buy-side contribute to the overall atmosphere and value of your events, and how do you ensure this balance is maintained?
Being 100% founder-owned, and with both myself and Alex actively involved with the management and curation of our events, we’re able to ensure a majority “buy-side” delegation even when it might not necessarily make commercial sense. What’s important is that our events have primarily LP led dialog and that all event participants can come away from the event having made valuable, long-lasting connections.
Keeping a 70/30 split between the buy-side and sell-side makes our events a lot more exclusive and a lot more relaxed. It's about giving family offices space to breathe without being swamped by sales pitches. We're pretty strict about who we let in, but it pays off. Our attendees from both sides walk away a lot happier.
Meeting Facilitation and Networking: The pre-event web platform for arranging one-to-one meetings is an interesting feature. Can you share how this facilitates meaningful connections among attendees and contributes to the overall success of your events?
We introduced our pre-event web and mobile application during the pandemic as a means of assisting our delegates to better prepare, network, and meet each other. As we came out of the pandemic and things went hybrid and eventually fully physical we’ve decided to continue to deploy this feature and the feedback has been tremendous.
Yea, it’s a real game-changer. It helps attendees plan their meetings ahead of the event, so they're not just hoping to meet the right people by chance. This way, everyone can use their time effectively and make meaningful connections. It's been really well-received by our event participants.
Future Vision and Goals: What is the long-term vision and mission of Connect Group? Are there specific goals or milestones you are working towards in the coming years, and how do you foresee the company evolving?
Moving forward we are dedicated to improving our existing event portfolio and introducing innovative event concepts. We are committed to meticulously refining every aspect of our current events, from content and format to logistics and overall attendee experiences, ensuring they consistently exceed the high standards we've set. Simultaneously, we are excited to explore and implement fresh event ideas that resonate with our audience, address emerging trends, and offer unique, value-packed experiences.
We want to keep Connect Group at the top of its game in the family office world. As Simon mentioned, we’re thinking about launching a few more events, and always tweaking our events to keep them fresh. Our goal is to not just lead, but to redefine what a top-tier event looks like.