Ankush Gupta (00:24): Hi, I’m Ankush, founder at, and you are listening to the Building Awesome Events podcast. Our guest today is a very hardworking Raf De Kimpe, CEO of FinTech Week, London, and Chief Commercial Officer at Disrupt Media. Welcome, Raf, welcome to the show.

Raf De Kimpe (00:41): Hi Ankush. Thank you. Thank you for having me. Thanks for inviting me. Very excited.

Ankush Gupta (00:45): Very excited. Lovely to have you here with us Raf, we’ve been hearing so much about FinTech Week. Finally, we get to ask you some questions. Let’s start from the very beginning. You had a long stint on the business software side. As an information analyst, you then moved to the business development side. How did you think of launching or coming into the FinTech Week London idea from there? There’s an interesting story behind that. Let’s start with that. 

Raf De Kimpe (01:09): Let the listeners decide if it’s interesting or not, but it’s definitely a story behind it. The first company I worked at, as you say, was a software research company. And because they did so many projects with universities, with companies, and there were a lot of events happening there, smaller events, panels, pitching, but also a big yearly event where everybody got together to talk about what was happening. And it was really all hands-on deck.

The whole company, everybody in operations, was there at this event. And that’s how I started at the beginning, where I just was at the registration desk, or I was moving speakers from stage to stage. And that’s how I kind of got the bug and the enthusiasm for events because I really loved it. After working there for quite some time, I moved to a FinTech ecosystem in Brussels, actually following the CEO of that company who moved to that company in Brussels.

So he said, well, we need somebody here to come over. So, I went there, organized the Digital Finance Summit in Brussels for two years, which is kind of a one-day conference, a two-day conference. Met the guys from Disrupt Media, had a conversation, and we saw there was an opportunity in the London ecosystem, which is one of the biggest FinTech ecosystems in the world. There really wasn’t a dedicated event to FinTech here anymore. So, we picked up that ball and went with it, and it’s been steam train ahead ever since.

Ankush Gupta (02:33): That’s amazing. Tell us some of the FinTech Week’s and Disrupt Media ecosystem a little bit. So, you have a show and media property alongside it. So how does that work?

Raf De Kimpe (02:45): So we have a few different brands. One of them is the FinTech Times, which is our newspaper and online platform that’s run by a fully editorial team of professional journalists. And that really gives us the voice of the industry that gives us the reader that gives us the audience. And, of course, that gives us FinTech companies that want to partner with us. Even more so in one of our other branches, which is the FinTech Power 50, where we have the 40 most promising FinTech companies in the 10 most influential people for the year in the industry. And that basically made sense because we had the audience, we had the readers, we had the companies either in the newspaper or in the FinTech Power 50. So, we said, well, let’s bring them all together in a yearly event.

And that’s really what it is. It’s bringing our community together and making sure that everybody has that FaceTime with each other, which we think is really important.

Ankush Gupta (03:34): Hey, that’s great. And FinTech Week London is now hugely successful, as we all know. And now entering its third year. How involved are you with the production of the actual event?

Raf De Kimpe (03:44): I’m actually very involved. I’m quite hands-on, which is a nice turn to say that I might be a bit of a control freak, but you’ll have to ask my team that. But I’m very hands-on. I like to be very aware of what’s happening, especially when it comes to the speakers and the content. We have a brilliant content board of people that make sure that the content is top-notch and is really nothing commercial. It’s really what the industry wants to talk about and wants to hear.

But I’m quite involved in the content and then quite involved with anything  that has to do with the sponsors, right? Because they’re the people making this happen as well. So, I find it always very important to make sure that they’re happy and that they get what they want.

But I often obviously have an amazing team working on this event with me, and the success of the event is huge, too, due to the efforts of the team. I’m very confident with that.

Ankush Gupta (04:33): Absolutely. And we’ve been hearing a lot about this buzzword about event content programming. Our guests over the last few podcasts have, all, told us about their interests and event content. Everybody’s forming these communities around content, event content, and so on. So, it looks like that’s becoming a very important piece of event production.

