Unisfair Nets $10M for Virtual Trade Shows

Virtual meeting company Unisfair has scored $10 million in funding from Sequoia Capital and Norwest Venture Partners after proving that meeting people face-to-face isn’t always necessary or cost effective. As a telecommuter, I’m duty-bound to agree, although I’d rather gouge out my eyes than attend a virtual product launch party.

Still, many people must attend product launches, trade shows and job fairs for a living and doing it online is far cheaper (and greener) than trucking around the world with a trade show booth or the latest company literature. Unisfair doesn’t disclose revenue, but says it grew 350 percent last year after what might be considered a slow start. Founded in 2002, Unisfair decided to go with a virtual-environment product delivered using the software as a service model. Competitors at the time were promoting teleconferencing and online trade shows, but Guy Piekarz, CEO of Unisfair, says now he’s certain his company made the right choice with virtual meetings.

Thanks to the media and corporate attention given to virtual worlds such as Second Life, the idea of virtual trade shows isn’t that far-fetched. But in Unisfair’s secured version of a trade show the avatars can’t fly and the environment isn’t, er, prone to attacks from the air. That’s a plus for Unisfair’s enterprise customers, which include the likes of Cisco Systems, National Instruments and Cognos.