You’ve just finished watching one of your favorite bands perform on stage, and are considering grabbing some food before heading to where the next performer you love is scheduled to play. You turn to see what your friends think of this plan, but realize you’ve lost track of the group you came with. Phone reception is poor, and the surrounding crowd of people number in the tens of thousands. Finding your friends could take hours.
If you attend music festivals with any regularity, there’s a good chance you’ve experienced this scenario yourself. Festiie aims to ensure that it never happens to you again.
Music Festivals are Getting Bigger
Festivals are becoming increasingly popular in the realm of live music, with larger and larger crowds arriving to watch their favorite artists perform together. In 2014 alone, over 32 million people across the U.S. attended at least one music festival.
Today, annual events like Coachella are growing in size to accommodate higher turnouts while additional festivals pop-up across the globe. This is especially true for electronic dance music (EDM) festivals, which have spread rapidly over recent years.
These daylong (and night long) events feature multiple artists to provide guests with a variety of musical performances. Because there’s such a range of genres and styles available, many music festivals appeal to a wide variety of audiences, making them fantastic outings for groups of friends. Couple this natural allure with the way marketers have been using social media channels to spread the word about festival details, and it isn’t hard to see why lately they’re becoming so popular.
However, as interest in these events grow, and crowds become denser in size, it is getting harder for attendees to keep track of their groups. When getting lost becomes a constant threat, having a good time becomes that much more difficult.
That’s where Festiie, the smart wristband designed to keep festival goers connected, will come into play. By the end of its development, the band aims to enhance every aspect of the festival going experience. To get a firsthand understanding of how Festiie works, we spoke with cousins and co-founders Desmond Beristain and Jared Alanis about the impressive story behind their upcoming wearables product.
Inspiration Behind Festiie: Never Lose your Friends Again
Festiie is an LA-based technology startup comprised of three members, though Desmond and Jared tend to introduce themselves as avid festival goers who both share a passion for EDM.
Jared: “I used to be in school for engineering, but I was also involved in music. I played drums in bands and things like that. But since my passion was always music, I liked going to festivals, which is where the idea for Festiie comes from. Going to festivals and having trouble finding my friends for years, and years, and years, and then finally deciding to put our things together to solve this problem.”
Desmond: “I started on the other end of the spectrum, never listened to EDM or went to festivals. I actually used to play pro basketball in the Philippines and Mexico. But then one day Jared said, ‘Come to this festival, Hard Summer 2015, it’ll blow your mind’ and it did. All the people, just feeling the energy that was there, I was like, ‘woah, what is this’?
“But we’d always lose somebody, which was concerning. I felt myself falling in love with the culture, with the festivals, but we were always losing friends. It was like drawing straws for ‘Which one of us will go missing for 6 hours’?”
Dealing with one frustration after another losing their friends, Desmond and Jared began brainstorming a solution. The two soon came up with the concept for Festiie, and then contacted the company’s soon-to-be third member and lead software engineer, Daniel Salehi, who at the age of 16 had developed a top-ranking budget management app for the blackberry Z10.
Desmond: “I called my friend Daniel and told him about the idea, asked if it was possible, and he said ‘I love it. If we find the solution, this can change the whole festival game and have a positive influence on the entire community. I’m in.’”
“From there we all decided, ‘Yeah, let’s go hard on this’, and that was about two-and-a-half years ago. But that’s just about us three, not the Festiie story. That’s a whole journey in itself.”
How Festiie Functions
Festiie is most simply described as an electronic wrist-worn compass that guides you to your friends, without requiring phone service. Jared often likens it to a walkie talkie when trying to clear away any confusion. “It transmits your location, and doesn’t require cell phone reception, wifi, or data to transmit.”
To use Festiie, a smartphone with internet is required to initially create an account and sync the device. But, as Desmond explains, once this is done Festiie will operate completely independently. “All the tech is in the band. So, if your phone dies, the band can still direct you.”
Festiie consists of an LED compass face that contains the device’s hardware, and a wristband which can be removed and interchanged. The interchangeable bands of the device are one of its highlighted features.
Desmond: “Festivals are about self-expression, which is why the interchangeable band attachments are customizable. This is something you’re going to be wearing, so we want to parallel Festiie with the self-expression of what you’d wear at a festival.”
Jared: “There are different types of festivals too, so we also want to be able to accommodate their different styles. For example, bands made of mala beads, which are more spiritual, you’ll see more at festivals like Coachella. Whereas for EDM lovers we’re coming out with candy style bands that are more colorful, and flashy, and light up.”
