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As the events and ticketing business has dried up, the founder of iTicket has started an alternative business much in demand right now.

With the downgrade to alert level 3 and loosening of restrictions, businesses such as cafes, takeaways and restaurants are now permitted to trade albeit via contactless means.

READ MORE:
Go NZ! Kiwi businesses rising to the Covid-19 challenge

This has come with a bout of anxiety for many, particularly cafe owners who, prior to lockdown, may not have had an online presence or platform in place to be able to facilitate transactions or delivery.

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This is where the concept of PickMeUp, created by the developers of iTicket, came about.

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Founder Reece Preston, who founded and has been managing director of iTicket for more than 16 years, said iTicket's revenue dried up overnight. From Friday, March 13 it had a wave of ticket cancellations and has spent the past month issuing refunds.

After that, Preston turned to developing a new platform to keep iTicket's team of 13 employed and busy during uncertain times. Its developers created PickMeUp, designed for cafes to be able to deliver their flat whites during lockdown, in just a week.

The online ordering system also has a built-in real time order tracker and went live two weeks ago with two businesses - Auckland cafe Demo Deli and Turkish restaurant Peninsula Kitchen - in a testing phase.

More businesses are going live on the platform this week.

"We essentially ran [it] as a pilot last week, as it was developed so fast I didn't want 100 stores on it overnight, because this is the type of thing that takes six months to build and test normally," Preston said.

"We've got a pipeline of between 30 and 40 [business] queries lined up."

PickMeUp operates similarly to UberEats, though with lower commission fees.

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Like with the ticketing business, it splits its commission fee between consumer and business. It charges a store on the platform a transaction fee of 2.5 per cent and the customer pays a 50c "PickMeUp fee" plus 3-5 per cent of their order.

For now it is only a pick up service, but Preston said it may move into delivery to challenge UberEats later down the track: "We've built it in a way to be scalable."

Preston anticipates that the recovery of the events business would be slow and it was not likely any festivals would be rescheduled in the months ahead. Theatre would likely be the first events to be rescheduled, but he said this was dependent on how long and when New Zealand moved to alert level 2 and 1.

"We'll start seeing events trickle back from whenever the alert level allows it but it won't be like the tap is turned back on like what it was. We went from 100 per cent business to nearly zero in the space of a week - or less.

"[The impacts] will be long haul, its definitely not short term. The events and entertainment industry is the first to be hit ... and it'll be the last to recover."

Preston said he believed support for the events and entertainment industry had been overlooked by the Government.

iTicket received $85,725.60 in wage subsidies for its 13 staff.

Biggest challenge? The speed at which we have had to pivot. We already had our existing business that we will continue albeit difficult times, so pivoting meant doing something else in an incredibly short time frame. We put the platform together in a week.

Biggest learning? The fact that we have built this system in such a short time frame has shown us that if you need to and are focused on something it is possible. This has shown us that if we just get stuck in, got a deadline and it's only one week, you can get it out the door.

One year from now our business will... be going gangbusters. Whilst this has been built out of a need for contactless ordering, I think it will remain in place for cafes and restaurants who never understood how to do e-commerce before [lockdown]. The way we built it is to stand on its own two feet almost, so while we've used a lot of the thinking and e-commerce experience from our iTicket world, it has been built to operate independently.

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Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website