Mister Beacon Episode #61

Beacons & The Art of Apps for Venues

January 04, 2018

Creating an app that can be the remote control for a venue is an art and a science. Venuetize have developed and acquired technologies for just that purpose that are unusual and distinctive. Venuetize's CTO has unparalleled experience in creating successful mobile apps that predate the advent of the Apple App Store. Listen to his case studies and lessons learned.

Transcript

  • Steve Statler 00:17

    Nimish, thanks so much for coming on to the Mr. Beacon podcast.

    Nimish Shrivastava 00:20

    Thank you for having me.

    Steve Statler 00:21

    Well, it's a real pleasure because you have more experience in the art and the science of creating successful mobile apps than anyone I've ever, ever come across. And you started before, the app stores, the Apple App Stores and the Android app stores. And there's a general conception that Apple and Google started this thing. But we know that's not true. And we're app stores that were driving billions of dollars of revenue payouts to developers, one of the most successful ones, because they had like 60, carriers, including Verizon was, was the brew app store and you were the CEO of ambience. That's correct. And so we're going to talk about Venuetize, because you're the CTO of Venuetize. And this core subject I want to get to is about this art and science of creating apps that embrace both the physical and the digital world. So let's talk about what Venuetize does, let's talk about what your customers are doing with your product, but also like to just talk about what it takes to be successful creating these apps because of this deep knowledge that you've had. Let's start off with you explaining what then who Venuetize are and what you do.

    Nimish Shrivastava 01:45

    Venuetize is mission is how to make people's experience and spaces easier, more personal, and more pleasurable.

    Steve Statler 01:57

    That sounds good. How do you do that?

    Nimish Shrivastava 02:02

    We have a platform. And our vision is to be the premier platform, to utilize in applications, especially mobile applications. This is a mobile first platform. So that that platform can drive more engagement, better experiences, and more personalized experiences for users, and spaces.

    Steve Statler 02:25

    So in the beacon technologies, but we describe this as the orchestration layer, because you're taking lots of different inputs, and you're trying to make sure that the outputs are relevant to the person how how does what you do differ from the other kind of content management, campaign management middleware platforms out there.

    Nimish Shrivastava 02:48

    So what you're talking about is, who it is that we are targeting, where they are, and what time it is, or what date and time it is. So typically, you know, other platforms or other technologies are focused on experiences as people are walking into or walking out of certain areas, targeting people because they're in certain areas, with one time engagement. The experience is not just one time engagement, we feel experience is a holistic experience as a holistic way of looking at an application and what the application does. So application can have utilities, it can have content in it can have engagement, as well, as your walk in, you might get a notification, for example, and an arena, what we are trying to do is to take this entire end to end application and make that personalized, make that focused on who, where and when. So every component of utilities that you might want to use an arena, for example, any type of content that could be targeted to a certain area itself. And any type of engagement that can be done all are driven through this platform. Using what you know who, where and when I want to say one more thing that we are kind of extending that to what and why. And that's sort of the key thing that we are working towards. And that's one of the differentiation for our platform where we are taking this platform. And the way it's built is very conducive to taking it to what and why. The third differentiation for us is that there are a lot of technologies out there. We have a platform which has its own unique IP that's driving the platform. However, a large part of our experiences, engagements and utilities come from third party solutions. So we believe in bringing the best of the breed under our platform. So it's a platform which is built to integrate with those best of breed companies.

    Steve Statler 05:04

    What gives some examples of the kinds of platforms you'd integrate with?

    Nimish Shrivastava 05:08

    If yoy look at a large part of our customer base is sports arenas and entertainment arenas. Ticketmaster is one of our closest partners, and we integrate Ticketmaster SDK into our platform. But it's not just integrating the SDK, we also sort of do it in a way where it's the right place. And it's sort of in the flow of the customer experience. We also work closely with Ticketmaster to do more animations, being one of the premiere partners with Ticketmaster.

