Zachary Klima ’12 was standing in line to use the restroom at a Detroit Red Wings game when he heard the crowd erupt with cheers, indicating that the Wings had scored the game-winning goal.
“If only,” he thought, “there were a way to know how long the lines were, I might not have missed that goal.”
That was in 2012 and it was one of those proverbial lightbulb moments that lead to innovations and new discoveries. For Klima, it led away from his full-time job and into the world of technology startups.
WaitTime, which entertainment venues use to let fans know how long they’d have to wait in line at restrooms or concessions, is the result.
“I started my research and found that there was nothing like this in use anywhere, so I saw the opportunity and followed it,” he said.
Klima, who earned a Master’s of Architecture degree at Detroit Mercy, took advantage of the network he built up through his position in architectural sales and discovered there was a market for his idea and founded WaitTime. Less than a year later, he found himself one of five budding entrepreneurs chosen out of 5,000 to participate in Dan Gilbert’s Bizdom U, the Detroit-based incubator that provides mentorship, training and seed money, all in the interest of fostering new business and job growth in Detroit.
Klima hired a software developer who created a way to track the interior traffic of people at a venue and perform a real-time analysis of the movement. It works like this: The venue installs cameras anywhere people line up and runs it though the software which then displays the data on digital monitors at the venue and on a team’s mobile app. Detroit-area fans may be familiar with this from the Palace, which used the system during events.
He calls what drives WaitTime an artificial intelligence building system technology and while it’s beneficial to those looking for the shortest line to grab beer or a corndog, it’s also useful to the entertainment venues, Klima says.
“The people who manage these venues have a human behavioral data set that shows them what exactly happens in the arena,” Klima said. “It’s gold to them because they’ve really never had a pulse on the way people behave in their arena.”
WaitTime has propelled Klima into the international technology stage and his company’s 30 investors include people like basketball great Michael Jordan. Klima is also garnering attention locally —in 2016, he was named to Crain’s Detroit Business’ 40 Under 40 list of young people making a difference.
Currently seven stadiums in the United States, including those for the Buffalo Sabers, Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat and the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia use WaitTime. Klima says he’s working with other tech giants to ensure everything is in place to properly scale the technology globally.
“You only get one shot to do that, and you want to do it right,” he said.
For more information on WaitTime, visit thewaittimes.com.