This is a guest post by CEO Lynne King Smith.
Let the ruckus begin. That’s what I sent over to a fellow ticketing CEO yesterday after hearing that the third SF-based, self-service ticketing company got a chunk of venture capital; this time it’s Vendini and $20M. That’s round one, and if it’s anything like the last two, there will be more. We honestly congratulate CEO Mark Tacchi, but we’ll miss you over here in the organic side of ticketing.
I get emails all the time wanting me to be happy about people throwing venture cap into the ticketing industry. And I’m never sure whether to congratulate them, or call the capitalists and tell them what I know and love about ticketing.
Venture assumes a few things that Silicon Valley loves – high volume growth, quick growth, and a sexy new product angle. Ticketing done right is none of these things, except perhaps the sexy product angle, when we get it right. And even when that happens– it’s either rolled out across the market, or it doesn’t get used, and we all just say, 'Well, shoot – that didn’t stick.' Remember Facebook ticketing?
High volume, quick growth has never been part of the ticketing industry
So why isn’t there room for quick and high volume growth in our industry? In the case of self-service, consumer-based ticketing services, maybe there is. Until it’s the day of the event and the user can’t figure out the point-of-sale, or get anyone on the phone who can. Until you pull reports that don’t seem to balance. And sometimes it’s worse – users aren’t properly trained, or the internet connection keeps failing.
But sustainability means being able to support every client beyond the ticket sales. And the volume these companies are boasting simply can’t be supported well. Vendini is serving 4000 venues? That would require at least 100 client services staff, in a service model. But hey – we answer the phone 24 hours a day, run an in-house call center, manage thousands of events, consult, ship equipment all over the country, do all trainings on site, and support the live events in every way. That won’t ever sound sexy on a press release.
The mistake here by the venture capitalists and those who are looking for a quick-growth opportunity? Ticketing is not simply a technology field. Yes, we rely on technology to do our jobs. But primarily, we’re a service industry. And service will always be the kind of sweaty, hard work that doesn’t get enough appreciation.
Risky ideas that can explode into high-grossing companies: A Venture Capital match made in heaven
I remember when CVent got into ticketing — and quickly sold it off — saying that ticketing was “harder than they thought.” I remember the early days of Ticketfly, when they said they were tired of building stuff nobody used. And yet the VC’s love it. Risky ideas sound good on the latest press release.
I have no problem with an alternative ticketing option — for those who don’t truly need much help, 24-hour service or knowledge of the industry. But it would be amazing if these companies would be clear about who they are and who they are trying to serve. There are unsuspecting venues and promoters who need a good ticketing provider and good service, and they’re assuming these companies can offer them that.
And while it’s not as sexy, there are is solid group of companies who will serve our clients well beyond the technology we provide – and answering to no one but our employees and our clients.
I’m happy to stay in this space, where the company is good (after all, Ticketmaster started the service model), and sustainability trumps the fast ride every day.