Have the guts to shut down a good business to build a great business

Back in 2010, I interviewed a guy who was a Mixergy fan who had a good idea for a business that was doing well but wasn’t going to do great. So he did the gutsy thing and he scrapped that idea and he started a new company.

I invited him to talk about how he did it and the guts involved in shutting down something that was doing okay to try to get something big. The new company was called SeatGeek.

In the years since then, I keep hearing SeatGeek’s name mentioned in just about any conversation around sports and ticketing. They just keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger. So now I’ve got the cofounder here to talk about what’s happened since then and how they got this far.

Today’s guest is Jack Groetzinger. He is the cofounder of SeatGeek, a marketplace for live entertainment.

Jack Groetzinger

Jack Groetzinger

SeatGeek

Jack Groetzinger is the cofounder of SeatGeek, a marketplace for live entertainment.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey, everyone. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.

Back in 2010, I interviewed a guy who was a Mixergy fan who had a good idea for a business that was doing well but wasn’t going to do great. So he did the gutsy thing and he scrapped that idea and he started a new company. I invited him to talk about how he did it and the guts involved in shutting down something that was doing okay to try to get something big. I see Jack, my interviewee is smiling, he remembers it. And the new company was called SeatGeek. We talked about how he was growing it, what happened.

And man, in the years since then, I keep hearing SeatGeek’s name mentioned in just about any conversation around sports and ticketing. And every time I hear their name, I go, “I know that company. I know that guy. I remember them when.” They just keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger. So now I’ve got the cofounder here to talk about what’s happened since then and how big they’ve gotten and how they got this far.

His name is Jack Groetzinger. He is the cofounder of SeatGeek. SeatGeek is a marketplace for live entertainment. You open up the app and you see all the sports events and comedy shows in your city and you get to see what tickets sell for and you get to basically find the right price and the right seat in an easy to use application. I really like the way that they did it.

He also has something brand new that they didn’t have or even didn’t think about back when we first talked about SeatGeek. It’s something called SeatGeek Open. It’s a radically open approach to ticket sales by a venue. If I stumbled over that intro or that line, it’s because it was given to me and I actually think the description that Jack’s going to give is going to be way clearer and you’ll see how big his ambition is and how much impact he wants to have on the world of ticketing and events.

This interview is sponsored by two companies that you probably know if you’ve listened to Mixergy. The first will help you close your sales. It’s called Pipedrive. And the second one will help you hire your new great developer, designer, or finance expert. It’s called Toptal. I’ll tell you guys all about them later. First, Jack, welcome, man.

Jack: Thanks for having me.

Andrew: Back then, 2010, your cofounder didn’t tell me the revenue. I kept pushing him. I’m even looking at the transcript now. I pushed and pushed, and he didn’t want to tell me. Do you have a sense of where you guys were at the time that I was talking to him?

Jack: I’d be lying if I said I knew with any specificity. It was probably quite small. We were probably selling at most a few thousand dollars’ tickets a day.

Andrew: A few thousand a day? So you were in the hundreds of thousands a year?

Jack: Yeah. That sounds right.

Andrew: Okay. Solid, but not nearly where you are today. What’s the revenue like today?

Jack: These days we sell upwards of $1 million to $2 million of tickets per day.

Andrew: And then how much of that do you guys keep?

Jack: It varies a lot by the particular type of ticket, but on average, it’s over 10%.

Andrew: Over 10%. Do you have an annual revenue that you can share?

Jack: We don’t share that. But you can sort of–

Andrew: Back into it.

Jack: Yeah.

Andrew: Okay. Funny that you gave our producer the revenue, but on camera, you’d rather not do it. Okay. I appreciate it. I respect it. I think we’ve got a good sense of where you guys are. I feel that by respecting boundaries, however artificial they might seem to outsiders, I get a much more open conversation.

Jack: Yeah.

Andrew: What I remember about you and your cofounder is that you and Russ just had tons of ideas. In fact, he told me about a business that you launched and sold. The furniture business was another one where you rented furniture to college students on campus and then you sold that company. I didn’t know that before you met Russ, you also had something called Applied College Consulting. What was that?

