Eman Pulis “One plus one makes three – not two!”

Eman Pulis “One plus one makes three – not two!”

 

“One plus one makes three – not two!”

Eman Pulis is a very agile man. He founded SiGMA Group in Malta creating successful industry events including the iGaming Summit, AIBC Summit and Medical Cannabis making the island visible across the world within the professional communities. Of course, Covid-19 caused a sincere blow against all ambitions. Nevertheless, SiGMA newly launched Affiliate Grand Slam in the middle of the pandemic and bundled it with the AIBC tech show in a celebrated live event, in May bringing over 4500 professionals together in a live event in Dubai’s Festival City. Dieter Brockmeyer, Co-Founder and Director Innovation & TIME of the Diplomatic World Institute, talked to him about the reason for the success in Dubai, the importance of live events for innovation and the roles of Dubai and Malta as innovation hubs.

 

Please, give us a little overview about yourself and your events group?

I am just an events guy, that is what I have done all my life. In young age I started organizing parties. But soon I got tired of it and became a conference organizer. Then Covid appeared about one and a half years ago. That made me realize that there is more to our business than events and conferences and morphed into a media- and an affiliate company. I am really proud to say that, since Covid, we more than doubled our work force from the small number of 30 people to over 70 people today.

 

You organized lots of conferences, then came Corona. Was this a shock?

Absolutely! I was lost the first couple of months, just hoping the virus would let us in peace. We tried to respond without innovating. But reality was closing in on us and we had to innovate. We had to look at our business with a new set of eyes and we were thrilled to overcome at least the first part of the pandemic and launch our very first show outside of Malta for the very first time. This was in Dubai and a success!

 

I know you had many things planned for 2020. All of it had to be stopped. Instead, you came up with Dubai and added the Affiliate business. That is a really huge transition. Also, you rescheduled the Malta events various times before you came up with Dubai. This looks like massive struggle. Is that right?

Look, nobody knew what this pandemic would turn out to be. We first tried to keep everything where it was, but after a few postponements of the original shows we decided to reinvent ourselves. We now have videocasters and news teams in major jurisdictions reporting to our central office and we create a lot of content on a daily basis. We launched a number of exhibitions not only in Malta, but also in Asia, Africa and the Americas. The first one was in the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] and is going very well. We also launched a new show focusing on digital marketing, the AGS, Affiliate Grand Slam. We launched it together with AIBC in Dubai and will have the next one in Malta. It brings together likeminded people from the marketing world from bloggers to SEO gurus, influencers, or social media marketeers, you name it. We expect them at the show.

 

Now, let us talk about Dubai: Congratulations, Eman, for your success. I think you first thought it would be slow, but the last two weeks before the event it really was picking up and it became a real success. What was the reason that it worked out so well for you?

This illustrates how nimble we stayed during the pandemic. We kept alert on what countries were dealing right with the pandemic and progressed in vaccination. So. in March 2021 we decided, please excuse the phrase, to take a leap in faith. The clock was ticking, and the entire team said let us take the chance. Dubai seemed to be doing really well. We only had seven weeks to fill up the floor plan, promote the show, bring the government on board, bring close to 5000 investors, from blockchain, from AI, startups, media, and to develop the entire ecosystem at Dubai Festival City – and it was a tremendous success.

 

What was the reason for this success, only people longing to be back at physical events?

It was a combination of things, I think. I do not want to play trumpets, but we do know what we are doing when it comes to events. We know how to curate a crowd because the secret lies not only in the content with world class speakers, but in the evening events. That is where the magic happens. But it is not only that. We got full support from the Dubai government. They not only sanctioned us – they also endorsed us via financial contributions. This gave us the confidence we needed to go ahead with the show. However, most important was the Covid situation: People were locked up over a year in their homes and were desperate to do business face to face, the way we know how to do it best. It is great to have a meeting via Zoom. You do not need to fly to let us say Stockholm to meet your board of advisers anymore. However, when it comes to conferences and exhibitions like we do we remain the most efficient way to travel and to do business. Thanks to us people were allowed to travel to Dubai and line 50, 70 or even 100 meetings back-to-back. Let me give you a quick example: Do you know Coldplay? It is one of my most favorite bands. It is one thing to listen to it on YouTube. It is a completely different thing to have two VIP tickets and take your best friend to listen to it live together. Same music – different vibe! That is what our conferences can do compared to a Zoom conference.

 

Let us talk about Dubai as an innovation hub. There is lots of competition there. There were at least three major blockchain conferences at the same time competing with your conference with, as I felt, the same key speakers. And still you were able to score such a success?

There were many more. But I would not call them competitors. It is a great ecosystem where everybody wants to make a small living. We come with the show, we bring the speakers, and it is inevitable that we have dozens of small conferences the same week approaching our key speakers. We do not restrict speakers from going anywhere else when they are at our show. We believe a lot in synergies. One plus one makes three – not two! That is why we welcome competition with arms wide open.

 

Now let us compare Dubai to Malta, Dubai is much more wealthy and larger as a hub. Malta, too, tries to expand its business hub position and it will remain the home of your “Malta Week” that bundles your conferences in one week mid-November with chances being good that it will happen. Last time you did it in November 2019 you attracted some 15,000 attendants. What gives you the confidence in your home island?

True, Malta is not as well connected as Dubai and does not have the same infrastructure for conferences. However, politically Malta also is in a very good situation. It is in close proximity with three continents: Europe to the north, the GCC area to the east, and Africa in the south. Geopolitically Malta has a lot to offer. More important than that Malta as a state has always been able to punch above the waist when it comes to regulation in Europe. For instance, Malta was the first to establish fiscal incentives for companies relocating to Malta. We also were at the forefront creating a legal framework for online gambling companies to offer a sound environment. In 2018 Malta again was among the first to create three sets of bills to regulate blockchain technology. 2019 Malta was first creating a set of incentives for artificial intelligence. Malta is not as big as Dubai, it is not as accessible in terms of transportation, but it has never stopped people from recognizing what the government has done for them. You must not forget Malta is part of the European Union. We are not talking about offshore jurisdiction here. Everything is compliant and has the rubber stamp of the European Union. I think, companies that want to operate in a safe and sound environment in Malta find a great setup for running their business.

Photos: Eman Pulis