Queue-it’s co-founders: Chief Commercial Officer Camilla Ley Valentin, CEO Niels Henrik Sodemann and Chief Technical Officer Martin Pronk. (Courtesy Queue-it)

Virtual waiting room helps PACs deal with peak online ticket demand

If your venue has staged a major live event that caused a serious spike in online traffic (think when “Hamilton” goes on sale) or if you have logged on to buy tickets and been directed to a virtual waiting room, chances are it was created by Queue-it.

Here’s how Niels Henrik Sodemann, co-founder and CEO, succinctly describes the business: “Building a waiting room on the internet to prevent crashes during peak events.”

Customers can customize the platform, which works with ticketing software platforms to offload a website’s surging traffic and redirect it to a virtual waiting room until it’s the customer’s turn to purchase. It then goes back to the vendor’s site to complete the transaction.

The Copenhagen-based startup has carved out a niche for its waiting room software and become a dominant player in the industry.

“Queue-it has been a life saver for high-volume sales.  It allows us to deliver the best customer service experience we can within the limits of our e-commerce infrastructure,” said Ezra Wiesner, chief technology officer at The Shed in New York. He also used the waiting room service in his prior role at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia.

Wiesner added, “Many nonprofit ticketing organizations cannot afford to build or afford the infrastructure to handle the occasional spikes in demand required by a very large on-sale.  Queue-it allows us to handle the demand on those high spikes with the infrastructure we can afford.”

Queue-it’s client list is impressive and spans the globe from the Sydney Opera House to London’s Royal Opera House, and it found its way to Carnegie Hall as well. While 40% of revenue is generated in North America, the firm has opened offices in Minneapolis and Sydney to provide 24-hour coverage to its more than 700 customers. Queue-it works with many partners and platforms, including Distil Networks, Fandango, Tessitura Network, Ticketmaster, and AXS.

This Queue-it screen is a familiar sight to online buyers of “Hamilton” tickets. (Courtesy Queue-it)

“We’ve worked almost exclusively with Queue-it,” said Kristin Darrow, senior vice president of product for Tessitura Network, adding, “Picking a solid waiting room provider is key. It’s the visible face to the public; if there’s a problem there, it looks like the site is crashing. We work with them because frankly they’re good to work with and we can rely on them.”

The idea for Queue-it was hatched in 2009 by three friends who came from a software background, not entertainment. Hence the name, which is a play on getting in line (or the queue in Europe) as well as IT for information technology.

Sodemann recalls researching at a Danish bakery on a Sunday morning to watch people line up, take a number, and wait their turn: “That was physical, the old school equivalent, and tells me a lot about the psychology of (queueing). Then we started investigating if there’d potentially be a market for it.”

He continued, “It didn’t take long to see ticketing was a nightmare in on-sales back then. This would be a way to help that specific issue and we researched a lot of similar situations where you have huge difference between average and peak demand: Black Friday, iPhone launch day, submission for university.”

The triumvirate bootstrapped its way to a first client in 2010, a Danish ministry that provides hunting licenses, and they were off. Sodemann knew they had to succeed right away: “What we do is so visual (that) if we mess it up it will be sprayed on the internet in seconds. We knew from the beginning that could destroy the company. You’re on a journey with constraints on resources (and) failure is basically not an option. We accepted the conditions and got one customer, then another.”

The company has thus far thrived in helping venues handle the highest of profile on-sales: “Hamilton.”

Kay Burnham, vice president for guest services at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, Calif., said Queue-it was invaluable for the “Hamilton” on-sale: ““It saved our website. We had worked with Queue-it before and amped up our relationship.”

Sodemann notes the demand spikes are real for the touring juggernaut, even though he and his fellow Danes admit as foreigners that they don’t quite understand the “Hamilton” hoopla, which he describes as “a factor of 20 times more demand than anything else in performing arts.”

Interestingly, the Queue-it executive said the only ticketed event in the U.S. that has come close to the ticket demand for “Hamilton” is Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrors” exhibition at The Broad museum in Los Angeles. It is this kind of institutional knowledge and global perspective that venue operators say draws them to the company’s virtual waiting room.

While Queue-it works with large venues from Madison Square Garden to the Forum and Coachella, there is another niche where the virtual waiting room is needed: sneaker releases. Sodemann compares the scarcity of limited shoe releases by clients KicksUSA and Villa to a ticketing on-sale.

“The logic is pretty obvious for using (Queue-it),” he said. “There’s a limitation on how many shoes they’re selling. If there’s 100 pairs of shoes, the purpose of doing a limited release is not to generate revenue but to generate hype and presence. If you have 100,000 people coming to the limited release you want to give them a good experience and have some transparency. You want them to come back, not for limited releases, but to buy a ton of other stuff.”

Sodemann reflected on how much more complicated ticketing is than he first thought at launch: “The big learning is: It is an extremely complex business. It seems like, on paper, relatively simple. You have a ticket and sell it on the internet and off you go. But there’s so many variations, the business model, it’s pretty clear it’s a business with a long legacy and a trazillion ways of doing it right.”