    Steve Statler 05:42

    So, so first of all, I can see amassing a bunch of integrations with companies like Ticketmaster would give you an advantage for any venue. But how would you use that integration that you like upselling, better tickets or what's what are just selling tickets?

    Nimish Shrivastava 05:59

    Another IP that we have another module that is in our platform is mobile wallet. So we believe that commerce is one of the key for any experiences and commerce by commerce. And by wallet, I do not mean just simply being in app purchases for an app purchases by a credit card. It could be much more than that. So for example, if you are season ticket holder, you might get a 10% discount, and, you know, at any other vendor within the arena or stadium. Because we integrate with Ticketmaster as an example, we can use our mobile wallet to provide that 10% discount, knowing that you are a season ticket member, right. So the platform does not simply provide a module or an experience or utility by itself. Our platform truly puts everything together as a user in how you user flow would be as you're walking into a venue out of venue within the venue. And by venue. I don't mean just a stadium, it could be a entertainment district. One of our customers is district Detroit. Very excited about it. Because district Detroit is a key feature of Detroit that's making a comeback for Detroit. This is a 50 block area, which is sort of an entertainment district with restaurants. Certainly new arenas, like Little Caesars arena, but also older theaters like Fox Theater. So what the reason why this is a district and is an entertainment entertainment district coming together is because the owners of that district want customers to come and have interesting new experiences across the district. How do you tie them together. So that's what our platform philosophy is also that you don't simply have Ticketmaster by itself. You don't have wallet by itself. But you're tying all these things together, as to how people would use different types of things within the district, within the arena within the stadium.

    Steve Statler 08:15

    So you can actually be part of that ingredient that brings a downtown experience to life. And I know that there's a lot of cities, towns, miles that are trying to figure out how to stay relevant in the world of Amazon, you must have a lot of people that are coming to you with that challenge. So you talked about what and why has been kind of the new things that you're trying to get to what, what is what and why I mean.

    Nimish Shrivastava 08:47

    Great question. You know, as as we are putting these apps out as our platform is, has these modules, including engagement and interaction using beacons, there's a lot of data that comes into the platform. There's a lot of data about each individual who might be doing different things. So what is more about? What is the person doing, that tells us something about the person.

    Steve Statler 09:17

    So if I'm dwelling in a certain area, maybe you can infer something about my interest, right?

    Nimish Shrivastava 09:22

    So, you know, just going back to the example of an arena, you're walking in, you're a season ticket holder, I know, you're a season ticket holder because of your tickets, when you go in if you purchase a very specific thing from a specific vendor, within the arena or stadium, and you do that again, and again, I know that there's a little bit of a pattern of what you're doing. Also, what areas are being used within the stadium, what are people using mostly, that's important knowledge for the stadium owners or the district owners where people are spending time. So there's a lot of what that's happening which is more historic. Got that ties into sort of a harder question, which is why, and why could be sort of simply things like, you know, I'm interested in Padres and San Diego. And that's why I go to, you know, at least 20 games per year, as an example. So that gives me a sort of a little bit of insight of why I go to the arena. However, you know, there are, as an individual, as people, we do a lot of things in our life, which may not be seemingly related, but could be tied together. And those I would say that would be more like goals. So sort of traditional artificial intelligence, which is what we are now looking forward to, tries to define what is your goal, and based on those goals, then you can be provided the right engagement, and again, you know, whatever feedback that you need. So those goals are some things that can be derived from, again, these patterns of what can be derived from learning. Sort of where we're working towards is using machine learning, and traditional AI to figure out goals of people. And then, based on those goals, we can give the right engagement.

    Steve Statler 11:25

    So what are some examples of goals that you might want to understand is like, if I'm pausing in front of a bunch of restaurants are you then going to infer that my goal is to have a meal? Or is it something higher up Maslow's hierarchy of needs that you're inferring?

