Lou Vasta came up with his idea for a navigation app as he was riding in a police helicopter above a Formula One race in 2012. But his app idea wasn't for the racecar drivers, helicopter pilot or the police — it was for the event attendees.
At the time, Vasta’s Chicago-based event management company was helping the city of Austin handle logistics at the Circuit of the Americas during the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix. He rode in the chopper with law enforcement officials as they radioed down to officers on the ground, telling them how to direct traffic around one of the biggest events of the season.
But Vasta pictured a system that could cut out the middleman.
“If we could only get this information to the people who are coming and going, if they knew what we knew, this would work a whole lot better,” Vasta remembers thinking. “We would relieve a lot of pain points and congestion.”
That vision got its first live test this summer, at Louisville’s Subway Fresh Fit Hike Bike & Paddle event over Labor Day weekend.
EventQueue, the company Vasta founded to build the system, has the ability to route users around event traffic to secondary entrances, send them to available parking lots and direct them to resources like vendor tents and bathrooms within the event grounds. The app also provides detailed safety information, directing users to the closest exits and minimizing stampedes and bottlenecks.
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The 15,000-person event was a bit of a trial for EventQueue, but Vasta was impressed with the results.
"To give you an idea, it's like we built a six-gear engine and we only got to use the second gear, so we've got a lot more potential," Vasta said.
The city of Louisville was impressed as well. The city plans to use EQ Louisville, the white-label version of the app on iOS and Android, for its Light Up Louisville holiday celebration, which is expected to draw 35,000 people.
“We hope to build this for them, show them how to run it and manage the backend,” Vasta said. “Then we get out of town and let them continue to license and run it while we take it to other cities, events, sports leagues or venues. We think this is a platform that could work for any type of mass gathering.”
Louisville's infrastructure and size made it an attractive place to test EventQueue, but Vasta hopes to bring it to other cities and events soon. While there are no definite plans for his hometown right now, events like Lollapalooza, the Chicago Marathon and the multitude of sporting events make the city a great candidate for a future expansion.
EventQueue has also streamlined the process for setting up an event app. What once took monthly meetings starting a year before the event now takes as little as one month of lead time and results in a more robust experience than custom-built applications. That’s in part due to expertise, but also because EventQueue has already engineered the systems for all of its functions that can be easily implemented anywhere.
Four full-time employees work on the app, but it also brought on short term employees to help launch the Louisville app. In addition to the employees, the company’s advisors include event pros like 1871 CEO Howard Tullman and former mayor Richard M. Daley. EventQueue raised a $1 million seed round before last month’s launch, but plans to add to that.
Images via EventQueue