Top 50 Innovative Event Pros 2013: Elliott Bisnow & Ryan Begelman

The co-founder and the C.E.O. of Bisnow Media have helped humanize the commercial real estate industry through their rapidly growing educational conferences.

By Anna Sekula June 12, 2013, 7:00 AM EDT

Elliott Bisnow (pictured, left), co-founder, and Ryan Begelman, C.E.O., Bisnow Media

Photo: Max Levine Photography

For the folks at Bisnow Media, hosting hundreds of local educational conferences has helped grow the business from a Washington-based e-newsletter into a community that reaches across 23 different markets. In just six years, it's become one of the largest producers of commercial real estate events in North America, with about 250 events a year across the continent and more than 60,000 tickets sold. Behind the scenes are Elliott Bisnow, 27, who started the company with his father, Mark, and C.E.O. Ryan Begelman, 30, who added to the model set up by the founders and created much of the infrastructure that allowed it to expand nationally.

“We're trying to humanize the industry,” Begelman says. “We've been building communities online from the very beginning in a digital format, and we decided it'd be really powerful to take what we do online and do it offline—essentially, connect people.”

What has driven the company's success is its approach: Like the digital product, the offline functions are designed to be quick, but educational, relevant, and personable, bringing together architects, developers, and investors around interesting topics. “I think people find our events fun—they're informative, snappy, and local, so you don't have to travel the country and spend a lot of money and time on hotels and planes,” Begelman says. “You can come to our events, learn a bit, network, and be back at your desk just a couple hours later.”

Begelman and Bisnow are also breaking new ground on the event landscape with other projects. Last year Begelman launched Escape, a retreat-like meeting that gathers the top minds in commercial real estate, but focuses on broad ideas—the arts, philanthropy, technology futurism—rather than the industry. Speakers have included personal growth expert Sean Stephenson, scientist Aubrey de Grey (who researches reversing aging), and Jim Kwik, who specializes in improving memory.

Bisnow has expanded Summit Series, the entrepreneur conference unrelated to Bisnow Media that's been described as TED meets Burning Man and the hipper Davos. Started in 2008, the event has attracted the likes of Sir Richard Branson and Twitter's Evan Williams and offered activities such as shark tagging and skydiving. In December, the organization that runs the series opened a home base for its community at Powder Mountain in Utah.

For both young entrepreneurs, face-to-face functions aren't just something they do well, but something they find important professionally and personally. “We found that when it comes to building genuine relationships, online can't replace the physical,” Bisnow says. “Meeting in person, especially in creative environments, remains invaluable.”

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