By Ashley Alt
Every year, $1.2 trillion is spent on global travel. What CEO of Chicago’s rapid-growing corporate events platform Chris Brown has discovered is that there is an underserved marketplace in the events space. His approach is different than the rest of the industry in that he’s not copying a recipe for success from competitors, but is building a new business idea that anyone can be a part of.
Previously operating as Orbitz’ Chief Product Officer running parts and product management for technology, following assuming role as Vice President, Brown felt compelled to find powering travel solutions for business travelers.
After 10 years of finding success competing, Brown thought about whether or not to continue or venture out and do something different. What he had learned at Orbitz was understanding how marketplaces worked; offline, online and from the mobile and data side, in which he decided it was time to apply those practices to a new vertical.
A Chicago native, Brown set out to personally focus on two questions: “Where are the biggest challenges?” “Where can I have the highest impact?”
Nailing The Right Entrepreneurial Mindset
Named Kapow‘s CEO this past September, Brown isn’t wasting a second in making the company a brand like no other, spearheading the corporate events industry in a way that has never been done before.
“I think we are positioned to be the first platform for non event planners to plan events,” Brown told us. “Which is where creative planning comes into play. We have a solution that anyone can use our platform.”
Emphasizing that incremental growth happens only after value, Brown is creating the best, unique and most memorable experiences for customers through this platform.
Under his leadership, Kapow has grown its gross event sales by over 200% and gained more partners on its platforms than ever before. This year, the Kapow team is projected to have customers at the $1 million mark.
“I think we’re becoming more and more vital to companies,” Brown said proudly of the team’s results. “That’s a big moment for us; that’s a big moment for anyone.”
Headquartered in Chicago and operating in major cities including San Francisco, New York City, Boston and Houston, any company can use the Kapow platform. The main categories the business caters to right now are the tech industry, professional service industry, financial services and hospitality companies, in which Brown explained that shaping the supply around such different industries is the challenge.
Kapow’s Competitive Advantage
Kapow’s asset is that it allows for an almost unfair amount of facetime. In corporate travel, people are leaving their families to get on an airplane and make a business deal. The last mile of why people are traveling so far, traditionally, is to meet someone face to face in order to “seal the deal.” With Kapow, business travelers are doing something they have never done before, and they’re having an amazing time doing it, every time.
“Whether it’s doing a clambake on a boat in Boston, ferrari racing in Indianapolis, skydiving, going through the French Quarter in New Orleans on a float, you will always remember the company that brought you there and gave you that experience,” Brown said.
Brown explains that having an offensive-minded game plan is what motivates him to keep pushing forward in consistently coming up with creative event planning. Asking him what he believes a CEO’s most important role is, he broke it down into three main points of facetime with clients, remembering the word “vital,” and embracing discovery.
“Discovery is not training,” Brown affirmed. “Discovery is matched with struggle, danger and euphoria; very different than the word ‘training’.”
What guided this serious entrepreneur throughout his professional journey was going where it’s difficult, not being afraid of risks and going places with a high opportunity to learn, which he says are typically in risky spots.
Brown’s advice for those seeking to hold a CEO position?
“It’s very helpful to understand different dimensions of a company,” he said. “Similar to someone who has their own band; if you start out playing piano, then you figure out how to sing, how to hold a beat and play the drums, and you start to get it, and then you master it.”