Hopin, the struggling virtual conference unicorn, sells events and engagement units to RingCentral

Hopin, the virtual events startup that saw its star (and valuation) rise quickly during the COVID-19 pandemic, is most definitely coming down to earth. Today the company announced that it has sold its Events and Session business units to RingCentral for an undisclosed sum. Events is Hopin’s event management platform for planning and producing virtual and hybrid events — arguably the core of the whole business — while Session is its toolset for managing interactive engagement during events.

The companies said that the acquisition will include tech assets, customer relationships (that is, customers using the tools) and engineering, product and go-to-market talent. All of these will be added to RingCentral’s video solutions business, adding events to its existing offerings in meetings, webinars and video “rooms.” Both will be rebranded as “RingCentral Events” and “RingCentral Sessions.”

Hopin says that it becomes a strategic partner of RingCentral with this deal, but it will also continue to operate as a standalone business with its remaining products StreamYard for livestreaming, Streamable for video hosting and Superwave for “community building.” And, it will be doing all of that under new leadership. Badri Rajasekar, who had been CTO and CPO, is taking on the role of CEO from founder and current CEO Johnny Boufarhat. (Rajasekar joined in 2021 when Hopin acquired Jamm, which became Session.)

We have reached out to Hopin to ask if the RingCentral will become a shareholder in the remaining business of Hopin as a result of the deal, and to see if they would share any more information. (It has already said that it would not, though.)

The news is the latest chapter in a turbulent time for Hopin, which was founded in London in 2019 and became one of the rising stars during the pandemic, providing tools to companies to organize and run virtual events — conferences, large meetings — after they could not hold live, in-person gatherings. (Disclosure: TechCrunch has been a customer of Hopin’s.)

That led Hopin to raise more than $1 billion in venture funding from big-name investors that included Andreessen Horowitz, General Catalyst, LinkedIn, Coatue, Salesforce, Tiger and many more. Coming off of a huge couple of years of business during the pandemic, in 2021, it was valued at nearly $7.7 billion. Its customer list features Slack, VMware, UPS, Pepsi and many more.

The torrent of pandemic-fueled virtual events, however, started to dry up, not just because a number of competitors entered the field, but because many in-person events — if they didn’t disappear altogether — gradually started to return. (That was a market turn that impacted a lot of businesses, not just Hopin.)

An article in the FT from April 2022 noted that its “explore” tab, for discovering virtual confabs that one might want to attend, listed fewer than 500 events, down from more than 15,000 in November 2020.

Hopin has not raised any further money since 2021, and between then and now it has gone through multiple rounds of layoffs affecting hundreds of employees.

RingCentral, which competes with conferencing services like WebEx, Zoom and GoogleMeet, is publicly traded and has a market cap of just under $4 billion — ironically, significantly smaller than Hopin’s last private valuation.

It will be using the new assets to further diversify its business. In the age-old technology struggle in which the question of “is this a platform, or a service on a platform?” is asked, this move firmly puts virtual events into the latter category.

“We see an opportunity to redefine how video communication is experienced. This acquisition is a key next step in our journey to deliver more personalized and engaging video meetings and events for customers,” said Vlad Shmunis, founder, chairman and CEO of RingCentral, in a statement. “We expect the technology and outstanding talent from Hopin will accelerate our ability to achieve these goals and help us differentiate our entire video portfolio.”

Video streaming is undeniably going to continue to grow across the industry, but the question for these two companies will remain: What will businesses and business users be willing to pay for, and log in to use, in that bigger opportunity?

“We’ve built a world-leading events platform trusted by both internal and customer-facing teams at large enterprises and SMBs around the world,” said Boufarhat in a statement. “We are thrilled to see the technology that Hopin has been developing over the years find a new home with RingCentral, a recognized UCaaS and CCaaS leader. We’re excited about RingCentral’s plans to grow and invest in the Events and Session platforms as we continue to pursue our vision of building a Community Suite for creators and influencers.”