Communications Feature — 27 February 2019

Q&A with David Hockley, CEO of Picsolve, discusses what it’s like to run one of the leading technology companies in the attractions industry and how to adapt to market trends

Q: What does Picsolve do and what is the history of the company?

We capture the moments that people can’t capture themselves at some of the world’s best destinations, including theme parks, attractions, luxury casinos and more. This includes our ride technology that captures ‘in the moment’ photos on some of the scariest rides and our new Super Selfie, which creates unique video content by combining an attraction’s iconic backdrop with a selfie.

 

David Hockley CEO of Picsolve

We were founded in Derby 1994 and are currently in our 25th year. We’ve grown to be number one in the world with offices in London, Orlando, Dubai and Hong Kong and now operate with over 140 destinations across 19 countries. Our partners include Caesars Entertainments in Las Vegas, Dubai Parks & Resorts in Dubai and Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Orlando. We have several partners across the midlands as well including Alton Towers Resort, Drayton Manor Park and Cadbury World.

Q: What have been Picsolve’s biggest milestones over its history?

We’ve had some fantastic achievements over our 25-year history, especially when it comes to innovating new capture experiences. Our earliest milestone would be putting our first ride capture camera on a rollercoaster in 1994 as well as our first Green Screen installation in 1997.

We’ve had some great business growth milestones as well. 2017 saw us undertake the strategic acquisition of Freeze Frame, one of the USA’s market leaders at the time. A year after the acquisition, we doubled our number of US partners, allowing us to expand into new markets including observation decks and casinos. Our most recent milestone is our strategic partnership with a Brussels based start-up company called Panora.me – the brains behind our new Super Selfie content capture technology.

Q: How has the industry you serve changed and how have you adapted to these changes?

Like almost every industry, technology has transformed the customer experience and consequently, the way businesses operate as well. Attractions have been revolutionised by visitors using social media and their smartphones more and more. To ensure we are ahead of the curve and exceed consumer expectations, we are focused on finding new and innovative ways of capturing the moments visitor can’t capture themselves.

We are also focused on delivering these captured moments to the customer in convenient ways that fit their lifestyle. Our digital platform ensures we can deliver photos and videos to customer’s smartphones ready to share, as well as offering premium printed products for those who still want a tangible souvenir of their day.

Q: What are the biggest trends you are seeing within the attractions industry?

Every year we see new developments that are designed to create even more immersive experiences. For example, intellectual property (IP)-led sites such as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort, allows IP owners to bring their characters and fictional universe to life.

I expect to see growth in the use of artificial intelligence within the industry too, through technologies such as smarter virtual assistants, to the use of big data to provide more personalised experiences and offers to visitors. For example, Disney’s accelerator programme includes many companies already investigating in the power of AI technologies. Afterall, Disney has been experimenting with animatronic figures for years, so as AI develops, I expect to see this technology combined to create even richer interactive experiences.

Q: What advice can you share having been through an M&A and acquiring a competitor?

Transparency is key. Staff need to be aligned and understand the company’s vision. Entering a partnership with another market leader is a huge, positive step but it’s important that employees and customers are taken on the journey with you. Cultural integration should be a priority, as an unhappy workforce or malicious gossip could derail a seamless acquisition. Communicate with your employees giving them as much information that is necessary and ensure they understand the opportunities that will be open to them as a result of your new position in the marketplace.

Q: Where do you see the growth opportunities in the industry?

The Asia market is certainly one area that is rife with opportunity. Last year in China, the industry was expected to top $1.5 billion. Asia is home to some of the biggest and most innovative tech companies, and the market has been responsible for creating consumer experiences that have never been witnessed before. For example, last year China opened its first artificial intelligence theme park to the public.

We’ve made great strides in both the Asia Pacific and US regions and anticipate a 33% geographic split in our revenues across Europe, US and Asia Pacific region within three years.

To foster this growth and draw in local talent, we have our Global Academy, which aids in development of employee skills. As such, we’ve seen several grassroots applicants rise steadily to senior management positions over the years by creating an environment that fosters their talents.

Q: What have been the main challenges of expanding globally?

One of the main challenges for any company setting its sights on global expansion, is the uncertainty of entering a new market. Local competition, regulations and customer demand are all factors that need to be considered as well as ensuring you have the right expertise that understand the marketplace, cultural differences and the language.

To tackle this, I’d recommend undertaking detailed research and analysis of your target market and getting the right team behind you. The key to our global success has been Picsolve’s regional management structure and focus on developing talent. This has enabled leaders best suited to the market to head up our offices in the US and Asia-Pacific regions.

Q: What can other businesses learn from your challenge of remaining competitive in an industry impacted by social media?

The obsession with the selfie is evident throughout the world and according to research the average millennial will take around 25,700 selfies during their lifetime. As a result, destinations around the world have had to adapt to improve the overall experience for their visitors. We are helping them do this.

A popular choice amongst our partners is our interactive green-screen technology which ensures visitors leave a destination with content that they’d never be able to capture themselves. Another partner, Madame Tussauds, has even incorporated the selfie queen Kim Kardashian into its London attraction. The waxwork model has an outstretched arm and visitors can pose with her.

My advice to other businesses is ensure you pay close attention to the upcoming trends so that you can align your products and services where necessary and ensure you can take advantage of the opportunities that will arise.

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