Featured Startup: Venue Intelligence

zWORKS startup offers high-tech answer to event emergencies

It might be a marathon, it might be a concert or it might even be election day. One zWORKS founder wants to make sure events like these are as safe as possible.

Whether it’s as dramatic as a shooting or hurricane, or as simple as a power outage or verbal altercation, President and Founder of Venue Intelligence, Jim Martin, wants people to feel safe, and know the answer to “what to do if…”

Emergency planning is a top-of-mind issue for event managers and venue owners worldwide, and increasingly, that awareness isn’t limited to just the paid professionals.

“Whether that’s at your local vacation bible school, farmers market or sports league, accidents can and do happen,” Martin said. “The duty of care has changed for organizers and there’s a clear assumption being made by customers, fans, guests & visitors, (as well as sponsors, insurers & board of directors) that someone has a plan.

“Sometimes, that’s simply not the case or there are plans, but they’re not readily accessible. Regardless of how much training has been done, that’s a major problem for staff, volunteers and first responders” he said. “Our goal is to ensure those plans are always in the pocket of key stakeholders, regardless of the event or venue size.”

Martin said he first got the idea when he was at a meeting between first responders and mall officials when he worked with Simon Property Group. They played a tape of a store manager who was killed while describing an active shooter situation.

“When you listen to a 911 recording, you begin to appreciate how long 3-4 minutes feels while you’re waiting for them to respond, and it could easily be longer than that, depending on the venue or event,” he said. “Whether you’re a chaperone, coach or the volunteer-in-charge, you need to know exactly what to do until first responders arrive. When someone needs an AED, for example, you need to know where it is and get it on the victim in 3 minutes. Looking around for that equipment, flipping through a binder or trying to call someone who might know is a 20th century approach to a 21st century problem. We can do better.”

Venue Intelligence provides technology tools to a wide diversity of venue owners and event managers including an organizational & communications app, security assessments and mobile Wi-Fi.

The Playbook app is their flagship service, built in partnership with DeveloperTown. Not only is it a file organizer for emergency plans and safety procedures but it also provides event plans, maps and contacts, as well as planning templates to help you get started.

“In the case of the store manager shooting, I’m not about to suggest that having Playbook would have saved her life. But I think it’s increasingly unacceptable and frankly, illogical to not have safety & security information easily available to your team if you claim to have a plan. It should be in the hands of the people that can make a difference when unexpected or unplanned event occurs, not in a credenza. ”

Playbook provides unique features like a search feature and being available in airplane mode. He said it’s important to know Playbook works offline given the size of venues & impact that large events often have on connectivity.

One of Martin’s favorite stories was during the Playbook beta test in 2014 at the Big 10 Championship between Iowa and Michigan State. A Hawkeye fan asked a police officer about the shrimp-eating contest and he pulled up Playbook to reference the time and place of the contest, much to the delight of the fan. That’s not normally a level of detail that an officer would have. He typically would have pointed the fan to the nearest information booth.

“As an event coordinator, that’s what you want from an omni-channel marketing perspective,” he said. “Law Enforcement can be part of your marketing effort. Conversely, volunteers can be part of public safety. They’re either an asset or a liability. Playbook gets the marketing and security team on the same page, and historically, that’s been far from the norm. As an example, The Boston Marathon bombing was the catalyst for changing that dynamic in the running industry. It’s now very much a partnership.”

Martin has been building his client-base ranging from USA Track and Field to Downtown Indy, Inc. , to the Monumental Marathon and Kiwanis. He said the exciting part for the future is seeing the clients realize Playbook’s value and using it at more of their events as a communication hub, as well as the library of templates they have been able to build over time.

“It’s about being able to positively effect outcomes,” Martin said. “Because I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it play out where if you had it in your pocket, it made a difference in the outcome.”

To contact Jim Martin, email jim@venueintel.com or check out the Venue Intelligence website.


Getting to know Jim…


Jim was one hiring freeze away from driving the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile out of college.

Behind the Scenes

If you catch the Carmel High School show choir scene, he’ll be making a surprise appearance in a show before the end of the year.