Glownet: the festivals of the future (and the present)

Alexander Kazakov is from Moscow but he knows Madrid well. The company that he co-founded, Glownet, has one of its offices in the city. From here they plan the future –a future that is already happening– of music festivals in a dozen countries.

Alexander is the CTO of the firm, whose product is a digital system targeted at the organizers of music festivals. By giving those attending the event bracelets with an NFC chip, they can use this to enter the festival enclosure and make payments once inside.

Festival-goers can take their bracelets home, as they have always done with the non-digital ones. However Glownet’s business is not hiring out bracelets or selling them: they provide the service that makes them work. “Using them, it is easier to pay,” says Alexander, emphasizing the product’s advantages. With the bracelet, people don’t need to carry money on them. There is a plus for organizers, too, since the bars obtain higher takings.

Attendees just need to prepay a balance on the bracelet and if anyone runs out of credit they can obtain more at one of the top-up points located inside the enclosure. Furthermore, managing bars becomes a more precise affair. “There is no cash, so it can’t get lost,” says Kazakov, with assurance. He points out that this is an effective way of avoiding fraud or theft by temporary workers.

“The festival management usually doesn’t know how many drinks are sold, because the bars don’t belong to them. But now they can have this information.” Kazakov points out that this will help organizers negotiate with sponsors and bar owners. Much of the value of their product is in the value of the data it can supply. The company’s clients are gaining a better understanding of what can be done with the information compiled.

“We know when, where, who and how much. We know what was bought and who served the customer,” says the CTO of a company that is looking to Big Data in order to extract greater value as information flows grow.

However, they are not the only ones in the market. “There are other companies doing this at events. Furthermore, the companies that sell tickets are getting involved by buying companies like ours and creating their own technology.” Kazakov accompanies his comments by concise gestures. He explains that there are three major suppliers in the international festival market as well as other, local actors.

When asked about the future, Alexander talks with conviction about new horizons, about expanding to include sporting events and major shows. This 26-year-old Russian, who manages a team of about a dozen people, met the company CEO, Scott Witters, at an IE Venture Lab session. They hit it off and soon Alexander was on a flight to New Zealand in order to put the finishing touches to a system he was unfamiliar with, set up as part of a festival that he didn’t know.

At the time, Alexander was studying for the Master in International Management at IE, which he completed successfully. Now in charge of product development from his base in Madrid, he was one of the five founders of the company, and the only one under the age of 40.

Interview by Pablo G. Bejerano