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Lining up for international success

Wednesday, 5 September 2012 | By Oliver Milman

start-up-profiles-Ben-FlavelQueuing for things is boring. But it is also, arguably, the fairest way of deciding which consumers deserve in-demand products first.


Australian entrepreneurs Ben and Jonathan Flavel had a brainwave six years ago to create a system that brought this concept online, so that die-hard fans could ‘check-in’ to a virtual queue each day to retain their priority place for tickets and giveaways.


After much deliberation and a few false starts, the business CheckinLine has finally launched. Ben spoke to StartupSmart about the business’ international ambitions.


How did this idea come about?


It was about six years ago and I was getting sick of sites crashing because they had a surge of traffic for tickets.


It seemed the whole process was random and unfair when tickets went on sale. If people spend a long time camping out in a queue, then it’s fair if they are the ones that get the tickets, but this queuing element disappears online.


It’s become more about individual moments of times, so we thought we could use that to create a demand to check back in once a day to keep your place in a virtual queue.


We’ve now built a Facebook app to use for ticket sales or giveaways where people register to win, it runs for, say, seven days and you check in each day at a certain time to prioritise your place. If you miss a day, you fall back in the queue.


We build this app for companies and it allows brands to get good engagement and information on their customers. It’s almost the completely opposite of Groupon – it’s not for discounted items. It spreads out the demand.


Why did it take you so long?


It took us about three years to work out what we were doing and how this idea worked.


Another co-founder left last year, while my brother has a research policy background and I was an innovation consultant. So it took a while to work out the best form it should take.


We had to work out the right context for it and how to explain it to people. It then got more serious in 2010 when we built a prototype. We tried to take it to the market then, which was perfect due to the drawn AFL Grand Final – there was a fairness aspect to how people got tickets for the second match.


That got us in there, but no one would purchase the product. We tried Commercialisation Australia but we were a bit too young to get funding. So we decided to spend some of our own money to get it up and running.


So what did you do then?


I quit my job at the beginning of 2011 to work on the idea. It was entirely bootstrapped and it was difficult to get it across the line with some companies because it was a bit outside of the box.


It’s hard to trial something new with large corporates in Australia – there’s a perceived risk to something different, even when it costs them nothing. They just see the downside, which is completely different to the attitude in the US.


We ran trials last year with 11 different brands on board, but it wasn’t easy. For example, for Palace Cinemas to give stuff away, I had to write a personal letter to the owner. And that was to just buy memberships myself for a giveaway.

Once I put the results in front of him, he was impressed and gave us 60 more memberships for a giveaway.


We’ve now got our first client in Sportsbet, which signed up before we launched.


What’s the attraction for consumers?


They can see where they are in the line for things and there’s a clock that counts down to the time they are meant to check in.


It gamifies the process of queuing. You click a button to keep your spot, which people find addictive. It’s human nature. The motivation to take part is far greater than a survey you do online to go into a draw – you can appeal to a certain person and get their opinions on things.


What is your pricing structure?


The Facebook app costs $3,000, up to $5,000 for a customisable, premium version. When you think about it, companies are regularly spending $5,000 on Facebook competitions consisting of 25 words or less in order to generate ‘likes.’


That kind of thing can give you a bit of promotion and reach, but what does it actually provide for you?


In March this year, Facebook changed its rules and users have to be engaged or else brands won’t show up in their news feeds, so they need to go back multiple times, rather than just provide a like.


So this kind of engagement is more important than ever.


What are your goals for the business?


We want to start selling some of these apps and create a list of leads. We want to create enough cashflow for a patent and then run a trial in the US, targeting the college football teams.


We’ll start that trial in November and use that to launch into the US market. I expect we’ll be based in the US next year where we can go after the sporting market.


Sport is our first love and we want to hit that vertical and get some momentum. We just need to get out there and get on with it.