Event management is challenging work as it involves the coordination of different activities simultaneously. The right tech solutions are needed to help enhance event-goers’ experience and help organizers manage their events better, one of which is Near Field Communication (NFC).
“NFL technology allows you to store data on a chip in attendees’ wristbands,” Ilya Kravtsov, CEO of PouchNation, an NFC-based event management tech startup, told KrASIA. “One of the key advantages of this tech solution is that the chip doesn’t require any batteries which makes it fairly cheap. It works well with the Android and iOS systems and you don’t need to be connected to WiFi in order to operate the system, which is important for large-scale events where internet connectivity can be an issue.”
The NFC system helps with guest registration, cashless payments, access control, activity tracking, social engagement, and detailed analytic reporting, Kravtsov said. The system is securely encrypted and it also allows organizers to stay in touch with attendees long after the event is over.
PouchNation started in 2012 as a company offering mobile loyalty programs. Kravtsov said that the company was struggling to acquire customers and they had to do many offline marketing activities like setting up booths at events to get people to download their app. “However, it was quite expensive and we usually only got 5% of the data from all of the attendees. So we thought about a way to provide tech solutions for organizers to digitize their events while we could also capture 100% of attendees’ data at the same time,” he said.
In 2014, the startup created NFC wristbands to replace paper tickets and cash payments. It also tracked attendees’ behaviors, which provide useful data points for organizers. Seeing good feedback from its clients, PouchNation decided to disconnect its mobile loyalty function and pivoted its business into an event tech platform in 2015.
PouchNation has four pillars. The first is PouchEvents where the startup provides five key services: ticketing, access control, cashless payment, brand activations, and analytics. It charges clients for the wristbands and access to its software per event. It also takes a percentage of customer transactions with the wristbands. The second pillar is PouchVenues, where the startup provides technology for permanent installations like theme parks, museums, or beach clubs. Some of the services offered for venue partners are online ticketing, registration, cashless payment, voucher redemption, and intelligent reporting.
This year, the startup will introduce two new verticals, namely PouchContent and PouchDigital. “For events, we’ll invest in entertainment content or e-sports, not only as the tech provider but also by actually investing money in the event. We’ve been collecting data from events for the past four and half years so we know which events will work and attract audiences,” said Kravtsov. Meanwhile, PouchDigital is providing low-cost solutions for clients with low budgets with high-volume events such as yoga or beauty events.
According to him, PouchNation was the pioneer of event management tech solutions in Southeast Asia and it was the first platform that introduced cashless payment for events in Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia. There was plenty of skepticism from organizers in the beginning, especially when they needed to migrate from cash to digital, Kravtsov said. “Their main concern was that if the system went down, they wouldn’t be able to make transactions. However, since our system can be used offline, it eased the organizers’ anxiety.”
2019 was definitely a good year for PouchNation. It partnered with 200 top scale events across the region with minimum attendees totaling 10,000 people and recorded 40 million in transaction values last year. Among PouchNation’s notable events were Good Vibes in Malaysia, Zoukout and Beerfest Asia in Singapore, Bali Marathon in Indonesia, and Sensation in Thailand. This year, PouchNation will be a partner for the Formula 1 Vietnam Grand Prix in Hanoi this year, said Kravtsov.
Backed by Indonesian tech companies
The company is currently at the Series B stage. Indonesian travel tech unicorn Traveloka led PouchNation’s USD 4 million Series B round in June 2019, and in February this year, the startup raised an undisclosed amount of Series B extension from Indonesia’s ticketing platform, Tix Id. PouchNation has been working with Traveloka closely ever since. Both systems are integrated and PouchNation has become Traveloka’s on-ground partner, especially for its sub-brand vertical called Traveloka Xperience.
“PouchNation and Traveloka are both regional platforms. Traveloka offers a wide range of online activities while we focus on creating good experiences on the ground. Our services are complementary to each other and we give added value to customers. It was the main rationale behind the investment and collaboration,” said Kravtsov.
Meanwhile, PouchNation will be complementing Tix Id’s product offering by utilizing its technology for on-ground capabilities at events and venues. “Tix Id has over ten million registered users and they have been doing a really good job at driving online ticket sales. But if you look at the cinemas, we still need to print tickets so as part of the collaboration, we’ll help cinemas go fully digital and eliminate paper tickets,” he added. Both companies will also have more collaborations which revolve around end-to-end event technology services, as well as engage and invest more in live content and live experiences.
PouchNation is looking for Series C fundraising this year to push the development of its two new verticals. PouchEvents is the startup’s cash cow as every event generates profits for the company, said Kravtsov. Going forward, PouchNation will continue investing in its technology capabilities and product offering to further boost its growth as it wants to be the largest platform that provides tech-enabled live experiences in Asia.
This article is part of KrASIA’s “Startup Stories” series, where the writers of KrASIA speak with founders of tech companies in South and Southeast Asia.