Q’s With Glownet CEO Siebe Gerbranda: ‘Data Analysis Has A Direct Impact On Your Profitability’

London-based live events technology provider Glowent recentley secured a £2 million ($2.8 million) Series-A funding in anticipation of its U.S. expansion. The company offers products centered around ticket validation, access control and cashless, and claims that the data gained from a cashless festival infrastructure allows promoters to optimize their on-site operations and build long-term relationships with their customers.

– Glownet
Cashless means more than just paying without cash, says CEO Siebe Gerbranda

Pollstar spoke to the company’s recently appointed CEO Siebe Gerbranda, to talk about the state of cashless in Europe and the world. He said that there was a big relationship component to Glownet’s products, “because once you start connecting a customer’s journey from the moment they buy their ticket, to access control and cashless, up until the moment they log on after the event to claim refunds, you create the most beautiful online-to-offline-to-online user journey. This allows our partners, ticketing companies, events and venues, to create rich user experiences, rather than siloed interactions.”

Can you elaborate on the online-offline user experience? What exactly do you mean by that?

One thing that’s very important to realize is that we, Glownet, are not the ones that want to build that relationship. We allow our partners to build that relationship. In Spain for instance, the country’s largest telco created its own currency for visitors of the many festivals it sponsors. Before the festival, you visit the telco´s website, you log in with your credentials or create a new account, you top up your account and thereby start interacting with the festival.

Brands used to throw a little bit of money at the festival to get a billboard backstage. Now they start building relationships online. Now, when you go on site, you start paying with the currency of this brand. After the event, visitors will go back to the brand’s website to ask for a refund of the credits they haven’t used. At the same time, this brand allows them to convert the amount of credits into phone credits. You’ve created and end-to-end user experience.

What benefits do you offer promoters?

Promoters are mainly looking to optimize the operational side of the business, and create a simple, smooth, frictionless user experience on site. A cashless technology, which we offer, is excellently positioned to do that. On top of that, rather than have separate vendors with their own POS systems, promoters actually take control of the cash.

Knowing what’s happening on site is very important for promoters. With a cashless system you not only create the best user experience, you also allow your operation to become more efficient and with that increase revenues.

Can you talk about the philosophy of the company founder?

Glownet was founded by Scott Witters five years ago. He was running the biggest, and very remote, festival in New Zealand. From the start, he has always been focused on creating a mobile and incredibly reliant solution that is able to perform in any situation. If someone wants to buy a beer, there shouldn’t be any reason why he cannot buy a beer or any type of drink for that matter.

Internet connectivity is great, and when we have it, it really allows us to enrich experience. But there shouldn’t be any reason that our system cannot run if there’s no internet connection. So we focus on using mobile devices and we focus on ensuring that there’s enough redundancy in the system, that we can run in any situation or environment.

We did a big festival last year in Argentina, where there was no internet connectivity for the whole day, and no electricity for part of the day. We ensured that people were able to keep buying drinks. It’s good that we have built our product around the festival industry, because that means it’s equipped to deal with the worst parameters: a pop-up village with people that have never seen each other or worked together, and everything needs to work from the first minute without having time to really test it.

Siebe Gerbranda
– Siebe Gerbranda
CEO of Glownet

How do partner companies integrate with Glownet?

Our platform is completely modular and API based. As a ticketing company you can directly integrate with our system. We allow our reporting data to be exported through the APIs, for people who want to build their own reporting suites on top of our own. We have ticketing companies across the world that actually license our system and build their own solutions around our technology. We are the infrastructure provider. We provide the most robust and reliable cashless and access control infrastructure platform, and they log into our platform to set up, manage and execute their own events.

What separates Glownet from other technology solutions?

You have, as a promoter or ticketing company, full control of a payment infrastructure. We allow our partner companies to create custom currencies. You could have your own currency, which, for example, allows you to reward customers in creative ways. Technically there is no reason why you couldn’t offer customers access to VIP if they’ve done a certain action.

