Queues takes the waiting out of lines

You’re starving and you’re going to be late for your exam unless you grab food quickly. The problem? It’s 11:45 a.m. It’s the busiest time of day at the Student Center. All the lines for restaurants are huge. Which one is the quickest?

There is a solution. You grab your phone and open Queues, an app that tells you wait times for all dining locations on campus. Now you don’t have waste your time in line – instead you get to make sure you’re fed before taking your exam.

Queues was created by Samuel Porta, a third-year Computer Science student from New Zealand. Porta has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. He started his first business selling candy on the school bus after seeing that his classmates were hungry on the way home at the end of the day. “I would find a problem and fix it.” Coming to Georgia Tech was his opportunity to create something bigger that would solve a problem.

Porta took the Startup Ideas course Fall of 2017, took Idea to Prototype Spring 2018, and was admitted into the CREATE-X Startup Launch program as a freshman for the summer of 2018. Every Tuesday he would meet with coaches and provide a weekly progress report and in turn receive feedback.

During the week, his team spent hours at the Georgia Tech Police Department (GTPD) looking at footage of students waiting in line at dining locations on campus to figure out wait times. They realized a few obstacles:

  1. It takes too much time to filter through all the footage.
  2. The wait times during the summer are drastically different than wait times in the fall and spring semesters.

The data collection process was too labor intensive and subject to change based on term, weather, day of the week, exam schedules, etc. They began looking into alternatives to collecting data for determining wait times.

Queues figured out that the best way to provide accurate wait times was by crowdsourcing the information. By adding an iPad with a few buttons to indicate how long you waited in line at the beginning of the line, Queues would have much more data to work with. Adding buttons to every dining location would not have been possible without a contract with the Georgia Tech Dining provider.

At the same time, the team also shifted their revenue model and focused on receiving money from the users of the app versus relying on consumers to pay for Queues. Queues learned through customer discover that providing wait times to consumers is a convenience and it is not something they absolutely need and would be willing to pay a premium for.

Queues started negotiations with Georgia Tech dining services. Porta took initiative to give a call and ask for the person in charge. With his passion, respect, and gratitude he was able to speak to the person in charge and began negotiations. But they were soon faced with another obstacle – the food services vendor changed during negotiations, slowing the process down considerably.  Typically, with contract negotiations, the general word of advice is if it takes longer than six months, it’s not going to happen, and it is not worth pursuing. But Porta was persistent. His negotiation with Georgia Tech lasted more than a year. If he hadn’t been, then Queues would have folded.  

After Startup Launch Porta decided to pursue Queues full time for a semester. “I was excited about Startup Launch and motivated by the energy of the program. I continued app development, figured out our first customer and how to deploy [Queues].” In spring of 2019, he returned to be a part-time student and part-time CEO of Queues.

Since last summer, the team has expanded from two team members to five. Porta found employees through WRECK camp, an Idea to Prototype event, a reddit post for android developers, and an old friend that took classes with him.

Queues currently has 100 users that provide feedback and they hope to have a few thousand testers and users by the end of the Spring 2020 semester.

Queues is now up and running on campus. So, what now?

“We are doing a trial period with the food service provider on campus,” said Porta. “If all goes well, the vendor already has other sites identified to deploy Queues.”

Porta reflects on his time in CREATE-X.

“The most important lesson from Startup Launch is learning to think differently about startups,” said Porta. “Startups are generally portrayed as ‘you have this great idea and then you immediately create a solution and it is perfect.’ That everyone will become the next Facebook or Microsoft. That’s how the stories are told and immortalized. But of course, it misses all the actual learning that happens along the way.”

Queues is now looking for someone with experience in Firebase or databases and data processing. If you are interested, please contact Samuel Porta at samrossporta@gatech.edu. You can download Queues now for both Android and iOS and visit their website.

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