Stream Chat & Welcome Create Experience-First Virtual Events Focused on Human Connection

Stream Chat helps the fast-growing virtual event platform, Welcome, reimagine the market for high-end virtual conferences, trade shows, and parties.

Events across various industries have a wide range of expectations and requirements. While a regional conference could be held in a high school gym, events such as executive board meetings or charity galas require higher-end venues. Along with his two fellow co-founders, Tiger Shen, CTO of the virtual event software, Welcome, recognized the need for an experience-first platform that could deliver meaningful human connection to online events.

With an intuitive event layout, next-level features such as video, chat, green rooms for speakers, overlays, and more, Welcome is often described as “the Ritz-Carlton of online events.”

Founded in May 2020, the young company fills a market gap. “Six months ago, it was just our co-founders and I in our rooms, and now we have upwards of 25 employees. It’s reactive hiring because we’re trying to keep up with demand,” says Shen.

During development, Welcome sought the help of Stream Chat to achieve a rapid launch of their feature-rich product, and to maintain messaging performance as the company scales. Here, Shen outlines why he and his team chose Stream’s APIs over other options, what the integration process was like, and how in-app messaging from a third-party tech provider enables Welcome to focus on upgrading the virtual event experience.

Why Stream Chat

The catalyst for Welcome to seek a third-party app solution was simple: Welcome needed sophisticated, reliable in-app chat to create a stand-out event experience in the multi-billion dollar virtual events industry. “We knew that we needed a chat function to have a competitive product,” says Shen. “There is no virtual event that doesn’t have chat. It was non-negotiable.”

Shen knew from the beginning that buying a chat solution from a third-party tech provider was the right choice for Welcome versus building chat from scratch. Building a custom messaging feature would have taken months, preventing the virtual event application from launching at a critical time when event organizers were weighing options. More importantly, Shen and his team were focused on innovating virtual event interfaces — not messaging functionality. “As a co-founder, I didn’t want to reinvent the way chat messages are sent back and forth,” he says.

After evaluating several leading in-app messaging options, including Sendbird’s API, Shen explains that Stream Chat was a clear choice. Stream’s pre-built React SDK was the quickest path Shen saw to integration, specifically due to the front-end components.

Within one hour, Shen had Chat working in Welcome’s application. It took him another week to have Stream Chat functioning as his team wanted. Shen adds that he didn’t initially realize how helpful Stream’s director of customer support would be in the integration process, and if he had to do it again, he would have leaned on Stream’s support staff more.

Scalability & Performance for Deeper Engagement

Scalability wasn’t a top priority for Shen when he first implemented a chat feature into Welcome’s virtual event platform. At the time, the company was hosting events for under 300 attendees. However, shortly after Chat integration, Welcome was tasked with hosting a 6,000-attendee event, their largest ever.

Shen was nervous, and reached out to Stream to ensure the API could handle such a large volume increase. “By the time our event happened, there was a new performance-oriented component in the [Stream] SDK that we were able to integrate within a few hours,” says Shen. “We had no issues with chat performance during the event.”

On a broader level, Welcome embraces a wide range of Stream Chat’s functionality to encourage engagement. From supporting gifs and image uploads to emojis and rich links, Shen says such features help set Welcome apart from their many competitors, who often only offer basic text messaging.

“When an M.C. encourages audience attendees to welcome the next speaker to the stage by dropping their favorite food emoji into chat, it’s just more fun,” explains Shen. “This would have been an order of magnitude more work for us to create ourselves at the level Stream has. Its impact on what we care about — the experience — is significant.”

Welcome’s Next Steps

Welcome’s experience-first platform is gaining market traction. Since May 2020 the company’s headcount ballooned. And late 2020, Welcome raised a $12 million Series A round led by the VC firm Kleiner Perkins, priming the company for exponential growth.

Clearly, Welcome has big plans. Stream Chat enables the platform’s advancement by providing reliable, scalable in-app messaging, allowing Shen and his team to focus on Welcome’s core differentiator: an unparalleled virtual event experience.

Want to see how Stream’s reliable, scalable and performance-first Chat can transform your business? Try Stream’s free, 28-day Chat Trial!