“Innovation means improving life through the use of technology. I do not consider myself an innovator, but just someone who follows their dreams and passions”
This is exactly the secret behind the success of ufirst, the free app that queues for you. It all started with an intuition for young Italian entrepreneur Roberto Macina, who in 2010 founded the startup Qurami to launch the app. Also thanks to the collaboration with Enel, the project has grown and the startup has now been acquired by ufirst: although with a new name and extended range of action, the core idea is still the same. “It is a unique moment for our company: our hard work has finally been recognised!” exclaims a very happy Macina. This is their story.
At the doctor’s office, the bank, the supermarket
How many times have we wasted time waiting for the doctor, for a ticket, or for a table in a restaurant? Who doesn’t resent having to queue when they could be doing something more useful? This is precisely the need ufirst was developed to meet. As Macina explains, “When I was student, I spent a lot of time in the student office, wasting many precious minutes. So I thought, why can’t I just queue from my smartphone? This was ufirst’s beginning”.
So, what exactly is ufirst? Macina explains: “It is a free mobile app, available for iOS and Android devices, which enables users to join a queue remotely using their smartphone”. The foundation is a backend software that can communicate with clients’ queue management system, reserve a spot in line or book an appointment. “Also, the system knows how many people are queuing, so the app can notify users in real time when their turn is approaching,” adds Macina.
What is particularly impressive about ufirst is that it can be used anywhere: hospitals, universities, city halls, banks, shops, public offices. Everywhere. And with the pandemic imposing social distancing on us, the situations in which this tool is incredibly useful have increased, especially in supermarkets. According to Macina, the startup’s target is “certainly composed of users who want to use technology to improve their everyday life”. With more than 700,000 downloads and around 400,000 users, they have 90% of their clients in Italy, but are beginning to find users in other countries in Europe and Latin America as well.
The recipe for success
The startup had already grown remarkably before ufirst came into the picture. Perseverance, hard work and good ideas are all important ingredients in the recipe. Also, part of this improvement has been achieved thanks to the Enel Group, as we have supported Qurami and introduced the app in all of Enel's activities and shops in Italy. “Including all Enel shops in the Qurami network is no small feat for a young company like ours, both in Italy and abroad,” declares Macina.
The co-founder tells the story of how the collaboration began: “We met Enel’s CEO Francesco Starace and the Chief Innovability Officer Ernesto Ciorra at an event in Rome, where we had the opportunity to pitch our idea to them. Now we are working with Nicola Lanzetta, Head of Italy Market at Enel, to make sure that most of Enel’s customers are aware of ufirst and of the benefits it provides, and to apply our technology to the other Enel companies around the world”. Macina also highlights the importance of the passion and methodology people working for Enel have, saying that “it is like a giant startup that loves startups”.
Compared to Qurami’s original version, ufirst also offers premium services in the leisure, business travel and tourism sectors. The goal is “to build a single platform to access services that simplify everyday life in the city: from virtual queuing in hospitals to fast tracks at airports”. But Macina is not thinking about stopping here: “Now we have to work even harder in order to reach very ambitious targets!”. So next time you are waiting in line and starting to get stressed, remember that ufirst can help!