Raf De Kimpe (04:55): Yeah, I agree. I think it’s equally important. I think to the networking opportunities that are there. It kind of depends on your event if it’s more networking or lead generation or sales based, or partnerships based. But people, if they have to leave their house, especially after Covid, if they have to leave their house, they have to have enough reason to do that. And I think good content and good networking opportunities are both equally important. Where I think before Covid, there were a lot more events. Maybe not always. The quality was guaranteed, and it was just more about getting out and seeing people and seeing the same faces. I think people are a bit more precious about their time now, which I think is a good thing. Right.

Ankush Gupta (05:33): Yeah. And so, you launched FinTech Week in 2021, a tough year with some rolling lockdowns going on. So how has the evolution really been off that event? Coming out of a tough year and, back to in-person, how are you now viewing your virtual strategy versus in-person, and what is your playbook really like today for FinTech week? Is there a hybrid component to it?

Raf De Kimpe (05:58): In 2021? Definitely very challenging still restrictions and rules in the UK and across the world from the start. We knew in person for us was important. So even in 2021, we did a hybrid version, which was fully hybrid. So, we had about half of the capacity of each room so people could be socially distanced, masks were worn, et cetera. But still, we wanted to bring people together physically already. But everything was fully live-streamed and hybrid. I personally don’t think that’s a sustainable way or a cost-efficient way of doing events, doing everything double, making sure that the in-person and online experiences are both seamless and perfect, and run costs a lot of money.

And it’s also not something that I think. I prefer at least my principle is to do one thing and do it well. So do we have certain parts that are in person now in 2023? And we have certain parts that are online. There will be a video on demand. There will be online networking but at different times than when there is in-person networking. There’s no live streaming. So, a fully hybrid concept, I don’t believe it’s a sustainable model for the industry. But I do believe in the choice of a combination of virtual and in-person, which is what we are doing.

Ankush Gupta  (07:14): Right. And I think the most important thing is that word right there, which is choice. Right. Being able to decide whether you want to go hybrid or you want to have smaller components and produce online events through the rest of the year. That choice has become much more feasible to do these days. But, there are several things like that in person. The networking has not translated very well to online networking. The virtual events I’ve attended, it leaves a lot to be desired.

Raf De Kimpe (07:41): I agree.

Ankush Gupta (07:42): That whole experience of shaking somebody’s hand, pressing the flesh that’s just not there.

Raf De Kimpe (07:46): No, I agree. What we do with virtual networking it’s really matchmaking based, and it’s people booking meetings through the app where they say, okay, these are the people that are suggested to you based on your interest. You should have a meeting with this person. It’s a very short meeting. It’s mostly 10 to 20 minutes, but just wandering around in a virtual hall and bumping into people, I don’t think that’s realistic at all. It doesn’t really work.

So, what we do is intelligent matchmaking that suggests meetings with people and books those meetings. And we also say to everyone very fast, make sure in the first two or three minutes you explain what you do and what you’re looking for so that you both can immediately see if it is a match. Is it, not a match, not a match? Move on. Go to the next one.

But that’s what I said. I don’t believe in hybrid. Cause these virtual boots, this virtual networking where you walk around and a handshake or bump into people, it doesn’t work. You can have that in person where you walk into people and you, but even then, you can still see that’s already something you want to orchestra, you want to do. We had speed dating sessions, for instance, to make sure that people got enough FaceTime with other people. And kind of break those barriers. So even in person, it’s already hard, let alone if you think that it’ll happen in a virtual world. Maybe we’ll talk about a metaverse at FinTech long this year as well. So maybe in a few years in the metaverse, but definitely not now.

Ankush Gupta (09:06): Yeah. I’m surprised that Bumble hasn’t been acquired by Zoom or that Zoom hasn’t been acquired by Bumble.

Raf De Kimpe (09:14): Yeah. Yeah. You could say a Tinder for business networking. It might be the new app that you want to launch, the new Money Makers, and the new unicorn. So maybe people are listening. We demand 10% then, right? Because it was our idea.

