For a company that specializes in high-tech, mobile solutions for professional sports teams and the arenas they play in, you’d think the Covid-19 crisis could have been disastrous.
Not so for Venuetize, the Tampa-based company that provides a seamless mobile experience for sports fans — its platform helps people with everything from finding and paying for parking, tickets, food and beverages to navigating stadiums and signing up for loyalty programs.
“Our platform was one of the platforms that was giving our client base and the leagues and all the rest the ability to stay in touch with their season ticket holders,” Venuetize founder and CEO Jon Romm told the Catalyst. “It was our platform that was providing rebates. It was our platform that was providing updated news, communicating decisions that were made about health and cleanliness and the next generation of technologies that would make it comfortable for people to get back in [to live sports and events].”
Over the past year, Venuetize more than doubled its roster of clients, from 18 to 40. It has deals in place with a number of Major League Baseball and National Hockey League teams — including the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning — and is considered a preferred and approved partner of both MLB and the NHL. It also works with pro soccer franchises like the New York Red Bulls, FC Cincinnati and Los Angeles Football Club, as well as the NBA’s Detroit Pistons.
In many cases, Venuetize counts as clients both the teams and the venues in which they play, such as Amalie Arena in Tampa and Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, allowing it to offer its platform for other events, such as concerts, conferences and trade shows. And in a major coup, it landed a deal with the PGA Tour, allowing it to use its technology to power more than 40 golf events and venues.
Romm said Venuetize’s early emphasis on providing a “touchless journey” for event attendees also helped it gain additional traction during the pandemic. Its platform can provide a mobile wallet that makes it easy for people to pay for food, beverages and merchandise without them or venue staff having to touch cash or a credit card. It can also produce a “heat map” of a venue that shows areas where people are congregating in large numbers.
“All those technologies we’ve been working on, suddenly they moved from, ‘Hey, this is really neat technology and nice to have — can we free up budget to do it?’ to, ‘Hey, this is mission critical. And to get people back in our venues, we need to implement these technologies and get going.’ And so we basically doubled our clientele in a quarter and a half.”
The company’s success during what was undoubtedly a challenging downturn did not go unnoticed by investors. Just this week, the company brought on two new backers: Renvent Advisors and Taubman Capital. Although Romm declined to disclose the amount of investment, he said Venuetize won’t have to raise any additional working capital this year.
“That being said, we’re a business that’s constantly looking to expand,” he said. “We are looking for geographic expansion. We’re currently bidding for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and 11 different venues in the United Kingdom. If we continue to have the kind of success we’ve had, we might very well go out to the marketplace to get additional capital, to make sure that we’re entering those markets the right way.”
Romm, as mentioned above, said the importance of mobile-first technology to fan engagement can’t be understated, and that’s where he sees quite a bit of growth potential for Venuetize, which has 46 employees and is in hiring mode, in the years to come. “The ability to use a commerce platform through your mobile device to handle transactions, the growth of that behavior has just been unbelievable since Covid and coming out of [the pandemic],” he said. “We’re hitting an inflection point.”