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Based in Africa, the world’s fastest-growing cashless market, Howler outlines how it built an everyday eventing solution with the potential to take the world by storm
By IQ on 18 Apr 2019
When it comes to events, there’s nothing deep nor dark about Africa – not anymore. Indeed, it is possible that there are more cashless events in South Africa than in the rest of the world combined.
How? Well, one of the advantages of a comparatively small market in a developing region is that, when event technology platform Howler began trading, and wanted to introduce ticketing, access control, and cashless solutions to the industry, there were no clumsy legacy systems to dismantle.
The tech simply didn’t exist. Looking overseas for inspiration, Howler found that its global competitors operated largely “with their headlights on and in silos”, explains Shai Evian, founding partner of Howler, “which is why there was no company that could provide for all our needs in one solution.”
So Howler started from the problem – a widespread need for better, safer, quicker, more reliable event technology – and then built the answer: a scalable, consumer-geared, end-to-end, best-of-breed solution that could be used for both large and small events. All events. Anywhere. The platform is combination of its proprietary technology built on top of leading global technology solutions.
The system manages ticketing, customer registration, vendor onboarding, reporting and cash collection on site; reduces payment time to just 3 seconds; is network- and weather- independent; and, critically for Africa, enhances security by reducing cash on site and mitigating risks of theft and fraud.
Its all-in-one event management solution covers ticket sales, guest lists, registration, and event promotion – using rich data to boost event-goers’ experiences and organisers’ decision-making.
“In Africa we’ve been able to leapfrog other countries’ tech innovations, because our needs are so different and our response to tech is so fresh”
‘The Howler way’ means a seamless experience with crucial customer data being collected at every touch point. In a market that is so heavily competitive, this data is what will help companies to differentiate themselves into the future. Indeed, the Howler believes that, the longer event organisers take to adopt a data focus, the more they could be putting their businesses at risk.
Howler is focused on the continued growth of its platform in Africa, using the region as a pilot market en route to internationalising the product.
For instance, over a single recent weekend, Howler ran cashless events in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Uganda, and Zambia – countries that collectively span 3.3 million square kilometres.
On New Year’s Eve 2018, Howler ran 55 simultaneous events across southern Africa, with over 600 staff using over 1400 devices.
Says Evian: “In Africa we’ve been able to leapfrog other countries’ tech innovations, because our needs are so different and our response to tech is so fresh. Our circumstances require us to act quickly, be agile, think fast, and think smart.”
As a result of working with the likes of Ultra South Africa, Rage festival and Afro Punk, Howler’s approach is starting to be adopted in global markets. Furthermore, the Howler founders were part of the prestigious international Techstars Accelerator programme during 2017 which, says Evian, “really changed the way we see our business as a player on the global stage”.
‘The Howler way’ means a seamless experience with crucial customer data being collected at every touch point
It turned out, in Africa, that event organisers and customers weren’t that wedded to tills and cash, so adoption was quicker. “Nothing like this had been done before. There was no precedent for taking full responsibility for everything: vendors, cash, refunds, door, devices, etc.” The only challenge,” says Evian, “was going to be people and perceptions, and people are enthusiastic.”
Unlike in Europe, where cashless solutions tend to be implemented for massive events only, the eccentricities of the African market mean that a sustainable product must work for small and large events; for what Evian calls “everyday eventing”. Further, it must be geared to serve the consumer as much as the event organiser, because the same consumers repeatedly attend many events.
Howler, which employs 56 people and over 500 casual staff, has processed over US$80 million in transactions in the three and a half years since inception and over a million tickets in the past year.
Its stats show a 150–200% increase in event-goers pre-loading cashless cards online – resulting in up to 50% of people now going to events without cards or wallets; ie fully cashless. Not bad for a country on the tip of Africa, where the market size is a mere 1/20 of the developed world’s.
Who is Howler?
Howler is a data driven event payment platform. The consolidation of several powerful events-and-entertainment platforms, Howler helps consumers and event organisers to “make moments that matter” – via cashless transactions and ticket handling, distribution, and access. Howler recently rolled out cashless technology in SA sports stadiums, beginning with PPC Newlands Cricket Stadium, which is now Africa’s first cashless stadium.