Jack: Yeah. Impressive. When I was in high school, I was sort of just fooling around with the ideas on the internet, and basically it was a marketplace for linking up retired high school English teachers with kids who were applying for college. So if you wanted some help editing your college essay, we would kind of help you find an English school teacher who would help you edit it and make it better so you’d have a better shot of getting into school.

Andrew: That’s a great idea. I feel like that’s the kind of idea that was maybe ahead of its time. I don’t know how open people were to making connections like that back then. How did it do?

Jack: It was a great learning experience. I think I made at the time what at the time was probably a fun amount of money. In retrospect, it was probably an unimpressive amount of money for a few years.

Andrew: What was it?

Jack: It’s funny. I honestly don’t remember exactly. I think I was probably generating a few thousand bucks a month, at most.

Andrew: That’s not bad.

Jack: No. For me that was the first time I accepted a credit card online, which back then wasn’t that easy to do. I dealt with customer service, just basic stuff that was foundational and a ton of fun.

Andrew: Did you stick with school, or did you drop out?

Jack: I stuck with school throughout. Yeah. I pretty intentionally didn’t do CS in school, did econ and math instead because I sort of knew that I would be doing this stuff for the rest of my life. So I programmed throughout college, but I’ve always been a self-taught web engineer, never had a formal CS background.

Andrew: Web engineer with a real entrepreneurial streak. I can just keep going and listening to companies you started and the ones you were thinking of starting. It just goes on and on. Then what I’m looking at here on your LinkedIn portfolio is 2007, you go and work for Bain Consulting. Why?

Jack: Yeah. Sometimes I ask myself that. I was at Bain for seven or eight months before Russ and I–Russ had a management consulting gig in Boston at the same time as me. We both sort of conspired to leave our jobs the same week to go do a startup together. We didn’t know what we were going to do at the time. If I’m being honest, both of us sort of did it a little bit as caught up in the flow of recruiting in college and it seemed like a safe thing to do and we probably regretted it soon after we got there. I will say I got really freaking good at Microsoft Excel, and that skill has stuck with me.

Andrew: You mean at Bain?

Jack: At Bain, yeah.

Andrew: Okay.

Jack: I crushed Excel for seven months. It was really worth the seven-month investment just for that alone. I’m sure I got some basic professional skills from it too. It was sort of a weird detour and a series of jobs that probably otherwise would have–

Andrew: I get it. I went to NYU as an undergrad. I studied business with people who all had these fantasies of starting companies. I remember a few months before graduation day, everybody was carrying tape recorders around with them because they were practicing interview skills into it, which was kind of a weird thing to do, and they were all going towards this job, the job track and I thought maybe there’s something wrong with me for wanting to go start my own thing and it was easy to look around and say that’s the natural next step.

Jack: Totally.

Andrew: I see why you would work there. You guys then spent a few months on the job, but constantly at coffee shops thinking up ideas. Do you remember some of the ideas that maybe you didn’t pursue but in retrospect were solid ideas?

Jack: It was funny because we kept a list of stuff that we were fooling around with. Russ and I were looking back a few years ago, and I remember the one that stuck out was some description that you could sort of contort into being an early version of Uber that Russ had come up with. But I’m sure like a million people thought about that. It’s also ideas are cheap, right? But I think we’ve always been interested in marketplaces and how do you kind of bring people together online.

Andrew: I see that. Why? Marketplaces are, it feels like, some of the hardest businesses to create because you have to get both sides of the conversation to show up at the same time, and that’s a tough thing to do.

Jack: Yeah. I love the fact that marketplaces, you have a take rate. You have like a real monetization engine sort of deeply built in. The previous company we ran was a detour from that. That was a learning experience for both of us where we really had no business model at all.

Andrew: Scribnia?

Jack: Scribnia, yeah.

Andrew: Yelp for writers.

Jack: Yelp for bloggers, recommendation engine for bloggers. Got really good traction, but we did it at a time when CPMs on the internet were falling off a cliff, and it was super demoralizing to see something actually go well and be like, “Shit, I have no idea how we’re going to make money.” So the day we launched SeatGeek, we had revenue. It’s grown since then, and I love that about it. I love that there’s a real sort of business model intrinsically built into it.

