Tech City: Qudini, the app so British that it queues up on your behalf
09:00 21 February 2016
Tech City is the third-largest technology hub in the world, and it’s right on our doorstep. Each week, the Gazette brings you news from the thriving area around Old Street roundabout. This week, Sophie Inge meets Fraser Hardy, the CTO of Qudini – the app that queues in shops so you don’t have to.
How many times have you walked out of a shop simply because you couldn’t face the stress of queuing?
One time too many, according to the founders of the digital queue and appointment managing platform, Qudini.
The brainchild of former Ad School student Imogen Wethered and tech whizz Fraser Hardy, the platform allows users to join a digital queue – thus saving them the hassle of waiting in line.
The pair first met back in March 2012 at a weekend “hackathon”, where participants were asked to create a prototype for a piece of wireless technology.
“One of the guys in our group mentioned the amount of wasted time that was spent in theme park queues,” says Fraser, 29. “So we came up with the idea of using an app on your phone through which you could spend money at various rides around the park.
“All you would have to do is to tap a sign next to the ride you wanted to go on and queue virtually. This meant you could then spend your time going around the rest of the theme park and spending money elsewhere.”
They ended up winning a prize for having the most commercially viable idea among a number of submissions.
Just a few months later, as Fraser was handing in his dissertation for his Masters degree in mobile technology, the pair were offered a £40,000 investment to kick-start their own company in the start-up accelerator programme, Wayra UK – becoming the youngest team to do so in the process.
“That’s where it all started,” says Fraser. “Then we carried on building and testing things and changing our idea. We realised theme parks weren’t where we should be focusing our energies.
“As part of the Wayra process, we got the chance to speak to quite a few different people who gave us ideas. A few of them mentioned that queuing for restaurants in London was quite a problem. So we introduced our idea to a few restaurants, who said they liked the idea.”
From the customer’s point of view, Qudini is simple, says Fraser.
“You go into the restaurant and give your name and mobile number. They then add you to the system and you get a text confirming your place in the queue.
“This also has a web link that you can click on so you watch your place moving along until your table is ready. In the meantime, you can view the menu.”
Just five months into their project, Imogen and Fraser were already trialling the app in restaurants around the UK, including the gourmet burger chain Honest Burgers.
The trial was a success and they managed to raise a further £150,000 investment through angel investors.
In 2015, the platform was deployed into 100 02 stores in the UK before being adopted in all O2 shops. The result was a 20 per cent reduction in customer walkouts – the equivalent of £29million in potential annual revenue.
Today, the company has many more clients – ranging from House of Fraser and John Lewis to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and even a sexual health clinic.
At the time of writing, Qudini estimated it had saved a total of 86 years, 101 days, 21 hours and 32 minutes that would have been spent standing in a physical queue.
Of course, as can be expected, Qudini is not the only company trying to capitalise on the queuing market. But Fraser, who works as the chief technology officer for the company, is convinced his company has the edge.
“There are a few competitors in the States and the rest of the world doing similar things, but we pride ourselves on being a very customisable platform. So if you go to Honest Burgers, for example, they use their own version of Qudini which has their own colours.”
Qudini now employs a total of 17 people in the UK as well as a small offshore team, and has clients as far afield as South America and Australia. Their head office is in Metropolitan University’s Accelerator building in the heart of Tech City.
“It’s great because we get our own private office, but we’re in a building surrounded by other companies – ranging from tech start-ups to people selling powdered fruit berries. It’s great to be able to speak to other start-ups and learn from what they’re doing.”
So what’s the future for queuing technology?
“Last June, we raised over £800,000, and we’re now in the process of signing up some more good clients. You’ll be seeing Qudini in lots of places.”
To find out more visit the Qudini website here.