    Nimish Shrivastava 11:41

    Yeah, it's I think it's not that sort of straightforward that if you're dwelling, in fact, that could be the first learning experience for the engine saying that, okay, and I know that you're dwelling in front of this pie restaurant all the time, so maybe like that terrace. But it's possible that you might be dwelling for something else in that area, right. So there's lots of different data from different parts of what you're doing that can be collected. And as we are collecting more data, there's, you know, we have to build some models around which we can learn more and more about people. The interesting thing for a district specially is that, you know, we are not just talking about going to a game, right? Having a ticket, buying something in the arena and going to go into the game. We're now talking about what you do, before an event, what you do after an event within that district, what you do when there is no event in the district, as well. So there's a lot more data points that give us more knowledge about who you are, then, you know, then just simply knowing that you're a season ticket holder.

    Steve Statler 12:48

    This is incredibly challenging what you're striving towards. So I'd love to hear kind of how far you've got in this quest. But one of the challenges that occurs to me is just a business one, which is you've got all these different businesses that you're serving, you've got the stadium business, and then you've got these restaurants, they're owned by completely different companies. How do you offer what those different companies need? How do you bring them together so that it's cohesive and effective.

    Nimish Shrivastava 13:20

    So there is natural cohesiveness that is coming together in these entertainment districts. And that's why we think that those are really great customers for us. Because the districts are coming together, although they're different businesses could be tied by certain things. I'll give you an example. One of our customers is this region in Buffalo. There are multiple stadiums within this region where Buffalo Bills play where Sabres play, and that they're, of course, who does restaurants, the ownership of these main venues, they, they have launched a program called my one buffalo. So it's a loyalty program, which ties these different things together. So that's one way of kind of looking at something like a district where there could be a loyalty program, or there could be sort of, you know, different businesses coming together. In terms of commerce, they might be accepting same kind of, you know, cash cards, for example. So, so those are the ways that you know, these districts are important. Another thing is, of course, you know, many of these districts are driven by, you know, certain owners, so they want these districts to be popular, they want a lot of people to come to the districts to have unique experiences. We sort of bring that digital part of that experience through our platform, in this in this districts to enable those businesses. So we The challenge, of course, is that there is no other businesses, but there are certain and things that can tie these businesses together, especially on the commerce side, and perhaps on the experience side, especially when ownership are unique or, you know, one ownership within the district.

    Steve Statler 15:11

    So one of the other challenges that occurs to me is if you're really getting into this friction free, enhanced experience, that implies point of sale integrations are you having to deal with integrating with multiple point of sales, because that's really hard.

    Nimish Shrivastava 15:25

    And it's hard. And we do do a lot of point of sale integrations. We also constantly strive for new types of technologies, which could potentially, you know, potentially help in that area. So one interesting technology that we use in a mall that we did, this is a West Edmonton Mall, in Canada, one of the largest malls in North America. So we are their app is built on our platform, we build their app. And there's a company called Zip loop, which has a unique way of scanning receipts and being able to tie that to any action. No matter where you're purchasing, you're making the purchases. So in West Edmonton Mall, rewards, for example, are tied to scanning your receipts, you know, so there's a ways of bringing commerce together. That's one example. Without having to just do POS integrations. But we see this as a big sort of area, the mobile wallet as a module for us is very important. And we think of it as an Uber Wallet. So you can potentially use this to like I said, you know, get a discount, as a season ticket holder, you can use it for credit cards, you can even use Apple wallet within this wallet.

    Steve Statler 16:45

    I was gonna ask you, are you competing with them, but it sounds like you're integrating.

    Nimish Shrivastava 16:49

    In fact, we are integrating with lots of different sort of unique wallets, which are coming up in the market, because we want the user to have a choice of doing anything that they want to in the district. But tied to lots of things that are within sort of important and within the district. So this gives us a way of tying that 10% discount that I talked about to any one of these wallet, because we are then providing that transaction via our platform through that wallet.