It’s great that people can pay without using cash. But what is even greater is that you – the promoter or ticketing company in this case – control the environment and really manage what is happening on site.

How do promoters benefit from controlling the cash?

If you have no visibility of what is happening with your vendors, and what money is flowing around on site, that’s a huge defect. You need to control that. First of all, you can optimize your operations. The data may suggest that people prefer hamburgers in the evening and salads in the afternoon. You know where the queues are, at what times and and what beer stands – [that kind of] data analysis has a direct impact on your profitability.

What other features are promoters using?

Alcohol management, for example. We can set an individual level, whether someone is allowed to drink alcohol, based on age or based on what is happening on site: if someone is misbehaving you can block them for a couple of hours from drinking alcohol.

What insights do promoters gain from people’s spending behavior?

If you are an event that takes place once or multiple times a year, and know which five to 10 percent of your users are the high-spenders, that is super important, and I think it is only going to become more important. You can offer them access to VIP on the go, and interact with your valuable users after the event.

You also provide business intelligence reports. What are those about?

Through live reports, you gain immediate insight in what is happening on site: which bars are turning over well, where are people actually buying which products? It enables you to look at the efficiency of the operational side of your business. You don’t want to wait until you walk past one of your bars to realize that it could use three more staff members, while another one has almost no customers. Post-event the reports are incredibly valuable to understand what products people buy and where, who are the high-value users, what is happening at certain choke points? You have a really rich data set of what is actually happening on site, which, in many cases currently, is just a huge blank spot.

A lot of promoters accept cash, there’s no visibility. A lot of the time they accept card payments, which give you an indication that something was sold at that station, but there’s no integrated data set, that [gives you visibility] of the activities of people, individuals, on site. That’s a huge data set, which, unfortunately, is still undervalued by many promoters. After the event, they’re making sure all the money is reconciled, but they don’t yet spend enough time on really understanding the value of that type of user data, in my opinion. And it is our responsibility as a company to help promoters get real value out of this data. Whether it is becoming smarter next year, whether it is creating loyalty across a series of events, the data in itself presents huge value.

– Glownet
Cashless becomes interesting for any event where large crowds gather

You’re launching in the U.S. What are your plans?

What we are going to show to the U.S. market is that cashless is not only for the biggest festivals, it’s not an infrastructure-heavy solution. You can comfortably run an access control and cashless solution at events of 10,000 to 15,000 people. One of our core focus areas is that it needs to be simple and mobile. We need to take complexity out of the equation. We can literally show up with a suitcase full of devices and run a festival. No infrastructure needed, no extra WiFi or anything.

Isn’t the U.S. already over-saturated with technology providers? What makes you confident about entering that market?

I’m not convinced that it’s over-saturated. The U.S. market is very much ready for adopting cashless solutions on a scaleable basis. We haven’t, in the U.S., seen the kind of adoption at festivals between 10,000 and 40,000 people that we see in other markets. We see a real opportunity to bring our experience from around the world – we’ve worked in 38 countries – to the U.S., to enter the right partnerships, and to build a U.S.- specific solution that is able to elevate the user experience and prove that it is actually  a technology that is applicable to a wide variety of live events in the market.

Do you see a connection between countries that are still quite cash-based, such as Germany, and the amount of festivals that have adopted cashless solutions in those countries?

Yes. Our primary reason to go for a partnership approach is that you need a localized approach for each market. We see a huge uptake of our technology in developing countries, where there’s a need for a functioning payment infrastructure. In countries like the U.K. or the Nordics, where contactless cards have become an integral part of life, you see that people are already very comfortable with the technology. In the German market, yes, it’s cash society. There’s also a different perception toward using technology, especially payment technology, because people are just more private in that sense. Every market has a very different concept. The Dutch market was one of the first markets to adopt tokens 20, 30 years ago. They’re so comfortable with the concept of having a non-monetary currency on site, which makes it a super-interesting market for us.