Amid coronavirus worry, startup plans to attend mobile confab — virtually

Global tech giants have canceled attendance at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress; Israel’s Lightico plans to be there with a digital booth

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Attendees at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in 2019 (YouTube Screenshot)
Attendees at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in 2019 (YouTube Screenshot)

The coronavirus is not only causing a slowdown in tourism globally but has started prompting firms and officials to drop out of mass business events such as international conferences.

Global tech giants including Amazon, Nvidia and Sony have all said they will not be attending the Mobile World Congress later this month in Barcelona, the largest mobile event in the world, amid growing concerns over the risk of coronavirus infection.

Some Israeli firms have also decided not to attend the MWC event. One of them, Amdocs, a provider of software and services to communications and media companies, said Monday that its cancellation was due to its “prioritizing the health and safety of its employees.”

An Israeli startup, however, Lightico, is not totally giving up on being there. Instead of attending physically, it will be setting up a virtual booth at the site.

“We decided we didn’t want to lose out completely,” said Eytan Morgenstern, the director of communications at the startup. “We decided that we’re taking our booth online: we’ll be hosting a virtual pitch, setting up virtual meetings with those who we were to meet with there, and opening up all our digital channels during the event. In 2020, with the technology available to us — there is no reason valuable interactions can’t take place, safely, in the virtual world.”

A real-life Lightico booth at the Nice inContact’s Interactions conference in Las Vegas in 2019 (Courtesy)

The startup, founded in 2015, makes software that enables businesses to communicate with their customers via cellphone, allowing them to digitally sign documents, complete forms and share IDs and process payments in a secure manner, thereby streamlining tedious business processes.

Unlike tech giants, he said, smaller firms “are going to have a harder time making up for the lost opportunity and investment.”

Nothing can replace face-to-face interactions, he emphasized, but the firm’s plan to “still be there in a virtual way” can help mitigate some of the blow.

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