Jay Tokosch, vice president of business development for Core-apps Community Brands, got his start in the trade show industry as the director of sales for NEC in 1999. After attending the Consumer Electronics Show one year, he discovered a technological need the industry was missing and began working on an app to transform the industry. Thus, Core-apps was born in March 2009. Ten years later, Tokosch reflects on the growth of Core-apps and introduces us to his new company, NoteAffect.
“There’s gotta be an app,” says Tokosch.
These five words sparked the grand idea to create an application for trade shows and events. Little did he know this simple thought would generate into Core-apps being the No. 1 mobile software company for the events and trade show industry and service more than 50% of the top 250 trade shows (as ranked by TSNN).
In the mid-2000s, Tokosch and his business partner Jesse Snipper, senior director of product for Community Brands, attended CES. As they wandered around the massive trade show floor, they had difficulty locating the different vendors using the paper map, and they wondered if the event had an app. Then the light bulb went off for them as they discovered a new need the events industry was missing and began designing an app using their knowledge of trade shows and events.
“The big thing for me was that I wanted a map I could look at,” said Tokosch. “I wanted something that could route me around from booth to booth.”
With that in mind, they created Follow Me, the flagship app and the building block that propelled the company into the success it is today. When Follow Me was introduced to the market, it was a replacement for programs guides and exhibitor directory—almost like a concierge service but in app form. Attendees could keep track of schedules and find vendors at the touch of their fingers—it was groundbreaking.
Ten years later, Core-apps has expanded its list of products beyond Follow Me—though the app now has more than 300 features. The company has two other award-winning events apps—EventLink+ and EventLink— that are 100% configurable like Follow Me as well as GoExpo event management, beacons, kiosks, Showcase XD and special features like audio tours and gamification.
“If someone comes to us with an idea, we always want to accept it and formulate it to fit more than one group, which has worked well for us and our customers,” he said.
Take, for example, a digitize project the company recently worked on for a client. Everything is digital now, so when a client wanted to digitize and streamline their press bins in their pressroom, Core-apps began working with the client using its GoExpo system, a unique dashboard personalized to attendee and exhibitor.
What started as a request to help one client manage content, flourished into a feature many of its clients can implement into their events. This new process allows Core-apps to collect materials directly from exhibitors; the press has access to all materials and can search for the material they need to download; and clients can make meetings with exhibitors directly through GoExpo—making everyone’s job easier.
Core-apps showcased the new feature at the National Shooting Sports Foundation show to rave reviews.
Tokosch credits his team for why Core-apps has built a base of 800 clients that include Microsoft, PCMA, Informa and the Special Olympics. But while most software companies are focused on the features and functions, Core-apps attention to detail and client interaction is why it has a high retention rate, he said.
“I think the real key has been the people that work with you at Core-apps,” he says. “They are knowledgeable about the industry; they come from the industry; they’re a part of the industry, and I think that’s what sets us apart from our competitors.”
Also being able to work from home doesn’t hurt the company morale. Since it’s inception, Core-apps has been 100% virtual, and this unconventional set up has helped the company rather than hinder it. They stay connected using Skype, Slack, Redmine and Bonusly.
Embracing New Technology
Another way Core-apps stands out? It’s approach to new technology.
“One of the things we always try to do is to make sure we’re not one of the companies to jump on fades,” he said. “We ensure it makes sense for the industry and have a correct business model because, a lot of times, you only get one shot at doing it, and if you screw up, it will never come back.”
Remember Pokemon GO? Tokosch cites it as a case study as to why Core-apps waited to venture into AR. Its mainstream popularity didn’t match the events industry’s needs, causing it to fizzle. Tokosch knew events had a place for AR but the industry wasn’t ready.
“We still knew it wasn’t time,” he said.
The time finally arrived in 2019, when Core-apps partnered with BundleAR to introduce AR into the trade show and event industry with COREality, a new feature that can be integrated into its event app platform. This feature will add a compelling visual experience to the events and booths and will include interactive 3D models, videos, landing pages and more. Clients can expect to start seeing their events in another dimension in late summer/early fall of 2019.
“I feel like the industry has started to rely more on technology and understand that it can enhance their events rather that set it behind or compete with it,” he said.
Tokosch led the way to transform the events industry with event apps, now he’s stepping into a new realm to transform the way students learn.
One weekend, Tokosch saw his son studying for college classes with print-outs of PowerPoint presentations and notes scribbled on several pieces of paper. This sparked the idea for an innovation—a tweak to a software known as Conference Notes.
“I have this piece of software that doesn’t really function the way it needs to function for the education market space, but the idea is there,” he recalls.
Tokosch learned students are more successful when they engage in class, and what better way to engage them with technology they use 24/7, he thought. So he patented the software and revamped it for the education space and launched NoteAffect in October 2018. NoteAffect is an interactive learning software to improve students’ knowledge and grades through engagement tools, such as real-time note taking, interactive student polling and quizzes, social Q&A with “upvoting” questions and other educational features.
The software was introduced at the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference, which showcases the best in higher education, and, once again, Tokosch’s idea proved to be a winner.
Originally NoteAffect was going to be geared toward higher education because 98.9% of students in higher education have digital devices, according to statistics. But Tokosch discovered K-12 is a growing market for digital devices.
“In the K-12 group, children are given the device by the school and the [schools] have nothing to deliver back to them on a return on investment using those devices in the classroom,” he said. “NoteAffect really provides that—besides increasing students’ grades and marrying the information. The analytics are patented and deliver a ROI.”
Then & Now
Tokosch, Snipper and Jonathan Johnson, senior director of research and development for mobile apps at Community Brands, built Core-apps from the ground up. Tokosch was the CEO, sales rep, processed the payments and put together the marketing.
They were the three musketeers that handled everything, and the company grew from there, going on to win the Best Mobile App award two years in a row for Electronic Entertainment Expo. And most recently, Core-apps was acquired by Community Brands, a cloud-based software and payment solutions for organizations. This new development means Core-apps is not slowing down.
“We’re being asked to deliver more than we have ever before with people saying, ‘You know, what’s the limit?’ And really, there is no limit,” he said. “We want to uncover more things that can be digitized. Not just a feature, but let’s make it a solution.”