    Steve Statler 17:19

    So if I'm a restaurant owner in this district, do I get my own dashboard to see what's been going on in the app?

    Nimish Shrivastava 17:28

    You can, so we are multi tenant platform. And our tools are also multi tenant. So based on you know what how the participation is, if there are multiple businesses participating within an app, absolutely, we can provide a dashboard, which is customized based on you know, what is needed for that particular business.

    Steve Statler 17:50

    And given the name of this podcast. So I've got to ask you about the technologies that you're using. This is right in this area that we love, which is digital and physical coming together a lot of what you described, I keep on thinking about what Amazon does, in terms of understanding people's intent and trying to make the process friction free and so forth. And so that uses one set of technologies, what are what are the technologies that you use? You've mentioned beacons any other? How do you use beacons? And what other technologies do you use that are relevant.

    Nimish Shrivastava 18:24

    So as you know, beacons are mostly used for either sort of a virtual fence like a geofence. And also used for location. So we use both. So we use beacons in for engagement purposes. So basically, knowing if someone has entered an area versus an exited an area. So it could be of course, geofence, based on GPS, it could be a virtual fence based on beacons or set of beacons and places. And then we use beacons also for triangulating, or we have other methodologies of figuring out the position within a venue we are working with. Also, companies like Apple and using also whatever Apple's providing, you know, to get a better sense of location as well. So again, we try to kind of leverage the best of the technologies to bring, you know, these, these type of functionalities in our platform. So beacons are used mainly for those two purposes. But the difference is that, you know, and we are using, of course, Wi Fi signals and other signals as well, for similar type of things. The main difference, like I said, in our platform is that entire application that's built on a platform, every part of that application, you know, is configured and can be changed according to where you are. So, we give that as a tool. Our content management system is not simply you know, content that And people can consume but also the entire application.

    Steve Statler 20:03

    So does the Venuetize app? And actually, it's not the Venuetize app is is the it's the name of the venue, right? Does that have to be in the foreground to do things? Or can you actually have someone install the app and still get value out of the fact that there's this app installed? That's seeing the beacons?

    Nimish Shrivastava 20:24

    Absolutely. So the app works. The proximity technology certainly works in the background. So even when the app is closed, our app is in the background. The our system, our engine can give notifications to the users, which brings them back into the app, which gives them the engagement that they need.

    Steve Statler 20:50

    Just a few basic questions. How many people work for Venuetize? Where are you based?

    Nimish Shrivastava 20:57

    Headquarters are based in Tampa? We have teams in San Diego, where a small team works with me. And there is also teams, which are distributed in Seattle, and Portland, and in DC. We also have a couple of offshore teams, one in Poland, and one in India.

    Steve Statler 21:21

    Wow. That's you're all over the place. You have a lot of venues and Portland Trailblazers, one of your customers?

    Nimish Shrivastava 21:32

    They are one of our customers. Correct.

    Steve Statler 21:34

    Very cool. And it seems like Venuetize has been quite strategic in snapping up other companies to build this organization. Maybe that's part of the reason why you are in so many places, because you've done that. Your company ambiances, one of them and it's obvious to me why they would have wanted you as part of the organization. Can you talk about any other acquisitions that have been made?

    Nimish Shrivastava 22:00

    Sure. And part of the strategy is to grow by acquisition, especially in areas of technology, and some of the key areas that we want to grow in. So one of the acquisitions that we did earlier this, this year was a company called prepared response PRI, because part of what we think in venue, especially in the area of utility and engagement, is going beyond sort of entertainment experience. But going to security and safety. We feel that this is a pretty large area of growth for us prepared response had products in the area of safety and security, focused mainly on schooling system. But the same product is certainly applicable to any venue. This is for preparing for an event adverse event, it's also responding to the event in real time. So there's parts of that product, which are now incorporated into our platform where any venue owner can use this platform for internal preparedness for the teams, which are response teams, for any adverse events.

