Tarsus Group’s Douglas Emslie Talks TSNN’s 20th History

November 26, 2016

As part of TSNN’s 20th anniversary celebration, Douglas Emslie, managing director of U.K.-based Tarsus Group - one of the largest trade show companies in the world with over 110 events – was interviewed recently about how Tarsus first came to buy TSNN, not only once, but two times.

He also discussed what role he sees TSNN playing now in the overall trade show industry and in the future.

TSNN: How did you first hear about TSNN? 

Douglas Emslie: In 1999, Tarsus purchased the Exhibition Bulletin magazine in the U.K., which is considered the bible of the exhibition industry - listing all shows and suppliers. As part of the strategy to expand the business online, we researched who would be the best partner and came up with 2 names - TSNN and Tradeshow Central (TSC).

TSNN: What drew you to TSNN initially enough to purchase it?

Emslie: I flew to the U.S. to meet both TSNN and TSC. I established an immediate chemistry with David Larkin, the owner of TSNN, the opposite was true of TSC. David told me he was about to sell and wished we had met earlier. We met on a Thursday and hammered out a deal by the Sunday the day before he was due to sign a deal with TSC!

TSNN: Why did you sell it the first time around? 

Emslie: When the dot com bubble burst, we had to downsize the business and focus the business on its fundamentals - it's strong show database. As part of the cost reduction process, I agreed to sell a majority stake to management to incentivise them going forward.

TSNN: What was it about TSNN that it became the only company you bought TWICE? 

Emslie: After a couple of years, the business had stabilised and was in a position to grow again. To execute the growth strategy they needed capital which I agreed to fund and became the principal shareholder again.

TSNN: What was TSCentral and what made it an attractive add on to TSNN? 

Emslie: TSC was the main competitor which had invested heavily in IT, but didn't have the revenues to support its model. When the dot com bubble burst, it was a matter of time before it went bust. They had a competing show data business, which made sense to merger with TSNN for a nominal value. Fourteen years later, I still have a plaque with a CD of their database on my desk.

TSNN:  In its current incarnation, what was TSNN's primary business offering to the exhibition industry?

Emslie: TSNN was an online database of shows worldwide. The most comprehensive and up to date in the world.

TSNN: Why was the decision made to evolve TSNN into a news site in 2010 and bring Rachel Wimberly on board? 

Emslie: Sometimes you just get lucky! We had been trying to evolve TSNN into a data and news service but were up against the market leader Tradeshow Week (TSW). When Reed decided to close a large part of their publishing stable, including TSW, this gave us the opportunity to aggressively move into this space and acquire TSW's key asset - Rachel.

TSNN: How has TSNN evolved in the past few years? 

Emslie: TSNN has evolved from a data business to the leading information business for the Tradeshow industry. It was a good asset now it's best of breed.

TSNN:  What role do you see TSNN currently playing in the trade show industry? 

Emslie: TSNN is the leading resource for our industry giving up to date information and insight that is unrivalled in the industry. It's a key part of keeping up to date but also helping to continue to inform and educate.

TSNN:  What is your hope for TSNN moving forward into the future and what it offers to the industry?

Emslie: TSNN will continue to innovate and lead the industry - the recent move into research is an illustration of that. Our industry continues to grow fast, and we need more not less information. Supplying this on a global scale is critical to help support our industry.

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