Andrew: I get that. What you did to solve the chicken and the egg problem of marketplaces, you can’t get one side without the other and the other won’t show up without the first side, is you guys scraped data online, right?

Jack: Yeah. So SeatGeek pulls inventory from a lot of different ticket sites online. The thing we did was we realized the inventory is already sitting online. We don’t have to get people–the other sites, other ticket marketplaces get people to actively push ticket inventory to you. We said we’re actually going to go out to these sites and we say, “We’ll do the work for you. We’ll pull it onto SeatGeek. Just expose your APIs to us, we’ll do the work.” And that was a way to get a lot of rich inventory onto our site without having to deal with that chicken and egg problem for many, many years.

The flip side of that is the unit economics for us were crap for a long time.

Andrew: Why?

Jack: Because it was effectively sort of an affiliate relationship, where the transaction is occurring somewhere else and we’re just pulling the inventory. We’re sourcing the sale, and then we’re flipping the user to somewhere else where they transact.

As we matured as a company we eventually had to bring the transaction onto SeatGeek so that we could own the user relationship, ultimately deliver better experience because one thing we realized is if the transaction is not happening on your site or in your app, particularly in a mobile context, it’s really hard to deliver a world class user experience.

When someone buys a ticket in our app, we want it to be magically freaking good, where few taps, you bought what you want, the ticket shows up right on your device, and you can scan in. If you’re dealing with third-party checkout, third-party delivery, it’s really hard to deliver that. Long story short, as we matured, we had to get away from that, but for just bootstrapping inventory later on, it was a really efficient way to solve that problem.

Andrew: Before the interview started, I said, “Can I introduce SeatGeek as a search engine for tickets?” And you didn’t say no. I like the way you said it. You said, “We actually prefer to be called a marketplace for live entertainment.” But I understand why you wouldn’t want to be considered a search engine, because a search engine implies you come here to find it and then you go there to do what you came to search for. I see.

In the beginning, the idea came from you guys looking at Microsoft buying Farecast. And what Farecast was known for was forecasting airline fares so that if you wanted to go from San Francisco to New York and you weren’t sure about what date you wanted or when you should buy the ticket, you can go there and they’ll tell you, “Look, if you wait another week, it’s going to be cheaper than if you do it today.” I didn’t realize at the time, Russell didn’t tell me, that the reason you backed off of that idea and went towards that whole Yelp for bloggers thing is you were worried about patent issues.

Jack: Yeah. It sucked. We got some bad legal advice.

Andrew: From who?

Jack: I actually don’t remember the lawyer’s name, but it was basically an IP lawyer that I think in retrospect was dead wrong.

Andrew: I see, just a random IP lawyer you were introduced to?

Jack: Yeah. I forget the relationship. I think it was sort of a friend of a friend kind of thing. I guess it shows the value of paying a little bit more for lawyers. Got some bad advice, didn’t want to mess around with infringing on Microsoft patents, so we held off for a while.

Andrew: I see. That’s why you got diverted to a new business. Then you get into–what was the accelerator? Dreamit. Dreamit’s not around anymore, that accelerator, right?

Jack: They are. They’ve changed their model. So they actually focus on a few verticals now like healthcare.

Andrew: I see. Okay. You get in there, but the thing they did for you is say, “Hey, forget it. You guys are worried about the wrong thing. There actually is not an issue with the patents.” I think at the time Russell didn’t want to get into it because just in case there was an issue with patents, why bring it up and say, “Hey, there’s no issue,” and draw attention to yourself.

So that’s why you guys didn’t continue with it, and that’s why you got back into it. That business then started to take off. I thought at the time it was brilliant to take something that worked for airlines and bring it into sports events and other ticketing. In retrospect, though, did it work out? Was that the magic that. . .?

Jack: No.

Andrew: No.

Jack: In fact eventually we–well, the seed for what we were trying to do there was worth something. We were trying to basically bring data to bear and add transparency to a market that had very little. Forecast specifically, we learned most ticket buyers don’t care about that much. It’s too complicated. So, ultimately, if you’re trying to go see Taylor Swift, it’s not like you’re trying to refinance your house.