Ankush Gupta (09:28): Yeah. And there are like a gazillion tech platforms out there. What’s the one that has worked for you for the virtual component?

Raf De Kimpe (09:36): So we use Cvent as a platform basically from everything going from our website speaker applications, speaker registration, tickets up until publishing of the program, the speakers, everything is built on Cvent. The on-location batch printing, the mobile app, and the attendee website, it’s all based on the Cvent platform.

I chose Cvent because I worked with them in the past. And cause at the beginning of the first year we had all these different systems, which each and their own work very well. But once you have to start, oh no speaker changes, or then you have to go through three or four different systems to get it on the app, to get it on the website, to get it in the program. And it wasn’t sustainable. And that’s why I presented the idea of Cvent, and we’ve been using it for two years now. They’re also great partners for us. We work together with them. We do stuff with them in the FinTech times. So, they’re really a great partner to have, in my opinion, a very good platform as well. It’s one of the better platforms out there, honestly.

Ankush Gupta (10:39): Yeah, that’s good to know. Once we publish, this podcast Raf has, they’re going to get a lot of messages in your LinkedIn inbox from virtual event vendors saying, show us some love. We are better than Cvent. All of that, so remember you heard it here first.

Raf De Kimpe (10:55): Yes. They’ll have to do their best because we have a very extensive partnership with them, and it’s been going really well for two years, but well, we’ll see who comes and who challenges.

Ankush Gupta (11:07): Yeah. Absolutely. Raf tell me, in terms of traditional marketing, how do you create awareness, for your events? What are channels that you think have worked best around audience acquisition and how involved are you with this process?

Raf De Kimpe (11:20): Yeah. I am involved in the sense that we discussed the strategy, of course, of the marketing. We have our marketing calendar and strategy. There are different ways of marketing and event, right? There’s different channels, and there’s different ideas and concepts we work with.

Ankush Gupta (11:34): Is it like email? Is it paid media?

Raf De Kimpe (11:36): It’s a combination of LinkedIn that works very, really well for us. And then email, of course being a media company, we have our own database. We have our other brands. We have quite a database that we can reach out to. It’s LinkedIn. And then one important part that we do as well as we work with over 30 media partners. So those are other media outlets that say listen, if you give us a ticket, if you put our logo on your website, if you allow us to film at the location, we will also broadcast the fact that this event is happening to our full network. So that really multiplies and extends your reach very far. So, our media partners are very important. Our speakers and sponsors need to say that they’re coming and that they’re speaking.

That’s mostly on social media, though not on emailing. And then our own network. And then it’s important to adjust the message to what you’re doing. Right? We have content marketing based on what we did last year to show this was discussed last year. Similar things might happen this year. You need to be there. We have the topics and the content board that says, this is what we’re discussing. So, we have more content-based marketing and then, of course, the traditional, more commercial marketing paths as well.

Ankush Gupta (12:47): Yeah, that’s great for folks listening. I mean, that’s like a mini playbook right there. I mean, I think you’ve covered most of the points. The only one thing that stood out, Raf, for me was, you said LinkedIn has worked well for you. Most of our other guests have told us they mostly rely on email. And I would’ve assumed that LinkedIn, given the CPMs and the cost, really is on the higher side. How do you really deal with that? Is that like a budget that you factored in, or is there some retargeting you do on top of the LinkedIn layer?

Raf De Kimpe (13:15): There is a budget that we use for LinkedIn. There is the retargeting that we do. And then, of course, it doesn’t always result in direct sales. So, I think LinkedIn helps for the brand, the brand recognition, and the awareness of people knowing, oh, it’s happening. But for the actual sales, we do see that it’s mostly based on emails and organic searches. Just people saw it on LinkedIn, go to the website, and then at some point come back and buy their ticket. And we do have some items in play, like retargeting, but also drop baskets. Right. So people, if they register, the first thing to do is enter their email address. And if they stop at one of the other steps, there’s about three emails that we sent through the course of two weeks that say,” Hey, you were interested. Here’s some more information about the event. Here’s a discount code. Can we help you out?”

