Finding the perfect event venue is easier than ever thanks to Ali Lord’s tech platform Headbox Australia. Originally launched in 2015 in the UK by Andrew Needham, the reach of Headbox has now spread to many other countries, disrupting the market and earning a reputation as a leader in its field.
Here, we spoke to Headbox Australia’s CEO Ali Lord, to delve into her business journey, the technology that powers Headbox, the impact on the Australian market, and future plans for growth and innovation.
Could you tell us about how HeadBox works?
HeadBox is multi-faceted which makes it an incredibly exciting business to own, work in and bring to Australia. HeadBox.com is focused on our venue collections where we drive partnerships with any type of venue / space across Australia. We’ve developed our own proprietary software to support venues with lead generation, dubbed the ‘Bumble of events,’ and digital exposure which has changed the game to what the industry had prior to our launch into Australia. HeadBox.com attracts a range of audiences, be it a consumer looking for an engagement party venue, or a corporate looking for an offsite or end-of-year celebration venue.
On the Business side, we partner with organisations to support them in delivering their annual program of events, be it a private dining, offsite or conference. Our in-house Event Planners leverage our proprietary AI-technology to seamlessly source the right venue and suppliers for our clients, presenting back options in a sophisticated, easy to interpret digital interface. Our significant point of difference is our back-end technology; enabling clients to have complete oversight of their annual event spend to make informed decisions.
HeadBox also offers end-to-end event management for our clients, providing them with a holistic service from the initial venue sourcing, right through to live delivery of the event. HeadBox were proud to be finalists in two categories at the 2023 Australia Event Awards; Corporate Event of the Year for PwC’s Partner Summit and Event Management Agency of the Year.
How successful has the British-founded company been back home?
HeadBox UK was launched in 2015 by our founder Andrew Needham and in the following years launched into Ireland and the Netherlands. HeadBox UK is seen as an industry leader for its tech and a significant disrupter to its globally established competitors. HeadBox UK is now a 65-person strong company and is proud to have won 85% of the corporate tenders they’ve been invited to, along with a 100% retention of all Business clients post-pandemic. These wins and retention is largely due to the market-leading tech we roll out, including the latest release of Journey’s; a sustainability tool that allows bookers to calculate their emissions. It works by allowing event bookers to enter attendees’ travel details so they can compare the projected travel emissions for each venue option provided and see which is the lowest.
What has been the uptake in Australia since you launched?
It was a brave moment that we chose to launch in – February 2021. We came into the market at a time when the events industry was hurting but needed support to rebound. Our tech provided venues with the ability to acquire clients they had not previously worked with, and it enabled our Business clients to do more with less by leveraging on our technology and team.
Venues were sceptical when we first launched as they had witnessed a lot of “new ideas” come into the market and subsequently fail. However as soon as they witnessed our tech – the user experience and its different proposition – they loved it. We have a 77% retention rate with venues and a 100% retention rate with our Business clients.
Whilst HeadBox is small in comparison to our competitors, our tech is disrupting the market and will continue to do so as we roll out new features bi-weekly and scale our team.
What are the plans for the future?
We have a significant market share to claim in Australia and believe our tech and people will continue to win and retain business. We are relentless in our pursuit to continue iterating our tech; listening to our clients feedback (both venue & business) to ensure we are continuing to solve day to day problems and deliver industry-leading technology.
We’ve experienced significant growth over the past 18 months where we have focused on expanding our venue collections across major cities in Australia. With a strong presence of venue partnerships, our focus has now shifted to growing our corporate client-base.
Our Business clients have not experienced tech like ours and believe it will fill a large gap in the way companies are operating post-covid. With reduced teams, tighter budgets but increased activity, partnering with HeadBox to leverage our tech and team will enable them to achieve these goals.
As a woman in tech, what would you say to younger women rising through the ranks?
Humans are creatures of habit and often new tech can cause fear, however I have always had a love for new technology and what it can do for us, personally and professionally. My advice would be to remain constantly curious and be open to the unfamiliar.
Younger generations have so much to offer companies in their fresh approach, new ideas and tech-savvy natures. If you have a brilliant idea that could solve a pain-point for you, there’s a very good chance this will solve a pain-point for someone else, so explore the idea and see where it takes you. Have the courage to jump into something, be it a new job or business idea, with considered confidence.
About Ali Lord
Ali is a distinguished events professional with over 14 years experience domestically and internationally.
Ali launched HeadBox Australia in 2021 and has previously held a number of senior leadership roles spanning venue, client and agency sides of the events industry. Having worked with some of the world’s most forward-thinking events organisations and market leaders, Ali is highly skilled in what it takes to deliver world-class experiences, including recently executing a 900-person, 4 day event in Hobart for a Professional Services Firm.
Ali’s prior leadership roles have required the ability to build and lead large teams and deliver strong business acumen, particularly as the head of the UK & Ireland events team for Dentsu International. She has worked with organisations to transform and reimagine their digital business and event capabilities, and delivered large scale events such as the British Summertime Festival in London – a 65,000 person per day festival spanning 10 days in the centre of London.