Will Smith, Kevin Hart, a16z Back Virtual Events Startup Run The World

Will Smith, Kevin Hart, a16z Back Virtual Events Startup Run The World

Actors Will Smith, Kevin Hart, and venture capital firm a16z have all backed a virtual events startup called Run The World. Will Smith arrives at the premiere of “Aladdin,” May 21, 2019, at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) Kevin Hart speaks at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, Feb. 28, 2016. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

The covid-19 pandemic helped push meetings, events, weddings, concerts, and even funerals into the virtual world and some high-profile investors are betting that virtual events are here to stay.

Actor-investors Will Smith and Kevin Hart have invested in a virtual event company called Run The World.

The platform hosts all kinds of events including panels, summits, conferences, fundraisers, team training sessions, musician and fan meetups. The technology offers a range of plug-and-play templates to tailor events for a specific audience and supports ticketing, registration, networking, and — of course — video conferencing.

Run The World has raised $10.8 million in a funding round co-led by venture capitalist Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, CNBC reported. Smith’s venture fund, Dreamers VC, and Hart’s Hartbeat Capital have joined as new investors.

Former Facebook employee Xiaoyin Qu launched the app that became the online events platform Run The World to reduce the barriers to attending large in-person conferences.

When she launched Run The World in February, almost immediately she raked in more than $4 million in seed funding in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz’s venture capital firm.

Horowitz returned for another funding round to back a $10.8 million Series-A in the company, co-led by Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, CNBC reported.  

Qu told CNBC she connected with Smith and Hart through her existing investors. “They are passionate about the mission of using online events to connect people and build communities,” she said. “Both Will and Kevin are visionaries that create content that engages and resonates with people.”

“We believe their guidance can be very critical for Run The World to create this new category of engaging online events that the world is seeing for the first time,” Qu added. 

Covid-19 lockdown restrictions have made mass gatherings impossible. Companies are now turning to digital platforms offering an alternative to in-person events.

“In-person events were being canceled every day but people still wanted and needed to connect,” Qu told CNBC. “There was a growing demand and interest from investors and users and, combined with the positive feedback, we couldn’t walk away from this diverse set of investors.”

Run The World is based in Mountain View, Calif. and has small teams both in China and Taiwan. Qu told TechCrunch that the startup has doubled the size of its core team to 30 employees and enabled organizers from a variety of countries to oversee more than 2,000.

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Run The World differs from platforms like Zoom because of its focus on engagement and social features, Qu said. For example, attendees to an event on the platform can create a video profile akin to an Instagram Story to introduce themselves to other attendees. Run The World also organizes related “cocktail parties,” where it can match attendees for several minutes at a time, and attendees can choose who they want to follow up with afterward.

Run The World collects 25 percent of ticket sales in exchange for templates, ticket sales, payment processing and streaming, TechCrunch reported.