We sat down with Eli Stonberg, Founder/CEO of Hovercast, to learn more about the company’s vision for participatory virtual events.
HGL: Hovercast is reimagining virtual events as two-way, participatory interactions. Tell me more about your company and its mission.
Eli Stonberg: Hovercast is an interactive graphics toolset and virtual events platform that provides campaigns with white labeled, fully customizable websites which support cross-platform streaming. The websites often involve interactive live-streams, but can also include links to breakout rooms, ActBlue donation integrations, sponsor exhibitions, and other methods of audience engagement.
We aim to power meaningful social engagement for live creators and their audiences. We want to connect creators with their audience in a way that elevates the experience for both groups.
HGL: What are the features you’re most excited about at the moment?
Eli: We’re really excited about chat-based audience requests. These requests allow creators to tap into the audience’s creativity in real-time, furthering our goal of event co-creation. Last cycle, our ActBlue integration feature was also extremely popular. This feature powered highly successful grassroots donation campaigns through incentivizing live-time donations, visualizing donation goals, and creating a dialogue between the audience and candidates. Overall, both of these elements take fans away from passive viewers and turn them into active participants.
HGL: We just experienced an unprecedented election cycle: almost all major campaign events for the progressive space were virtual. What role did Hovercast play in pioneering these events, especially during such a rapidly changing social landscape?
Eli: Bernie Sanders was an exciting Hovercast client. His campaign used our toolset to be the first campaign to pivot to virtual events. His fireside chats became extremely popular, and were trending #1 on Twitter. We also helped other campaigns create great virtual events, particularly with celebrities and influencers. Our sweet spot became the intersection of politics and entertainment. We did some incredible shows with the Wisconsin Democrats, such as the Happy Days Reunion, and the Superbad watch party, and collaborations between the Georgia Democrats and the Original Cast of Hamilton, Elf, or The Walking Dead. Our platform allowed these events to gain reach and accessibility, taking on a truly global presence. Additionally, through hosting events on Hovercast, campaigns were able to invite high-profile talent with less of an access barrier.
Another huge aspect of last cycle’s events was increased in-event donations. Our ActBlue donation meters incentivized donations during shows through offering pay-off for reaching donation goals. One great example is the Elf show we did during the holidays. The campaign was highly successful. During another show, producers noticed that the audience was responsive even after the event officially ended. As a result, we chose to keep donation information up and create hype around reaching the campaign’s goal. Again, through real-time engagement, the audience was incredibly responsive — the campaign raised an additional $50,000 [after the show ended]! Overall, Hovercast events can lead to “found money” for campaigns if they’re willing to tap into two-way audience engagement.
HGL: We hope to be out of the pandemic soon, but virtual/hybrid events are likely here to stay. What are your goals for the next election cycle?
Eli: We definitely believe that hybrid events are the future. Last cycle, we helped pioneer Twitch-style livestreams for Democratic campaigns. We’re excited to continue innovating in that space, considering the success of those sessions. Additionally, we hope to continue building our API connections and tapping into other political tech tools. Overall, we’re looking forward to working with candidates who want to engage with their audiences, and innovate an even better events experience for all in the process.