It’s not that complicated of a purchase. You just want a great deal quickly, and you want to move on in your life. That’s what SeatGeek delivers today, whereas the sort of forecasting made it a more complicated purchase than it had to be. That’s the feedback we got from a lot of users.

Andrew: How? How did you know that? How did users communicate to you that this thing that you thought you were going to build your business on, that when you heard you couldn’t do, you gave up on the business on because it was so important to you, that thing we don’t like? How did they communicate it to you in a way that you understood and said, “Fine”?

Jack: It was an obvious answer from talking to people. But the interesting thing is when you talked to some people, they actually loved it. There was certainly a power user that would be like, “Hell, yeah, I love this. This is what I’ve been waiting for my whole life.” The realization that took more time was that, yeah, there were power users that were into it, but most people weren’t. We were not quick enough to catch on to that.

We basically slowly realized that the features on our site that were getting more and more use were not what we were spending the most time on. It would be more ecommerce purchasing stuff. We would be talking to the users that we thought were our core, and they would say, “This is great stuff.” In fact, that was sort of a sliver of the market.

Andrew: So it was looking at your data to see what people were using that helped you understand that?

Jack: Yeah. Exactly. I think just broadening our minds about the potential of what we could build. The broad thesis that we started with was that ticketing was and still is a very opaque industry. It’s a very complicated purchase. It’s not like buying a MacBook where there’s a pretty well-established price and you sort of know what you’re going to pay and it is what it is.

Ticketing inventory is entirely unique, and it’s always moving around and there are fees and you don’t know what the fees are. We wanted to bring transparency and use data to bring transparency. We thought that forecasting would be a good first way to do that.

The product today still uses a lot of data to try to add transparency. That still lives on. It’s just the particular forecasting component, I think, was too complicated for people.

Andrew: Can you tell me more about how you understood that? I’ll tell you why. I see this as an issue a lot with entrepreneurs who I’ve interviewed. They have something in mind. The customer base for the most part rejects it, but some people do like it. They stick with it because people are giving them positive feedback, but it takes them a long time to realize that is not the feedback they should be listening to.

Was there a process where you expanded your view and went bigger? Was there something that led you to give up on this piece of the business that was so critical for a long time?

Jack: I wish there was a magic moment where we had this brilliant realization. I’d say it was more of a gradual realization where, just to simplify it, imagine there were two tracks of development. One was forecasting related development and one was ecommerce development. Initially, we were sort of all in on forecasting, and the ecommerce stuff was this thing we threw in because you have to monetize it somehow. The sort of ROI we saw in terms of usage on that second part was always weirdly high. So we figured, “All right, we’ll spend a little bit more on that.”

Then as we invested more time on that, the ROI kept going up, and we kept going down on forecasting. Eventually we realized, just from seeing user behavior, that shit, we should go talk to these people, see why they like it so much. So we spent more time with those users, understood what was resonating and eventually realized the opportunity and the scope of the product was much bigger than we’d been thinking.

Andrew: What was your process for spending more time with the users? Did you bring them into the office, fly out to see them, call them?

Jack: I like just doing this, just video chats.

Andrew: You just find somebody is a customer and you personally would chat with them?

Jack: Yeah, usually email them, which sometimes creeps people out, but usually doesn’t, email them, say, “Hey, founder, want to chat?” Often they’ll say yes and then hop on at the time Skype and get their thoughts.

Andrew: Were there some questions that worked especially well for you? I remember Emmett Shear of Twitch had a list of questions that worked really powerfully for him. Were there any that were especially useful for you?

Jack: The thing that I love doing is screen sharing with them and watching them use it and asking them why they’re making the choices they’re making.

Andrew: I see. As they’re buying, you’re watching them. Was there anything you discovered from that that was especially shocking or interesting?

Jack: You always want to–you spend so much time on an interface and you have this idea of how people are supposed to use it and they invariably miss what you think, although you’re an idiot, these glaringly obvious elements of the interface and you just want to freaking scream at them, “What the hell are you thinking?”

