Some things in life need to be spelled out very simply before they have any impact. Like learning how to say the name of new business ‘Qumpit,’ a digital startup that aims to provide a physical queuing experience online.
Pronounced ‘Kwump-it,’ and invoking lecherous old British comedians running around after lingerie clad women in fast forward (Read: “Come here you saucy little…”), it is the brainchild of brothers Ben and Jonathon Flavel, and “brother by another mother” Jay Beavis.
The best way to explain Qumpit is by hearing from its creators.
Jay says, “It’s like camping out for tickets…but instead of sleeping bags and cold nights, commitment is measured by having queuers check in [online] at a time of their choosing each day and then asking them their opinion on something to maintain their place.”
The idea for Qumpit was in part born out of the ashes of, well, The Ashes. The iconic sporting event drives many to distraction before it has even begun each year, as it relies on a ‘deli system’ online queue to sell tickets to the public upon release.
Inevitably, with the extraordinary traffic, the system crashes.
In 2005, while watching the spinning wheel of doom spin interminably away for 12-hours before crashing at a vital moment, Jonathon (Jono), now 31, thought that there simply must be a better way. “That’s what we’re targeting with Qumpit. We want to make access to things people really want easier and more fair.”
Desire for the product
“There have been plenty of times when I wished Qumpit was already out there,” Ben, the older of the two brothers at 34, continues. “But there’s no solution yet…you don’t know where you are in the queue. Whereas in the real world you do; you can see who’s in front and how far to the ticket box. We’re simply trying to recreate that queuing experience you have in the physical world, online.”
The next step for the trio, after agreeing they’d all lost sleep, hair and possibly a keyboard/mouse or two at the cruel turn of the spinning wheel, was to look at the values inherent in a physical queue so that they could replicate it in an online environment.
“The whole culture of being in a queue is being with people and having respect for the person in front of you because they got there before you,” Jay says. “The only way to replicate that online – which is so impersonal in comparison – is to make it a social process.”
How it works
The social engagement with Qumpit begins when queuers, or ‘qumpers’ are asked to choose their ‘Q-Up’ time; the only catch is they must check back the following day at that time. They might also be asked to complete an opinion-based task or question to hold their place. If caught napping, they may be “qumped”, Jay says, pronouncing it ‘kwumped’ of course.
“It’s only fair,” Ben says, shrugging.
This segues perfectly into the trio’s founding principle. “The biggest asset that we’ve got and the only reason that people will queue up online at Qumpit is because it’s a transparent process and a fair one,” Ben says.
The page, titled ‘How does Qumpit make money?’ explains that the website sells users’ opinions to companies who benefit from the market research and that client organisations may also be charged a fee for posting incentives.
“We felt that it was fair that we explain what we’re going to do with that data,” Jono says. “People are savvy these days anyway; they know their opinions are currency.”
Survey questions so far have included simply ‘Popcorn or Choc-Top?’ in a queue for free two-year Palace Cinemas Memberships. Questions are flippant and phrased in a casual way, but are actually cleverly targeted product spots, with a payoff for the advertiser who reaps the data gathered.
Division of labour within the team is clearly split three ways.
“Jay looks after the system, he’s building the ‘Qumpiverse’, so he’s like God,” Ben says.
“I’m dealing with the clients,” Ben resumes. “I develop our strategic alignments with them and finding where the next queues are going to come from.”
The trio are bootstrapping the startup themselves, which, Ben says “means that we can only focus on what’s important at each stage of the process.”
While several major investors have shown initial interest and gone as far as to arrange meetings, a range of factors – from “hating the name”, to wanting to hang back until Qumpit has over 1,000 regular users – have seen them cool on being first in the queue to back the idea.
The main conceptual barrier to entry seems to be behavioural.
“People don’t like a process they’ve never had to do before. They’ve never had to go into something every day and repeat a process to be in a queue for something they want. Other people love it,” Jay says.
Ben puts a philosophical spin on things. “We just need more passionate supporters than there are detractors and we’re getting overwhelming support early, and we’re only in Beta Mode.”
Much ado about ‘qumping’
Another string to the innovative trio’s bow is the fact that Qumpit is powered by self-made software called ‘eQueue.’ “Qumpit is the first rendition of what eQueue can power. We’ve got other wait-lists that we’ll eventually run on eQueue. Plans are afoot to white label the software in the Government Sector, among others.”
In the meantime, the air in the Qumpit camp is charged with a sense of controlled urgency. Even as the team unwinds after an idea-feulled board meeting, which has included an update from their IT team, busy at work on the Qumpit ‘app’ for smartphones, the presence of the online queuing system is never far away.
Literally. It’s in fact right under their beers, in the form of a square cardboard Qumpit coaster that the trio take to pubs as a rule, to help “start the kwumpersation”. “See,” Jono says, holding one up. “We’re not cutting any corners here mate!”
He continues, “We reached a point a few months ago where we realised as a group that huge progress in online queuing technology and culture is going to happen, whether it’s us or somebody else.
Physical queues will diminish as more and more purchases are made online. The choices were that we could come up with it now and be in control of it or wait and watch somebody else do it in two, maybe three years. It reached a point where it was more risky not to do it, than to do it.”
Passion, humour and self-belief are all in evidence here. Will there be much ado about ‘kwumping’? Ben certainly thinks so.
Andrew McUtchen is a freelance journalist and owner of marketing consultancy ‘Story Matters Most’