One of the finalists in this year’s UFI New Generation Leaders (NGL) Grant, Matthew Funge, shares his steep career trajectory.
London-based Matthew Funge is MD & Founder of event technology company Your Stand Builder. He is a graduate from the University of Manchester and has lived and worked in the UK, USA and France.
Previous to the YSB launch in March 2019, Matthew had five years as an exhibition project manager and worked on 25+ worldwide events annually. He is committed to exploring technological innovation.
How did you come into the industry?
There are many reasons why the exhibition industry would appeal to anybody, and most of them probably apply to me. I think the biggest attraction was the thrill of being involved in international events and seeing the incredible creativity all around the world. Every day, every show, every year is different and it’s such an exciting industry to be a part of!
What inspires you?
Making a difference in a huge, global industry. There is so much opportunity for innovative, creative thinkers to make a mark and provide genuine benefits to my industry colleagues.
Your first big deal/break?
As a company we’ve won an industry award already, and being selected for the UFI NGL Grant is incredible, too, in terms of personal development. However, the first time we felt we were truly ‘on to something’ was much earlier. It was quite a daunting challenge to leave the security of employment to start up on my own and jump fully into the exhibition industry. However, very shortly after launching we secured a significant partnership with an established company which provided such validation of the service we were working on and proved to me that it had a definite place in the industry. That sticks with me as the ‘Yes, this is actually real’ moment.
What inspired you to apply for the NGL Grant?
The opportunity was too good not to pursue! To be able to work so closely with UFI, while receiving direct mentorship from an industry expert and working collaboratively with the other winners, will prove hugely beneficial as I continue my career and look to grow into a leader. I’m aiming to develop my knowledge and learn from my fellow winners, as well as expand my network of industry key opinion leaders.
How have you been coping during the Covid-19 crisis?
It hasn’t been easy, however we’re fortunate as a young start up that our monthly running costs are still low and we’ve avoided any cashflow issues thus far. Stand projects have understandably stopped being posted to the platform so there isn’t anywhere near as much activity on the website. However, we are in touch with our exhibitor members and we’re still projecting a very busy remainder of 2020 once events start to resume. We’ve been using this quieter period to launch a new service (marketplace by Your Stand Builder), so in fact we’ve expanded and feel ready to really help the industry get back on its feet again.
How do you envisage any ‘new normal’?
There will undoubtedly be a transition period where many precautions are taken to ensure the safety of everyone who attends events – including compulsory wearing of face masks, widespread use of hand sanitiser stations, temperature checks at entrances, etc. Whether these stay in place once Covid-19 is truly under control, either through the introduction of a vaccine or otherwise – remains to be seen. I suspect that before too long events will be very similar to how they were previously, as humans are creatures of habit.
What are the possible pathways to restarting our industry?
The immediate ways to control the spread of infection would be the obvious ones (mentioned above) and they will hopefully allow events to begin again in the short term. Looking further ahead, there could be an opportunity for live events and virtual events to work in unison while visitor confidence is still returning and people are uneasy attending events in person. The approach taken at Brussels Expo with UV-C disinfection is impressive, but unfortunately I don’t think it will be adopted universally due to the costs involved.