But I would always struggle to keep my mouth shut and not do that. The first time that happens, I would always chalk it up to just being an anomaly, “Oh, that person’s an idiot. They don’t get it.” Then it happens five or six more times, and you start to realize you’re the idiot, not them and you kind of reevaluate your assumptions.

Andrew: What’s one thing you remember, if any, that you thought was great but nobody used it and you just have to bite your tongue as you watched them not use it?

Jack: So we have a feature on SeatGeek called Deal Score, that basic idea is that it ranks bang for your buck. So rather than just sorting tickets by price, we sort by what’s the best deal. At first we were very bad at communicating what that was because it’s a little bit of a subtle concept we kind of made up.

We’ve gotten better at messaging what it is so that users understand it, but at first we did a very poor job and users would struggle with it and I would want to kind of like go on a five-minute explanation with them and try to explain it to them with my voice, but instead I had to hold my tongue and watch them figure it out using the interface alone.

Andrew: I see. I don’t actually see prices here listed from least expensive to most expensive and that’s why.

Jack: In the sort–I don’t know if you’re in the app or . . .

Andrew: I’m in the app and yes, I know I can sort by hitting the gear. I love when I hit the sort, it doesn’t just bring up the filter, it actually pushes the screen I’m looking at in an angled way down. It’s like really nice touches to the user experience that make it fun to use the app. I see. So that’s the thing you had to figure out, “How do I explain it? How do I show enough that it doesn’t look like we’ve made a mistake?”

Jack: Yeah.

Andrew: Right.

Jack: How do you get that math to be accurate enough that people actually trust it. It’s the sort of thing where if you slip up now and then, they totally lose faith in what you’re telling them.

Andrew: It’s like Hipmunk, what do they call it, the pain score?

Jack: Agony, yeah. Very similar to that.

Andrew: If you have to pay a few more dollars, but you don’t have three stops on the way for New York from Washington D.C., it’s worth paying the extra money. I mentioned at the top of the interview my two sponsors’ names. Did you happen to know of Pipedrive, one of the two sponsors I mentioned?

Jack: Uh-uh.

Andrew: I’ve got to tell you about them. I use Pipedrive to keep track of every part of this interview, like the whole sequence. Back when it was me and Russ, I’m looking at this email in 2010. [Inaudible 00:20:56] Jane sent him an email saying, “Hey, you should connect with Andrew and do an interview.” His email back to me was, “Yeah, Andrew, I watch your interviews. I’d love to do it.” My email back to him was, “Here’s a link. Let’s go do it.”

Jack: Cool.

Andrew: Back then, I didn’t have that many interviews. Today, it’s not just that I have more interviews, but also there are more people in charge of the process. As you know, we have a producer who does the pre-interview, someone who makes sure you’re legitimately who you are, that there’s research that says, “Yes, your business is big,” and so on.

To keep track of it all, we use Pipedrive. Every step of the booking process has its own column. Every time there’s a potential guest who’s suggested, we create a card for them and we put them in column number one, which is suggest a guest. Then someone else says, “Let me go research and see if this guest should be on Mixergy.”

They research them, they move them to card number two. I see you’re nodding. You get it. Intuitively, it all makes sense, all the way up to the last column, which is what’s going to happen five minutes after I finish this interview, which is I’m done and it fires off an email to the editor saying, “Andrew’s done, go edit it.”

Well, that’s what helped us not just keep track of our guests. Now our guests say, “I love the process. Every part of it made me feel like you guys knew where I was and you cared for me.” But it also allowed me to have more guests on, keep track of the process internally, have more people be a part of it so I don’t have to do it alone.

The reason I’m bringing this up is most people are not booking interviews. I know you’re not, Jack, booking interviews. But people who are listening to me are closing sales. It can be a tough process.

One of the things I suggest is just go create an account on Pipedrive, create your collection of columns with each step of your sales process and watch as Pipedrive nurtures you through each part of the sales process and pushes you to sell and gives you stats so that if you think you call a lot of people but two of them only returned your calls, it says you only reached out to five people, get on it little–I was going to say pussy, but I don’t think they want me to says that in the add. So, I’ll say pussy.

