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Venuetize poised for gains in a ‘mobile-only’ world

Margie Manning

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Karri Zaremba wants you to have more fun when you go to a Tampa Bay Lightning or a Miami Dolphins game.

Her Tampa-based company, Venuetize, has developed a platform designed to help with that — and you don’t have to bring anything with you other than your mobile device.

Karri Zaremba, founder and COO, Venuetize

The Venuetize platform allows people attending sports and entertainment in stadiums, arenas and other places to make payments, get rewards, find parking, buy tickets, and see videos and photos, among other things. It is available through an app installed on a phone, as well as digital kiosks, signage and other interfaces.

“We are a mobile technology company that makes the way people engage with spaces easier, more personal and enjoyable,” said Zaremba, chief operating officer and founder of Venuetize. “We do that by integrating with all of the underlying technology systems to remove the friction from their experience. They can access anything that they want related to that place, whether it’s for services, or for content or utility components. They can spend less time doing the mundane things and more time enjoying their experience there.”

As tickets and memberships cards printed on paper or plastic increasingly give way to digital ones, and more venues go cashless, Venuetize is poised to take advantage of the trends.

“It used to be a mobile-first world. Now, we’re seeing a mobile-only world,” Zaremba said.

$22 billion market

Founded in 2014 by Zaremba and CEO Jon Romm, Venuetize works with professional sports teams, stadiums and arenas, casinos, entertainment districts, and shopping destinations throughout North America, including Amalie Arena, home of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Venuetize’s Amalie Arena wallet

“We service all the events there, not just Lightning games, but concerts, etc. Someone can use the application to gain access to the building, so they could scan their tickets for entry. They can use it to purchase things like merchandise at the retail store or food and beverages at different concession stands. They can use it to browse event schedules and otherwise engage with that venue,” she said.

At Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Dolphins fans can use the platform to get NFL player stats and bios, scores and video. But for those attending the Miami Open, a tennis tournament held at Hard Rock Stadium, there are different offerings.

“You can select the mode you want the applications to be in,” Zaremba said. “It can be more skinned to the look and feel of the other events at Hard Rock stadium.”

The growth at Venuetize coincides with changes in the sports industry. Teams need to engage their fans and event-goers to encourage them to shape their own experience, Deloitte wrote in a 2015 report, “The Stadium as a Platform.”

There are tens of millions of dollars invested in hardware and software in stadium infrastructure, providing a foundation that allows partners to bring in application programming interfaces, or APIs, to build apps that give fans information, while also providing data about those fans to stadium owners, the Deloitte report said.

The smart stadium market is expected to reach $22.1 billion by 2025, according to a report issued in May by Allied Market Research.

Venuetize is currently focused on a couple of key market verticals in North America, Zaremba said.

“We focused initially on professional sports and entertainment venues as well as casinos and hospitality properties, hotels and entertainment districts, which typically are anchored by a casino or a multi-purpose entertainment venue, but then they expand to also include restaurants and retail stores and parking facilities and public transportation systems,” she said.

That can also include mixed use development, which is similar to an entertainment district and often adds in residential aspects.

“From a residential standpoint, people are able to pay their rent through the app or subscribe to services like dog walking or ordering food and having that delivered, and it expands from there,” she said.

The company’s platform also is in use in large shopping malls and amusement parks, and Venuetize has a pilot underway with a quick service restaurant, Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen. That gives users the ability to order food and drinks through the app, pay for it remotely and get notified when the order is ready for pickup.

“We look at all of these as mini-economies or mini-ecosystems where it makes sense for these types of services to converge,” she said. “In any of these settings where users have to interface with a lot of different systems, to transact for products and services, or to get different types of services, it’s very clunky and disjointed and takes people a lot of time. We’re looking to alleviate those headaches and frustrations and bring everything to their fingerprints in a way that’s really relevant.”

Facial recognition

Venuetize is in the midst of an extended Series A capital raise. The company raised $1.25 million, according to a June 7 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, but that’s just part of the new funding, Zaremba said.

“We are using that for expansion both in terms of our existing markets as well as international markets. It is working capital to service the demand we are seeing in the marketplace and to continue to innovate and keep ahead of the latest technologies coming on the market today,” she said.

One new technology the company is focused on is facial recognition.

“The idea is that people would be able to gain access to a building or a transact at a concession stand or a retail store without having to get their phone out of their pocket. It would just recognize their face and be able to figure out who they are, where they were, what they were trying to do and do that automatically,” she said.

Zaremba, with more than 20 years’ experience across technology and media entertainment, has worked on five startups. She’s seen women take on increasingly high profile roles in the technology field, she said, and Venuetize makes a conscious effort to have a balance in gender, ethnicity and culture in both the management team and on its board of directors.

There are 37 full-time employees, and about 40 more contractors. Most of the team is at the headquarters in Tampa. There also are offices in Seattle, San Diego, and Boston, as well as in Poland, India and Brazil.

But Tampa is home to Zaremba, the place she wanted to raise her family, with a lower cost of living than Silicon Valley or other tech hubs.

“I also liked what the city was doing in terms of trying to foster innovation districts and technology hubs and startup communities. Jeff Vinik has been instrumental in leading the way in a lot of those efforts. I think that the community has been very supportive, and trying to retain businesses like this in Tampa Bay,” Zaremba said.

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