FutureStack14, New Relic’s user and technology conference in San Francisco next week, promises insight into changing the world with data and software. John Paul, founder and COO of VenueNext, has plans to shake up the world of live events, starting with Levi’s Stadium, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers.
With VenueNext’s venue-specific, context-aware app, event-goers can instantly connect with everything a venue has to offer, using just their smartphones. The company is a culmination of Paul’s more than 35 years as a founder, CEO, or executive leader of product and engineering teams at both startups and major technology companies including Dish Digital, Sling Media, Netscape, Banyan Systems, Compaq Computer, Siemens, and Digital Equipment Corp.
We asked him about his background and his talk at FutureStack14, titled Game Changers: A Look Into the Technology Shift Redefining Traditional Industries:
When did you first realize you were a data nerd?
I wouldn’t describe myself as a “data nerd” per se, but I’ve always been a big believer in the power of data to help make better quality decisions. While human instinct and judgment should never be discounted, we know too that our biases are a result of our experiences, and that’s where data can be an effective guide. I think it’s great to always ask what do the facts tell us.
I believe too that there’s something incredibly powerful about gleaning new insights and confirming consistent insights from studying data over time. The more data we have access to, the more insights and wisdom we can extract, assuming analytic processes are set up correctly. At VenueNext, we’re only three or four games into the opening season for the Levi’s Stadium app, and while the numbers tell us a very encouraging story, we think the real patterns will not become clear until we’ve watched the data story evolve through at least half the season. That’s when things will normalize.
What’s your personal, or professional, connection to modern software and data?
Outside of my profession as an engineer and product developer, I’m one of the most passionate early adopters around. I’m always the first in line for the latest release of a car, a device, a camera—and the most powerful enhancements are software related. I can’t tell you how much joy I get out of showing off new technology to neighbors, friends, family, new employees—anyone who will listen!
For software and data, I think simplicity is the root of all good design and functionality. We want clear answers and insights from data, and we want a seamless, immersive experience with software: We want to “forget” we’re using it and focus on the benefits we get from it.
For the Levi’s Stadium app, our primary goal is to help fans enjoy more of the game, and get enough delight and satisfaction so that they will use it again and again. Our product development can be enhanced by watching how they use it, what steps they take, what they ignore. Being able to move quickly and solve problems is also crucial. We never stop developing and updating our software.
On the data side, much of our software is used to help make real-time decisions, oftentimes it’s to solve problems on the fly. Speed, simplicity, and agility all matter, all the time.
Another area we’re relentless about is what we call “context-awareness.” We know that once fans enter a venue, your tickets don’t matter anymore. Once you enter parking, you are thinking about getting to your seat and ordering food or exploring the venue. We developed the Levi’s Stadium app to adapt to where you are and the stage of the event: Say you order express pick up? Turn-by-turn directions come up once you’ve ordered so you are sure to go to the right concession stand to pick it up.
What are the most important issues and opportunities regarding mobile, software and data for you?
It’s a given that everyone attending FutureStack14 knows the smartphone has changed our lives. It’s an extension of ourselves and we use it for everything that matters. Now with the smartphone, the live experience can be more personalized. In live venues, better infrastructure is in place with new Wi-Fi and Bluetooth beacons, and smartphones are advanced and powerful enough to create a wonderful, constantly evolving mobile ecosystem that we can develop into.
For fans, our context-aware app provides instant and seamless connection to everything a venue has to offer—mobile tickets and parking, food and beverage ordering, live event and multiple-angle instant replay feeds, turn-by-turn directions in venue, and much more.
For venues, VenueNext’s platform unifies the entire infrastructure ecosystem. For the first time, venue owners and operators have access to a sophisticated new set of tools that yield better and deeper insights into fan behavior, and provide unprecedented real-time control and response abilities for event operations teams.
Are there any special connections between sports/live events and mobile/software/data technology?
The intersection between the physical and digital worlds are especially relevant to what’s happening in the live events space right now. For live sporting events, the biggest competition is the couch. It’s easy sitting at home watching your favorite team on an amazing HDTV, with great food and your friends beside you.
The primal experience of cheering on your team together at a live event can’t be beat, but the journey to that event and during that event has become more difficult even as mobile technology has been making the rest of our lives more convenient.
When we started VenueNext, we asked ourselves two questions:
- How can we significantly improve the live event experience for fans?
- How can we improve the business for venue owners and operators?
Why were you interested in speaking at FutureStack14?
The opportunity to participate at a live gathering with such innovative minds and unique perspectives in this space is second to none. Also, hearing about others’ experiences and learning milestones is always helpful.
I’m looking forward to sharing more about what we’re trying to accomplish and getting the best and brightest minds to give us feedback on it. I look forward to participating with everyone there.