Interview with WINGiT founder Alban Sayag
The travel tech scene is growing rapidly with new apps popping up on a daily basis. This is a hard market to break into and even for successful businesses, launching an app isn’t without its challenges. We spoke to French entrepreneur Alban Sayag about his app WINGiT, which allows users to find out what’s happening near them and book tickets straight through the app, all in real time.
Sayag comes from a business background and launched his first start up at 19. He says: “It was for the first wireless ear piece for mobile phones. The technology was very close to what would become Bluetooth. We had to close the business after three years because Bluetooth came on the market and was instantly huge.
“I then started a consulting company, developing apps and websites for other companies. It was quite successful and I sold the business to Capgemini, one of the biggest consulting companies in the world. I worked for them for six years, heading up the business unit and a team of 50 people. I was just 25 at the time. I then spent one year on the other side of the business for an investor Alcatel-Lucent before I created WINGiT.”
As with most successful apps, the idea came from a real need for this in the market. It all started when Sayag was out with friends and needed something to do. The internet and travel apps couldn’t quite deliver when it came to events that were happening in the area that evening and so the idea for WINGiT was born.
The app allows you to improvise like a local, giving you access to events and activities shared by local insiders. Generating this content, was one of the first challenges Sayag faced when developing the app. He says: “If you want content to be real time and hyper local, you can either rely on users to generate content, which is often difficult, or you can analyse social networks.
“This can also prove challenging because you find that you can’t always access the content because you don’t subscribe to all the feeds and pages to get the information when you need it. That’s where we started to bring in the technology.”
WINGiT uses a special algorithm that analyses social networks to find local events happening now. It continuously screens billions of posts and will push relevant ones to a user’s app based on location and time. Sayag adds: “I can’t say much about the algorithm, but it’s not based on specific pages or accounts, it’s based on conversation.
“We analyse public conversations on Facebook, Twitter, Meetup and Instagram, and look for clues to events such as the name of a place and further information such as time and date. When we are sure everything is correct, we match it with other sources of content then publish it to the app.
“Once we find the content, that’s just the first part of the process. We then go through the inventories of ticket providers and try to match them with the event. If we are successful then users will be able to book tickets straight from the app.”
The app originally launched in New York in 2012 but since then it’s expanded into 15 cities across Europe too. Expanding into new countries meant changing the way in which the app worked. Sayag explains: “Even if you have many states in the US, it’s just one country. One thing you are doing right in New York will work the same in San Francisco. It’s completely different in Europe. It won’t be the same in London as in Madrid, for example, as each country has differences in culture. That’s the challenge in Europe, you have to adapt to any country when launching something like this and not just in the app but your marketing, communication, everything.”
Monetising the app is a strong focus for this year as this is how WINGiT will keep developing. Sayag says: “We’re just starting to monetise the app so if you click to buy a ticket and go through the process, we get a commission on that. That’s one part of the monetisation, and we also work on the B2B side and are giving access to other businesses who want to offer this kind of content to their users. For example, if a magazine wants a things to do section, they can use WINGiT’s content on their site or app.”
As well as further monetising the app in 2016, Sayag is aiming to expand into more countries and grow WINGiT’s user base, he says: “We’re aiming to grow from 20 cities to 100 cities worldwide and from 300,000 users to one million users by end of the year.”
WINGiT is also dedicated to developing the app in users’ best interests. The company already runs monthly focus groups to determine what improvements need to be made and users are encouraged to give feedback on which cities they’d like to see next.
Sayag also speaks about the future of the app and developments they’re hoping to make. He says: “We’d like to learn something this year about meeting people through the app. You have a lot of apps that will connect you with people, like Tinder, but when it comes to a special event you’re going to, those apps don’t help so that’s where we see WINGiT going.”
The travel tech scene is booming and the next trend we’re likely to see is the advancement in aggregator apps that allow you to do more than one thing at a time. Sayag explains he is seeing great demand for this in the industry: “We see a lot of things coming up relating to aggregators of content and services. For example, when you travel you want one platform to help you do many things. Finding events is one thing but it could be booking flights and hotels too. This all points to aggregating content and services, becoming big in the travel tech scene.”
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”