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SA’s Howler expands globally with Elrow deal

South African cashless and ticketing payments platform Howler has signed a global ticketing deal with Elrow, the Superstruct-owned Spanish party promoter.

In normal times, Barcelona-based party brand Elrow hosts more than 150 productions annually, attracting millions of fans in 26 countries.

The four-year partnership with Elrow (formerly Elrow Family) will see Howler enter into new European markets and “across more global operations than ever before”, according to Howler CEO Shai Evian. “I have been following the Elrow brand for a number of years,” comments Howler CEO Shai Evian.

“Anyone in the industry knows that Elrow has globally set the benchmark. To work with them at the highest level is a dream come true. The entertainment technology industry is one of the most competitive in the world and it goes to show that South Africa is a breeding ground for next-gen tech. This is a massive vote of confidence, especially in the times we’re in today.”

“This is a massive vote of confidence, especially in the times we’re in today”

Elrow joins existing clients in Europe, including Sónar in Barcelona, Kappa Futur Festival in Italy, Monte Verde in Portugal and Oasis in Morocco, as well as soon-to-be-announced new year’s eve events in New Zealand.

“We are so excited to put Howler on the global events stage, working with the best in the business and helping make moments matter,” continues Evian. “This partnership is especially exciting as technology becomes the cornerstone of events, and as customer behavioural analytics become more and more valuable in creating success for future events.”

Founded in 2015, Howler’s end-to-end platform includes solutions for ticketing, cashless, access, insurance and more for event organisers.

The Johannesburg-company announced the new deal at the virtual Amsterdam Dance Event last month. To watch the webinar back and learn more about the partnership, register at the Howler website.


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South Africa’s DreamStream fest breaks Zoom record

Ticketing and cashless payments platform Howler recently hosted the world’s largest Zoom music festival in aid of the South African live entertainment industry.

DreamStream – the biggest virtual festival to date to utilise videoconferencing service Zoom, and South Africa’s first large-scale online music event – ran from 24 to 26 April and featured livestreamed performances by 33 South African artists.

The festival raised nearly R500,000 (€25,000) in donations for the South African Fund 4 Entertainment (SAFE), an industry backed initiative formed to help those worst affected by the coronavirus and the ban on live events. Over 50,000 people in 130 countries viewed the stream over the course of the weekend.

“The two-way experience connected people in their homes like no other stream has done yet,” says Shai Evian, Howler CEO. “We wanted to create an experience that felt like a true festival with your friends. This was a ticket-only event and the fact that we had over 50,000 people through the online ‘gates’ for an online event that wasn’t streamed via social media is really something different.”

“We see a world where an online virtual experience will coexist alongside real-world festivals”

“What is even more exciting is that we believe we have unlocked a product that can live beyond the Covid-19 crisis,” he adds. “We see a world where an online virtual experience will coexist alongside real-world festivals, reaching far wider audiences globally and creating new revenue streams.”

The funds raised by DreamStream are being used to purchase food vouchers for the crew suffering the most under the current lockdown.

“SAFE is a platform for all online initiatives to support our crippled industry,” says Evian. “The support from the SA government is much smaller, financially, than some other countries. Based on the applications to SAFE to date we need to raise US$1 million just to feed our industry.”

Find out more, or donate to SAFE, at safefund.org.za.


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‘No revenue for months’: Coronavirus hits S. African biz

As of midnight Thursday (26 March), South Africa becomes the latest country in lockdown, after president Cyril Ramaphosa announced a three-week closure of all non-essential shops and businesses.

The lockdown follows a previous ban on all gatherings of over 100 people, and a prohibition on restaurants and bars serving alcohol after 6pm. To find out how southern Africa’s live industry is coping, IQ caught up with Shai Evian, co-founder of cashless and ticketing payments platform Howler, to hear about life on the front line…


IQ: Are people largely following the government’s advice?
SE: It seems like it. For starters, all immediate events were cancelled or postponed. This sent a shockwave across the industry, with the end of March and Easter being extremely busy times in southern Africa.

How is the live entertainment business dealing with the crisis?
The industry has been brought to a standstill and is in shock. I don’t think many people were expecting this so quickly.

Personally, I had been in Europe for the past few weeks, and was at the ILMC conference, so it was very much top of mind and I had already started making plans. Before the ban, we already saw all major events being postponed or cancelled, such as MTN Bushfire in Swaziland, AfrikaBurn, Cape Town International Jazz Festival, KKNK, etc.

All ticketing companies have different policies and are dealing with it in their own way. For all postponed events, tickets are valid for the next edition, and for the cancelled ones there are various refund policies, some offering 100%, some partial and some none.

Are the government offering you any assistance?
The government recently announced relief funds for SMEs, but nothing has been specifically mentioned for the entertainment industry. We are are waiting to see how this plays out.

How has Howler specifically been affected?
This is still a very busy period of our season, with March (specifically the end of month) our second busiest month after December. We have seen all events overnight postponed or cancelled. Fortunately, most of our clients have postponed to later on in the year or 2021.

We expect no revenue for the next couple of months and currently employ 65 permanent staff, so it’s going to be trying times for all. We are working through it and but confident we can come out stronger.

“The industry is really showing solidarity and support”

We recently acquired Glownet’s European business and had a busy season in Europe planned this summer, so it’s affecting us on both African and European soil. On the day of the announcement we were also forced to put the company in remote working, as we had an infection scare in the office. As things start to settle down, we are using this downtime to double down on our technology and refine the product, and work on things that were not possible while in full-blown operations.

We want to be prepared for when the bans are lifted and events explode. We are also exploring how to adapt the platform to cater for the shift in digital entertainment consumerism.

You’ve sent a few mail-outs calling for patience from ticketholders…
We have taken a very proactive approach appealing to eventgoers to find compassion with event organisers at this time, to take a postponed ticket and not demand a refund.

We also sent out a survey to all our vendors/traders to understand the potential impact on their business. Based on 120 vendors, without relief, 70% will need to retrench staff in the next three months, directly affecting over 1,000 people. We expect to see this impact more 10,000 casual staff.

We have seen the most important thing has been to communicate regularly with all stakeholders, as well as being honest about the situation.

How are fans responding? Are they generally understanding?
We have been overwhelmed with the response. So far, we have seen less than 10% of tickets being refunded for postponed shows. The industry is really showing solidarity and support.


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Why Africa could be leading the way in event tech

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.


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