The smart band is powered by long-range radio frequency technology, allowing users to stay connected regardless of where they are. It also has a working distance of over one mile, making it just as useful for staying together at music festivals as it is for visiting amusement parks or hiking with others in the wilderness.
History of Festiie
Festiie was most recently showcased at CES 2019 in Las Vegas, where the product gathered the attention of consumer electronics professionals from around the world. Desmond and Jared expressed that they’d be excited by the opportunity to partner with somebody big in the industry to bring Festiie out faster, though the wristband has effectively sustained its own speedy momentum since going public in 2017.
Jared: “At first everybody we talked to, like our friends and co-workers, were really into the idea. But it wasn’t until about a year and half later that we put Festiie on social media. Our first video that showed it being used during a festival got, like, 1.3 million views in three days. We thought it must have been fake, how much attention we got. It became insane the next couple of days, and that’s how we knew the festival community really needed this.”
Desmond: “When we catapulted into the public eye, we realized two things. We learned that everyone wants this, and that everyone wants this now. We kind of freaked out. We didn’t expect that kind of turnout. We literally used songs from our favorite DJs in the video, and it got so big their managers hit us up telling us we didn’t ask for permission, asking to take it down.”
“It was an extremely positive response. I think literally having just a video of us using a device, with that raw authentic look and real-world application, is what really made a connection with our audience. So, we were really excited, and at the same time, we realized we really had to make this happen.”
But starting Festiie from the ground up was not an easy process for the team, to say the least. It required a heavy time commitment on everyone’s part, on top of the time spent working to fund the project.
Desmond: “You learn so much during the process. In the beginning, we thought, ‘Oh yeah, three months and we’ll be everywhere!’ But you learn, and you grow. Going into the development stage, you see everything takes time, you see you need funding, and during the first two years us three founders funded the whole thing with our paychecks.”
Jared: “I was working at Disneyland at the time—I was a cook there for 8 years—and was able to interview a lot of guests in my spare time about Festiie. I’d ask people on fieldtrips what they’d want from such a product at the amusement park. That was an awesome way to get responses. That’s where we realized kids and parents could use this too.”
Desmond: “It’s been a lot of work, but I don’t know, when you find something you really believe in, you’re going to give it your all.”
Current State of Festiie
While Festiie promises a versatile range of applications, currently the team is focusing on features that enhance the festival scene for its users.
Already included in Festiie’s design is an emergency location system. If somebody is passed out, or needs medical attention, the band can be switched to medical mode and alert event staff to your location right away.
Jared: “Finding someone in a crisis could take 10 minutes, and every minute counts. In the future, we’d like to add more features, like heat sensors and a heart rate monitoring system to grab data on which epic moments were the most exhilarating for you!”
The smart band will also integrate social media inspired features, such as allowing festival goers to exchange information with other Festiie users by simply tapping their devices together.
Desmond: “The goal is to make Festiie the ultimate festival smart band. We’re starting with ‘Find your friends and no service needed’. Very simple. But in the future, the plan is to have it act as your ticket to the festival as well. We want people to scan it, purchase event tickets with it, and even allow event organizers to send notifications to the smart bands. On the user side, we want to have private groups and preloaded messages you can send, like ‘come to this meetup spot’ or ‘on my way’.”
Jared: “Once we get into the actual product, we would love people to use it for anything; from mountain climbing or skiing, to keeping tabs on pets or kids. But right now we kind of want our features and extra perks to be oriented toward festival goers, leading them to water stations, bathrooms and that stuff.
“After we get into that market, we want to branch out to others as well. But for now, we’re focused on festivals. We’re really passionate about that community, and really want to give something back.”
When will Festiie be Released?
When asked when the smart band will be available for general purchase, both co-founders expressed that they want to make sure they don’t rush ahead of themselves.
Desmond: “We want Festiie to be a satellite, rather than a rocket. You see many companies go up and come back down, but we want to go up there and stay up there. There is a ton of hype behind Festiie, and we want to make sure the next time we hype the product is when it is ready for launch!
“2020 is when we hope to have it officially out. Beta testing is this year, and we’re scaling up to meet mass orders. We may try crowdfunding, and we have pre-orders to get Festiie out there faster. If we can get the attention of someone big in the space to work with us, I feel like that would open a lot of doors and expedite things. But it’s a process, and we want to do our due diligence on the matter.”
Jared: “I do want to emphasize, we get that question every day. A lot of people are asking whether Festiie is out before this date, or that date.
“We want people to know this is our passion. We are extremely grateful of the support and response we’ve received from the festival community, but we do want people to have a little patience. We’re doing a lot of this on our own, putting in the hours on our own, but we’re working hard to do this for the festival community. We saw a legit problem, and are working to get this out as soon as possible. –we are coming!”