    Steve Statler 23:24

    So you would know where the staff are in the venue, for instance.

    Nimish Shrivastava 23:27

    in real time, be able to get knowledge where the staff is be able to provide them come right communication within the staff members to the right team, which is responsible for a specific response, but also be able to take this to the consumer, which is what we brought sort of from our platform. So it's not just an enterprise product anymore. It's also a consumer product.

    Steve Statler 23:54

    So, I can see why that prepared response element adds significant value to what you're doing. So we've talked about what the company does what some of the customers are doing with your platform. I'd be interested in just wrapping up with a few thoughts from you on how this space is evolving. And also we should talk about what traction you're getting as well. So how are things going? Because it's what you're doing is very ambitious? And can you give us some info about what the adoption has been like of the platform by venues? And and also what you're seeing in terms of people using the app? Because it's one thing having a great app, it's another thing getting people to use the great app?

    Nimish Shrivastava 24:41

    Sure, so I can't give you a specific numbers, but in general, the adoption has been very good. What's interesting is that, especially in sports sports venues, the trend is to move more and more things to digital. We've seen that in tickets. We have some new customers that are coming up, which is the customers. They don't want end users to even use paper tickets at all. So everything is done through mostly mobile phone or through app.

    Steve Statler 25:14

    And it's a great way of forcing people to use the app, isn't it?

    Nimish Shrivastava 25:16

    It is. It is it is. But it's also sort of, you know, taking that chance that people are going to get used to this type of, you know, interaction and engagement. And results have been really, really good. Especially, you know, going back to mobile wallet, we've seen in one specific sports arena, every year that this wallet has been out. There's more and more transactions coming through the mobile wallet, which they did not also anticipate as much traction as they have gotten. And it's not just the season ticket holders or you know, people who have discounts. It's also people who just simply want to go and purchase. I think part of that is also just, you know, in general society. And engagement in society is changing. We it's a much more, you know, people being much more comfortable using wallets on your phone to purchase food and beverage and merchandise. And that sort of trend is carrying over to, you know, these spaces, these venues, and other smart spaces.

    Steve Statler 26:28

    So can you give us some examples of who's done a great job of getting people to use the app, it sounds like, one way you can get people to use the app is by basically having the medium to get into the venue is in the app. What are the other best practices that people should be looking at, to get app usage?

    Nimish Shrivastava 26:51

    Part of it depends on especially for sports depends on your own following and how many people are really interested in. You know, dolphins is a great example of a brand that's a worldwide brand. So even when dolphins may not have marketed the app too much, there was a large adoption of the app. But certainly. So just as an example, dolphins are trying to sort of get more and more people engaged in the app through other means also not just simply through these utilities, but also through content, unique content. So this year, the new dolphins app has channels, which are unique content produced by dolphins, which is you know, being provided to the fans, by using the app. And there's all kinds of content coming as you know, there's you know, not just live video, there's live 360 video, there's AR content, which would be you know, a way of engaging with users. So those are the types of things that bring, you know, more and more people also into the app usage, not simply, you know, the utilities like tickets and wallet. One place where there's lot of marketing that's being done, and it's been successful as district a droid. Where, you know, truly the marketing team has done a great job in getting people to know, for example, that you can use that app for parking. And we saw a increase of, you know, again, parking purchases through the app, you know, as the app launched and you know, continue to grow. Because on game day, it's kind of easy, or even the it's easy to find, which is the parking that's actually going to be open, and what are the rates and things like that. So those type of things are automatically bringing lot of users to the utilities. But like I said, the content makes a lot of difference. Certainly marketing does as well. And incentives, such as discounts, and you know, For first time users, those type of things certainly makes sense as well.

    Steve Statler 29:00

    But having something that's useful that gives users an advantage, I think is it's key, isn't it, because we all love to tell our friends about how we're so smart. And we got this edge because we're using this app, and then people are marketing the app for you. So if there's real utility that seems like that, yeah.

