Guestia’s story began at the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia. After creating an app for a major sponsor who was hosting 3500 guests at the event, our Chief Technical officer Paul Chapman realised that there was a niche for a guest management app that could be fully client branded.
We caught up with Paul to find out more about how he developed an initial idea to the product we have today, used by McLaren Racing, backed by former F1 team boss Eddie Jordan and making waves in Formula One travel and hospitality.
Tell us how the idea for Guestia came about…
“My software company was often building event specific apps for big clients that would be only used once” Paul says. “These transient events apps were all relatively similar despite being made for different clients and events and so we realised there was a market for one app that could be customised and branded for different events and brand requirements.”
After realising the niche in the market, how did you start to develop Guestia?
Paul explains: “We built the app from the ground up, looking at different types of events and the different ways of managing events which can either be very bespoke where you need individual room types and guest transfers, or at a broader level where there are 500 people in a hospitality suite who all have the same itinerary and can be managed as a group.
“We drew upon the experience we had from our work with big brands, but we also looked at it from an event organiser and agency perspective who have slightly different needs. For instance, they need it to be scalable so they can use it for multiple clients, they need it to be simple so it doesn’t take forever to train staff, and above all they need to deliver ROI by monetising the event e.g. allowing guests to upgrade their package through the app.
“We also focused heavily on feedback, taking on board all we could from any pilots or trials we ran. We wanted to really understand the intricacies of how an event works and tailor and evolve the app to make it the best we could build and help improve the whole experience for guests and organisers.”
So how quickly did you go from product development to deployment?
“We trialled the app at Monaco 2019 for Red Eye Events, Nigel’s event agency that host over 1200 guests on yachts in the harbour for the grand prix weekend. That pilot gave us valuable data and feedback we took away to hone the app further to the F1 and motorsport industry needs as it seemed the perfect market for the app to start with.
“We then officially released the app at the Austin GP in 2019 and learnt McLaren were interested and so we ran a trial for their senior management team for the very next race, the Brazilian GP. We went to McLaren Technology Centre after the race and had such positive feedback, they loved it and decided to roll out Guestia for their race team for the next season. It was a proud moment, and it just reinforced the belief we had in the product.”
How did the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 affect things for you?
“Quite a lot! We have two distinct audiences for Guestia, the travel and digital itinerary aspect and then the guest experience at events. With the events industry being decimated in 2020 we started to concentrate on the travel side of the business and with a few minor tweaks to the platform and app we started thinking about how Guestia could be enhanced to support the new normal of life in and after the pandemic.
“We also spoke to health and safety experts at Formula 1, the EFL and others to understand how we might be able to help return guests to sporting events, and we added our health hub suite of tools to do this.
“The health hub means guests can record temperature measurements, symptoms, COVID-19 test results and vaccinations, as well as inputting their details for contact tracing and more. This creates the Guestia Health Passport which can be used by organisers to ensure guests have provided the required information before attending the event.”
So, it seems like you never sit still! What’s next on the agenda for Guestia?
“Well, we recently announced investment from Eddie Jordan which is a big deal for us. As Eddie is an entrepreneur and knows Formula 1 inside out, we thought his investment and experience would be invaluable to our business as we looked to expand through the motorsport industry.
“It was such a boost seeing his enthusiasm for the app and wanting to be involved. He immediately saw the potential of the product, that it is something that all teams and agencies in F1 could eventually use as a simpler way to manage travel and events, so that was a great way to start 2021.
“Looking further ahead, we’re speaking to a lot more F1 teams because we have a product that’s tailored to them and their needs and can really improve their guest offering.
“We plan to be more than an F1 team app, but for now we have a product that works for the uniqueness of an F1 team and so we want to sign additional teams up and really make a name for ourselves within motorsport hospitality, and then expand and grow out from there.”