Ankush Gupta (14:02): Absolutely. Because the buying journey is not linear, as you said. And someone can see your hand on LinkedIn. Then go off onto Instagram or take their dog for a walk and so it and which is why we created our platform that is Eventible which is another spoke another 10 poles in the ground to help people make that decision. Right. So if someone sees your ad on LinkedIn, comes to our platform reads reviews of the past edition of a FinTech week, in London, and then says, these people are saying great things about it, I must go because this is what I want to learn. These are the right people that I want to meet. Right. That’s trying to be part of that decision-making process for an attendee.

Raf De Kimpe (14:42): Yes. And it’s very important because there’s nothing better than hearing it from people who actually went and hearing it from speakers and hearing it from attendees, what it was, how they liked it, what they liked about it. Because we can, of course, say whatever we want in our marketing. I believe we’re very realistic. We’re very true to what it’s, but still hearing it from the audience themselves, seeing the reviews, seeing it on our platform, seeing the recognition is very important for us.

Ankush Gupta (15:07): Yeah. That’s what I was going to ask you. How important is social proof to you, and do you think your attendees care about it? But you just answered that for us, Raf.

Raf De Kimpe (15:17): I ran ahead a bit, but I do think it’s important. I think that’s also something we do. After the event, we do a survey, but that’s more of an internal practical survey just to see what went well and what didn’t go well. But it’s important that those results are shared with the public. So, if you can do public reviews on a platform like Eventible, that’s a great marketing asset and something that helps testimonials always work.

Ankush Gupta (15:40): Yeah. Wonderful. Raf that this brings us to the last question that we have for you today, which is that if someone were to want to join your team, what are some of the key attributes that you instinctively look for?

Raf De Kimpe (15:52): I think what for me is important is drive, is interest, and willingness to work and to be hands-on and to see, to be a problem solver. But more than anything is to be very pragmatic. I think myself, and that might be my Flemish Belgian heritage. I’m one who’s very straight to the point. If there’s a problem, let’s look at it, let’s analyze it, let’s address it, and solve it. That might also be the origin of my career, which plays a role there in information and process analysis. But I’m a very pragmatic person. I like everybody around me to be the same open, transparent, and very pragmatic. And I think what’s important to me in terms of the team is everybody can be themselves. Everybody has their own way of working.

Everybody has their own preferences in style and has their own capacities. And I think playing to everybody’s strengths it’s really the only thing you can do to make the team a success. So, somebody who joins my team should be open to that but also prepared for the event world. Cause the event world is high-stress, high intensity in a short period of time. Cause everything has to be done. I mean, if you miss a deadline, you can’t be on stage and not have your speaker there, not have your slide there, not have your microphone there. So, it’s very intense working to that deadline. So, stress resistance is something.

Ankush Gupta (17:12): Absolutely. And on a little bit of a lighter note, before we end Raf, this reminds me of this popular show on Netflix now, which is called Indian Matchmaking, which is where a popular matchmaker tries to hook up different couples. And if you ask someone, what are you looking for then, on the screen, you see all of these things – Pragmatic, open, transparent, be themselves playing to sprints, and it’s literally like two pages. And then, she’ll basically counsel you saying that you’re not going to get everything in life, only 60 – 70%. And it’s become like all these internet memes with people saying that you have to settle, you have to adjust, you have to compromise.

Raf De Kimpe (17:53): That’s actually very, very true. And you cannot get everything. So, if it’s just somebody who loves what they do, that’s already good enough for me. All the rest are there.

Ankush Gupta (18:02): Absolutely. You hit it on the head. Just love what you do. Come to work, be happy. Try your best. And if I start out my own two-page list. Thanks a lot, Raf, this was fun. I hope to chat with you again, and all the very best. You’re busy with your event edition coming up soon, and we hope it’s a rolling success.

Raf De Kimpe (18:21): Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, definitely, from now until the 19th and the 20th of June will be very intense. But this chat was really, really entertaining and good. Good to step away from all the arrangements. And so, thank you so much for having me.

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