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Startups and smaller companies chart paths around MWC cancellation

The tens of thousands of people who aren't in Barcelona, Spain, this week for the MWC 2020 trade show have probably reduced their chances of contracting COVID-19 by staying home, but they have also reduced their chances of meeting new customers, learning about new technologies and closing deals.

Smaller companies and startups that were counting on MWC to introduce them to the industry may be the hardest hit by the cancellation. Many startups don't have the budget to fly salespeople all over the world, so they count on trade shows to connect them with prospects.

Eugina Jordan, VP of marketing at equipment vendor Parallel Wireless, said that if MWC had been cancelled when her company was just starting out, Parallel's path would have been much harder. Even now, the cancellation is a huge blow.

"Visibility at the show is lost for us," said Jordan. "We had multiple speaking sessions ... we would have been all over the place, everywhere – that opportunity for visibility at the show is lost… All opportunities for videos with customers in partner booths are lost ... But [we] will still develop and deliver our own demo content."

Jordan said all the Parallel Wireless meetings that were supposed to happen in Barcelona this week will happen with local salespeople who can call on the customers. In addition, Parallel Wireless is hiring video crews to record product demos and interviews with company subject matter experts, and it plans to post the videos and webinars in the months ahead.

And the company is already looking ahead to MWC 2021. Jordan said the company's booth is headed into storage and will be ready to go next year.

For some companies, the lost opportunity to attend MWC may not necessarily translate into less visibility. Charles Miller, co-founder and CEO of satellite startup Lynk (formerly UbiquitiLink), thinks he still has a chance to reach thousands of people this week. Like many other MWC registrants, he will be making a video about his company to post on the GSMA's website.

Nick Spencer, head of GSMA business partnering, marketing and conference, said in a video press release that the association is trying to create a "Netflix style" website where visitors can see lots of "short form content" produced by GSMA in order to give companies a chance to "talk about what they would have talked about onsite in Barcelona." The website will be indexed by topic, and the content will be promoted to the people who registered to attend MWC.

"They say they're going to … tell their 150,000 people who were signed up or were on their list, about the videos of the speakers that they can go online and watch to learn more about what they're doing, so that's useful," said Miller. He said that if he'd given a keynote or spoken on a panel at MWC, the video probably would have gotten less distribution than he's expecting this week. "All the speakers from last year are not easily available for everybody to go online and watch the speakers," Miller said.

Miller said MWC is not a "do or die" event for the company, which is working to sell satellite services to mobile network operators. Miller said a face-to-face trade show like MWC can be helpful, but he doesn't consider it critical for Lynk's success in the year ahead.

Still other companies are hoping to drum up business with virtual events. For example, Allot is hosting its Mobile Virtual Conference (MVC) through February 27, and Qualcomm recently livestreamed the press conference it had scheduled to host in Barcelona.

— Martha DeGrasse, special to Light Reading. Follow her @mardegrasse

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