    Nimish Shrivastava 29:19

    And I think part of it is ease of use. If you have a district where you need to open just one app, where you can attend any event in any of the arenas or you know, venues, you can use one wallet where you can do any purchases, you gain points, so you get more, you know, something back from the entire district, not just from one place, you know, that makes sort of life more easier for people. You know, they get to know more things about the district, but the main thing is the ease of use and some things also you may not know that there are discounted parking available on an event They had this particular space, you may not know that. So being part of that sort of app and in app community, you get to know a lot more. And you know, that brings more engagement as well.

    Steve Statler 30:14

    So you can do a lot to make this technologically possible. But it seems like you also need participation by the vendors, the venue, the event venue, association. How do you get them to do that? You get them to engage?

    Nimish Shrivastava 30:33

    Not easy for certain parts. I think the good thing is that a lot of venue owners, especially entertainment, venue, owners, have started to realize that one event or one type of event is not enough for users to come to that venue. Users are truly looking for experiences, even in the mall, you know, users are looking for experiences, because now you can purchase anything that you want, you know, digitally and from anywhere. So, you know, how do you bring more people to the venue part of? And that's not the only sort of answer, but part of the answer certainly is, you know, how do you enhance the experiences? How do you make it easier for user to come? And how do you make it more personalized? And those are the three things that we are, you know, are? That's, that's our mission?

    Steve Statler 31:33

    So you've been creating mobile apps longer than almost anyone I know, what's changed from the early days of Java and brew apps to what we're doing now? And what are some of the lessons that you've learned along the way?

    Nimish Shrivastava 31:48

    Certainly, it's much easier to build an app today than it was in blue days. Blue days are great for us, because we were focused on that specific technology to be able to build apps and monetize them. So one sort of hard part today is to monetize, which is much easier. And earlier, there's a blue days, because of the way the App Store was structured, and the way business was structured. So it's much easier to launch an app much easier to build an app today, much harder to bring up a model, which will actually make money for you or for others. And I think where, you know, we think that success is going to come not just from us, but from other players is to be able to make certain types of monetizable, you know, features and modules available to all developers. I think that's sort of an interesting and important thing to look at, in future. So that that's where we think that things are gonna go.

    Steve Statler 32:56

    All right, the mentioned this has been fascinating. Thanks so much for coming along.

    Nimish Shrivastava 33:00

    Thank you so much.

    Steve Statler 33:11

    One of my favorite questions that we have on this show is what are the three songs that you would take to Mars?

    Nimish Shrivastava 33:17

    That's very hard question, I think is probably the hardest question. I thought about that, that one would be Guessed by Prince, because I just love the beat. And I love that song for a long time. And second is I love Led Zeppelin. So one of the songs that I really liked is Thank You when that's happening. And I really like it because that's the song I'll take what is that song? lyrics I wrote on my wedding card.

    Steve Statler 33:52

    Really? Where you get married?

    Nimish Shrivastava 33:56

    Maui.

    Steve Statler 34:00

    It's incredible if I my family aspires to musical things. And so we go to the music shops and like Guitar Center, they have vinyl they're selling vinyl is back. Well never went away, but it's back. And it's bigger than it has been for a few years. And it was like all the Led Zep that I've actually started listening to it. Okay, so that's two what's the thrid one?

    Nimish Shrivastava 34:30

    Third is hard because I listened a lot of Hindi music. So one of the Hindi songs and I there's no name for it because Hindi songs usually come from Bollywood movies, okay. old song which is the lyrics or something like I see the essence in your eyes. And it's pretty cool song and beautiful lyrics, Eternal Love.

    Steve Statler 35:02

    And does it have like big dance sequences?

    Nimish Shrivastava 35:06

    It's a slow song. It's more like a poem almost. So it's not a normal Bollywood song.

    Steve Statler 35:13

    Well, I love the range. That's great. Thank you very much.