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Monday, March 1, 2021

From Yorklyn, Markee connects the world virtually

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Markee employees in a Markee session

The official origin story for Markee, a virtual events platform, is it was born in Short Order Production House, a Wilmington video production company, and soon spun off as a new firm.

That origin story fails to include the important background of CEO Craig Doig, who houses headquarters in an annex of his Yorklyn home. Doig was born in Texas, educated in England and was a trailing spouse from California when he landed in Delaware two years ago.

Doig, who’s 30, grew up with computers, building them when he was a kid. He’s a serial entrepreneur, founding and selling multiple small businesses. “I like creating things.”

I want to spend the rest of my life here in Delaware,” he said in an interview conducted in a Markee session. “People can be successful here because of the community, which is the biggest small town in the world.” He also praised the work-life balance available in Delaware and how residents keep their promises. “I’m desperate to find Delawareans to work” on Markee, and he’s networking hard to do so.

 

Doig is now Markee’s sole Delawarean. Chief product officer Zach Phillips, also Short Order’s CEO, lives in Philadelphia. Others are in New York and California. The other half of the eight full-timers are in Argentina.

Markee was developed for Short Order clients who needed virtual meetings. They needed much more than suddenly-everywhere Zoom and even more than the Slack, Discord and Notion that Doig (then Short Order’s chief operating officer) and his colleagues were using.

We consider Zoom to be the bare minimum,” he said. “Markee is the Swiss army knife of virtual event spaces, with feature sets you can deploy simply and quickly to create any kind of experience based on your specific needs. Zoom has about three use cases. We have 40.”

And those 40 represent only about 30% of what Doig has planned.

 

So far, it’s hosted several hundred events, for up to 15,000 participants. Local clients include the Delaware Democratic Party, the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce and EasterSeals of Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

The thing that we really love is the customization,” said Jaimie Watts, the chamber’s director of events. “It’s our branding and the event branding,” with nothing that says Markee.

She also likes how rooms are handled. Attendees can self-navigate among them, and the rooms can be used for breakout sessions, vendor tables (with full branding) and networking.

Several chamber members have liked Markee enough that she’s connected them.

 

Markee is marketed to the “enterprise tier” of small to midsize businesses and other enterprises, with needs more sophisticated than what Zoom and similar software can deliver but without the big budgets to build their own virtual events platform.

Markee aims to aggregate “complex features, deployed simply,” starting with video chats, text chats, polls, Q&As, rooms (“small-group breakout sessions at corporate retreats, sponsor-branded vendor booths during trade shows or the raucous ‘cousins table’ at a virtual family wedding”), sponsors and collaborative canvases. Whatever’s presented is archived in real time, allowing attendees to catch up on recommended material.

A chart on Markee’s home page compares it to competitors Bevy, Hopin and Socio. Markee wins with custom features (or it will help clients find workarounds until it can offer the feature, Doig said); white labeling (only the clients’ name is used, not Markee’s); custom branding, naming, content and domain; and prerecorded synched video.

Other attractive features include what it doesn’t do. It’s browser-based, so attendees don’t have to download software. Attendees don’t have to sign up for accounts. Bottom line: less friction to get involved. Pricing depends on what features customers want.

Markee was launched in June, and its service is now in beta. The company is engaged in a seed investment round and is planning a Series A round for early 2022.

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