PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES
In a world that is constantly changing and where technologies are emerging at record pace; Frontgrid is front and centre of this transformation, disrupting, changing and growing the industry with its clients across a range of retail and lifestyle locations. Here, RLI sits down with Co-Founder and Chief Executive Matt Wells to discuss how the company has evolved since its inception in 2015.
Founded by business partners Matt Wells and David Wood, Frontgrid and their creation ParadropVR™ is the result of the two of them seeing the rapid development of virtual reality as an opportunity to allow millions of people to experience the types of thrilling, adrenaline-fuelled adventures they had both been fortunate enough to enjoy in the past.
“Experiences such as paragliding, nobody else in the immersive entertainment business seemed to be focusing on delivering adventurous experiences, even though adventure was and still is one of the fastest-growing segments within the leisure market,” explains Matt Wells, Co-Founder and Chief Executive of Frontgrid. “After an intense period of research and development, we launched our first attraction, ParadropVR™ in 2017 to fill that gap – and we haven’t looked back since.”
Since the launch of the first ParadropVR™ experience in Denmark, the attraction has been installed by clients in eight countries around the globe and the business is proud to be working with world-leading leisure brands including RW Genting in Malaysia, Landmark Group in India, Alshaya International in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Emaar Entertainments in the UAE, Kingpower in Thailand and iFLY in the UK.
Despite a challenging year, the key objectives for the company remain the same and these are to deliver an outstanding experience for ParadropVR™ guests and an unrivalled service for operators.
An international concept with global appeal, they have a number of different games and players can choose to fly over mountains, deserts, a city or even the moon. However if operators want to adapt to their local environment, they can do that too.
“That’s what King Power did at the Mahanakhon in Bangkok for example – we created a Bangkok City Flyer experience, which was a finalist for Best Leisure Concept at the MAPIC Awards last year,” explains Wells.
Both Wells and Wood realised that the pandemic was causing an acceleration of existing trends, such as the shift to digital entertainment, and the decline of physical retail. They realised that they were in for a bumpy few months from a sales perspective and that their business is perfectly positioned to help real estate owners take advantage of those shifts, so they quickly focused on refining their product and offer.
“I’m really pleased that we are now in a position to operate attractions as well as supply, meaning we can now offer greater flexibility in the way we work with retail and leisure operators in particular,” comments Wells.
In terms of new openings, the company launched a new attraction last month with Alshaya at the Red Sea Mall in Jeddah within the TEKZONE entertainment zone. Meanwhile next year they will, once again in partnership with Alshaya, be opening an attraction at the forthcoming Dubai Hills development.
Reflecting on this past year, Wells explains that instead of being quiet throughout 2020, they have instead utilised the time to double-down on product development whilst investing a lot in their technology, including their e-sports and events app. “We see this as a realty important part of our offer moving forward – allowing operators to amplify the ParadropVR™ experience and using it as a tool to drive foot traffic and engagement. Innovation is the heart of what we do, so expect big things next year.”
This work on their e-sports and events app is an example of how they continue to work on their creative vision and entrepreneurial flair to maintain their niche position in the leisure and entertainment market. Wells says that continuing to do this begins with their excellent team that are their eyes and ears, in terms of both keeping-up-to-date with what’s happening in the wider market but also listening to feedback from operators and guests. In terms of developing new attractions – they feel it is always about striking the correct balance between delivering cutting-edge immersive experiences and developing a product which delivers the right commercial results for operators. “Most importantly, we believe that the guest experience isn’t just about what happens while you are in the seat. Offering a turnkey package makes it easier for us to help clients get the best possible results from their installation, especially those who are integrating immersive entertainment for the first time,” explains Wells.
Frontgrid are quickly realising the importance of social media, and particularly how pivotal it can be to a company of this nature. Their creations are social-media-friendly experiences and people love to watch and take photos and videos to share with their friends. With this in mind, they have added social media sharing to the ParadropVR™ e-sports and events app to make the most of social media’s marketing possibilities.
First and foremost, Wells considers innovation to be a key driver in the quick success the company has had. They offer something without comparison on the market, delivering an incredibly life-like flying experience, without the motion sickness associated with many VR experiences. Secondly, they focus on the guest experience and creating something they will love and finally, they deliver a really high level of service to their clients. “Without this, we would never have built such a strong reputation or been able to work with internationally-respected brands.”
Looking ahead, Wells is feeling positive for both Frontgrid and the industry as a whole. “The greatest challenge for our company is people not being able to travel. I’m sure by this time next year, the leisure and entertainment industry will be in a very different position. Of course there are challenges and risks, but overall I think there will be a lot of pent-up demand for unique entertainment experiences.”