“Why the hell would you want to sell your share of the Sub Club?", is a question I’m often asked. The simple answer is, for a change. A change is as good as a rest and change can be really good.
I’m Paul Crawford, and I was promoter, barman, assistant manager, PR manager, licensee and, ultimately co-owner of the Sub Club in Glasgow from 1991 to 2012. Marketing and promoting the Sub Club were primarily my responsibilities, although unblocking toilets, collecting glasses and serving punters were also thrown into the mix.
My other roles over the years have included programming music for Bacardi at T in the Park for over 10 years and co-promoting The Wee Chill. From 2004 to 2010 - along with my partner at the Sub, Mike Grieve - we were responsible for bringing back to life MacSorleys Bar on Jamaica St after a decade of decline. In 2015, I launched the pop-up Panther Milk Bar along with Fergus McVicar at Tabac (which is still selling the infamous Leche De Pantera 2 years on!) and in the next month, myself, Fergus, Harri of Sub Club fame and Optimo boys Jonnie Wilkes and JD Twitch, are about to launch a vinyl lover’s dream bar in the West End of Glasgow (so the old Sopranos line, “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in”, very much applies).
What keeps drawing me back to opening new venues? I have found it’s people: meeting interesting creative people, working with creative people… the social aspect of the trade is what hooks you in and is difficult to ever leave completely. I was involved for 21 years in the Sub Club, primarily focused on promoting and marketing the venue over that period as well as music programming. I think when you do anything for so long you seek new challenges. Like any business, sometimes you get bogged down in the not so attractive aspects. I really just felt I needed a new challenge.
It was after bumping into Sub Club regular Brian Hughes in the Brunswick Hotel that my present journey into technology began…
When we came up with the idea of distributing content via WiFi, the hospitality sector seemed the right place to start. With Scotland’s hospitality sector going through somewhat of a Renaissance with new and exciting bars and restaurants raising the bar, it’s the marriage of technology and hospitality - and how we can use technology to make the life of the operator easier to manage - that really gets me going. We wanted to develop a way in which operators can connect with their community, and deliver information about what is happening in their venue, in a non-intrusive way.
In two recent VisitScotland surveys, one the things letting down Scotland badly is poor wifi; yet it remains in the top 5 things visitors look for when deciding to go somewhere. It wasn’t only for tourists that we looked at all Public WiFi (and all the things that really annoyed us about it): we really wanted to change things. We wanted to make the experience of using wifi painless for customers and beneficial for operators, and that is when the Swipe to Connect function was born.
The KILTR WiFi network was officially launched in Glasgow’s hospitality trade in November 2016 (with the help of Graham Suttle at Kained, Colin and Josh Barr at the Bier Halle and Fergus McVicar at Chinaskis) and is continuing to grow and spread throughout Scotland with deployments now in Edinburgh, Oban, Inverness, and soon-to-be Aberdeen and Dundee. We employ 4 developers, a designer, an account manager, a Project Manager and have a CTO, CEO, CFO, Exec Chairman and myself all pulling the company along. In 2016 we were part of a winning consortium for a £10 Million IoT project in Manchester - named City Verve - which will help us open up the global market to our software.
Now in my 5th year with the company as Sales and Marketing Director, my learning curve has been steep to say the least. My first task in this role was to look at the brand and how we could gain new users, and doing events like Street FEASTIVAL (Scotland’s first ever Street Food Festival) at the BAaD Centre certainly helped establish the brand locally.
When you are innovating around a new product and a new way of doing things it’s difficult to help people 'get’ what it is you are doing or trying to do. Luckily, because of my contacts in the trade, I already had good relationships with key people who have supported me and the product. We now have over 60 deployments, and so the “trust’ aspect grows when people see the product in action and can see the credible venues that have it.
KILTR WiFi is essentially a marketing tool that can be used by operators and brands alike to reach and engage with their customers through content.
The success of the system, and the traction it has gained, comes from simple user experience. No password or intrusive data registration is required to connect to the public wifi; instead the user swipes past content cards that automatically pop up when the customer seeks the venues wifi. The customer does not mind consuming content relevant to where they are and it’s completely measurable so the operator will know exactly how many people have viewed their “digital flyer’ by the amount of connections to the wifi. This is backed up by the analytics below. The operator can change these ‘digital flyers’ at anytime by simply posting to their KILTR profile or editing existing posts.
Pub chain J.D. Wetherspoon has deleted its entire email mailing list and says it will stop sending newsletters via email. The unexpected move was announced on Friday June 23 in an email from chief executive John Hutson.
“Many companies use email to promote themselves, but we don't want to take this approach – which many consider intrusive,” Hutson wrote to subscribers. “Our database of customers’ email addresses, including yours, will be deleted.”
So why have Wetherspoons done this? It seems a remarkably ethical and nice thing for them to do...
According to their CEO many of their customers find email marketing “intrusive”. Really? Whilst this may be true to some extent is this the real motivation for the monster to become all cuddly? It might have something to do with the fact that in June 2015 the company suffered a data breach in which over 650,000 of their customers details were hacked from their data base. With the new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) looming in 2018 much more stringent penalties await companies who leave open to hackers customers personal details. So any company that stores customer details will have to be GDPR compliant or face the consequences. Unlike nearly all our competitors KILTR WiFi does not collect any personal details in exchange for access to public WiFi.
So what advice would I give to someone starting a business in Scotland or in Scottish hospitality? Know your product and know your market, and if you’re confident in both, then go for it. Look at the best operators in the trade and learn from them. Set your standards high and just try to do the best you can. Travel is always good to see new things and stimulate creativity so go to London, New York, Paris, Barcelona, wherever but try and experience new things.