Welcome to issue #13 of our recently launched Q&A series, Startup Spotlight.
This series is all about diving into the world-class technological innovation conducted by exciting UK startups. Getting to grips with the technology, the mission, and even the stories behind them.
In each edition, we sit down with a different startup founder, leader, or operator in an easily digestible conversational style Q&A format.
Today, we interviewed Adam King, CEO of SwipeStation, to find out how their innovative approach to QR codes is improving the stadium experience, making it easier to purchase drinks, in less time than ever.
- 💥 How a semi-failed pilot led to a solution that popped
- 😍 Why an offline app can be a unique selling point
- 🏉 Building a customer base of large sports arena owners
There are a few standard frustrations in the world. One of the big ones is queues.
Lines for as long as the eye can see. It’s difficult to not get frustrated, as your time slowly wanes away, waiting to purchase your much-needed thing.
But what if there was a fast lane, similar to what you find in theme parks? Straight to the front, your product is instantly prepared, and you go on about your day? This is where SwipeStation comes in.
SwipeStation combines software and hardware, so you can get what you need, quicker than those who don’t. Just order what you want on the app, scan your QR code at a SwipeStation scanner, and head to a SwipeStation Fast Lane. Simple as that.
But how exactly does it work?
Can this be used in other places?
And what does the future hold for this technology?
We spoke to Adam King, CEO of SwipeStation, to find out the answer to these questions. 👇
What problem are you tackling with SwipeStation?
We’re tackling the issue of long queues at big venues, like stadiums, where turnout is massive.
We began with a pilot at Saracens Rugby Club, in London. For this, online ordering was paired with an app, and you went to a fast lane. But the major concern was the app needed connectivity to work, and the connectivity in stadiums is terrible.
Because of this, the pilot hadn't really set the world on fire. I really felt like mobile ordering had massive potential, especially within the market of mass gatherings.
In light of that, we then went on to develop a new app that didn't require connectivity, solving the biggest issue within this industry. That's what makes us different from everyone else.
That actually ties into my next question. How are you solving the issue, and what makes it valuable in its execution?
Everyone who has tried a mobile ordering app in their venue knows it falls down at the busiest moments, which are unavoidable, due to natural breaks like half-time.
It's moments like that, where the end-consumer is complaining “what, I paid my money, where's my order?!”, that highlight the problems with this sort of thing.
So, what we've done is we've made what was traditionally the most horrendous moment of the ordering process, which would be half-time, and we've turned it into plain sailing. We've removed deliberation ordering, and payment, from the service area.
What is your unique selling point?
I would say that our main USP is based on the ordering process.
Experientially, SwipeStation looks and feels a lot like countless other mobile ordering apps that people have used in a pub or a restaurant, so it’s a familiar experience already.
But where we differ is when you press that button in our app to finalise the order, it doesn't talk to the internet. It actually converts your order into a QR code. You then take that QR code to a SwipeStation, which is the hardware part of our business.
The SwipeStation itself is about the size of a backpack. It's this beautiful silver machine that sits on the wall of a bar. Essentially, it's an unmanned till.
You take your QR code, you swipe at the SwipeStation, which is hardwired to the Internet, it reads the order, speaks to the bank, and then spits out a receipt. You then bring the receipt to the SwipeStation bar. Ordering to scanning your code takes no more than three seconds.
Also, the SwipeStation itself is extremely stable. It's hardwired. The app is also completely stable because it never talks to the internet. It just creates a QR code. Because of this, the app has been bug free since April 2019. It just doesn't break.
What I would also consider as a USP is users and staff don't have to handle money. They just read what's on the ticket and hand it over. It's a much more relaxing and enjoyable experience, which is great during a staffing and hospitality crisis.
Moving onto the sales side of things, what is your ideal customer profile? How do you acquire them?
There are around 150 venues in the UK that would be perfect for SwipeStation.
We use a combination of email outreach, LinkedIn, PR, and marketing. It's a form of multichannel marketing, where the idea is that anyone on our radar is being touched by us once or twice a week. It can be because they read about us in a local publication, or they’ve seen us at an award ceremony. Or it could be because I'm connected with them on LinkedIn, and I've posted something about the industry.
Alongside this we're also sending out a quarterly e-newsletter, that actually I'm going to shift to fortnightly, as well as fortnightly plain text emails that link to our latest blog.
The idea is to complement the newsletter with an email from time to time, saying “hey, this is something I thought you might be interested in”, rather than something a bit more direct, like “can we do anything?”.
With a relatively small market, we have to be very respectful about how we approach potential clients, , so all of our outreach is tailored to the individual.
We're not just sending out template emails, we're actually looking at them on LinkedIn. Are they old? Young? Have they been in the profession a long time? Are they balancing between finance and C-suite? We do this to ensure we use the correct language when we approach them, so the messaging is as appropriate as possible.
For our last question, let’s end it with a bang. What major milestones have you achieved, and what’s next for SwipeStation?
Looking at the vision for the future, the goal is to diversify into new markets. I'd love to do festivals, partly because that's something I care dearly about. But also, it’s the natural next step for us.
We've already serviced large concerts when they've been held in our customers' stadiums. They've been some of the best days that we've had, both financially and in terms of people just walking into a venue, looking at the machine, and downloading the app.
Seeing everyone using SwipeStation, in droves, and all having a wonderful time, using the fast lane, was amazing. I love the fact that we're not just limited to the perennial user.
People are accustomed to downloading apps for specific occasions. We know they might delete SwipeStation the next day, and that's fine. But the idea that you're going to go and see Spice Girls, at the CBS Arena, as they did in 2019, and just use SwipeStation without any marketing assistance is really exciting. That's a real future for us. To be able to scale it globally, in stadiums and beyond.
For other milestones, I'm excited about the prospect of bringing SwipeStation to other countries such as Australia and New Zealand. To experience places like that, to be able to see the world and set up businesses there, would be great.
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