St. Louis entrepreneur makes event organizers’ wishes come true

Keith Alper, a member of Congregation B’nai Amoona, founded Geniecast in 2016. 

By Eric Berger, Associate Editor

The board chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis was in the midst of planning a community meeting in 2017 when President Donald Trump announced that the United States would officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy there.

John Kalishman wanted to do more than just talk about the decision, so he reached out to Keith Alper, the founder and CEO of Geniecast, a St. Louis-based company that arranges for thought leaders, athletes and other well-known public figures to speak remotely at events.

Alper, who belongs to Congregation B’nai Amoona, arranged for David Makovsky, a St. Louis native who is an expert on the Middle East, to address the meeting.

“This board had one of the foremost experts (on Israel) from midnight in London to the 6 p.m. board meeting. They could hear him speak and then ask him questions for maybe 90% off of what he would normally charge” because it was occurring via video rather than in person, Alper said.

Advertisement for the J

That’s just one example of an engagement Alper has facilitated. He also had comic actor David Koeckner of “The Office” do a live “sitcom” for companies’ holiday parties last year. “It was a half an hour, it was hilarious…and it was a way to replace the Christmas party” during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. “Many people said, ‘This was better than any Christmas party we had.’ ”

But while Alper said Geniecast has grown 150% during the pandemic and moved from 13 employees a year ago to now having 35 people on staff, will a virtual party with a comedian really better than an in-person holiday celebration once people are able to gather again?

Alper disagrees with the notion that experiences with guest speakers are diminished when they are not actually in the room. And he says that despite the fact that he also co-founded and runs Creative Producers Group Agency, a company that produces corporate events around the country,

He started Geniecast in 2016, years before COVID-19 upended society. Alper, 58, said the idea came from a 2011 meeting for business leaders when he arranged for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to speak while under house arrest in London.

“Some of our big corporate clients who have spent a lot of money bringing in speakers and authors and experts — between their fees, their airfare — it hit me that not everybody has to be in the room anymore, that we were having the No. 1 guy in the news cycle, that we had him there and could talk back and forth on a screen in front of 4,000 CEOs,” said Alper.

Since then, Alper has used 3D augmented reality technology to have Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, speak — as a hologram— from his home in Silicon Valley to a conference in Macau, China.

“Imagine if you go to a conference and a guy stands up, and it’s a 3-D hologram. While he is making his presentation, you can raise your hand, and he can see you and say, ‘What’s your question?’ ” Alper explained. “He is still there — he is just not really there. Some of this sounds like ‘Star Wars,’ but it’s about efficiency and cost.”

Once the pandemic subsides, Alper thinks Geniecast will continue to be successful because of the cost savings that his platform provides. He points out that companies can have big speakers address smaller than usual groups, creating more intimacy.

“Some people said, ‘I would never shop online. I like to walk to the grocery store.’ And now you kind of have an omnichannel idea, sometimes I want to walk in the store, and many times I don’t, right?” he said. “I think there is a time and place for everything. Virtual is not going to go away.”