Get on it–even though they don’t want me to, what are they going to do, cancel? It’s true. It really needs to push you and say, “Stop being a wuss, get on it and make the number of sales calls and number of emails you need.” And more importantly, as you grow, it grows with your sales team so we can all coordinate, so you’re not finding every potential guest, someone else does. It does a lot of things.

I can’t say enough about it. All I can do is tell you the best thing to do is go check them out. Because they’re a sponsor, they’re giving us free time on Pipedrive. All of you have to do is go to Pipedrive.com/Mixergy. They’ll give you a bunch of free time to use it and you’ll see that it will help you close sales.

Frankly, you guys at SeatGeek don’t need it. The reason you don’t need it is because your sales happen within the app, right? If you’re calling people, if you’re–maybe this guy Nate needs it. Who’s Nate Rattner?

Jack: He’s on our communications team.

Andrew: So one of the things that you guys have always done a freaking killer job with is PR. Right from the start, you hired a PR company. You said you have all this data, “We’re going to use it to create blog posts and tell our story and to help other reporters tell the story of what’s going on.” That helped you grow. What else helped you as you got going build up your user base?

Jack: Another thing that people don’t talk about as much anymore was SEO, organic search. It was an incredible free traffic driver for us.

Andrew: What did you do in the early days with SEO that allowed you guys to grow?

Jack: We invested a lot in content, so just blogging, creating content, talking, kind of like what you’re talking about, but more inward looking than outward looking, talking about tickets, events, tours, trying to provide stuff that people are interested in reading about.

Andrew: Give me some examples. What are some articles that did well for you for SEO or types of articles?

Jack: So, you know, over the last five or six years, we’ve seen music festivals totally blow up, and it become a whole new category in their own right. We’ve noticed that speculation around who’s going to be in various lineups for music festivals is almost like a little cottage industry. A lot of people are sort of obsessed with this stuff and want to read about it and talk about it.

We’ve done a lot of content around analyzing who might be in those lineups when the news breaks, breaking it as quickly as we can, ranking as well as we can, providing data around, “You’re going to see all these people. If you saw them all individually, it would cost this much.” We have that data. “But you can actually see them for this much less. Look at the kind of deal you’re getting.” So that kind of stuff that hopefully creatively uses the data we have to look at things with a different spin.

Another example is during the Homerun Derby every year, we’ll do analysis of like given what we know statistically about homerun balls and also given what we know about what ticket prices are in all of those various sections, where you get the best bang for your buck catching homeruns.

Andrew: I see. So SimilarWeb, that’s what I use to keep track of traffic. I remember last time I used Compete and actually Russ said, “Actually, your numbers are not accurate.” Let me see if my numbers are accurate right now. It seems according to SimilarWeb that you guys are getting roughly 50% of your traffic from organic search.

Jack: So the honest answer is I don’t know exactly. We don’t disclose traffic stats. So much of our traffic these days comes via our mobile app.

Andrew: I mean on the web, it looks like a large part of your traffic, even if we can’t say specifically that it’s 50%, is it fair to say that a large part of your traffic is coming from search?

Jack: It’s not that high. It’s certainly meaningful. It’s probably 30% or something like that.

Andrew: Is it mostly these blog posts, or are we also looking at each one of these events has its own page on your site and as a result that gets searched too?

Jack: Increasingly as we’ve gotten bigger, it’s become more and more the latter, although the former really supports the latter and the two link to each other.

Andrew: What about PR? You guys seem to still be good at PR. I think we were reintroduced from a company called Haymaker.co. That’s a PR company?

Jack: They’re a small firm here in New York that we’ve known for a while.

Andrew: What’s your goal with PR, with being on Mixergy, for example?

Jack: Good question. A lot of the PR we do is really trying to sort of authentically just communicate who we are. I think ticketing is this industry that it’s almost like cable companies or the airlines. It’s one of these industries that’s full of a lot of animosity towards some of the bigger players.

If you walk around our office, we’re just a bunch of makers, engineers who like to build stuff and like to go see shows and games and pretty authentic, good people, I think who hope we can use PR communications to sort of express that, authentically talk about who we are. Really, we and our users, we’re fans like everyone else. We just happened to have dedicated our lives to building software to enable people to go to more stuff.

Andrew: What is the issue with that? I understand the problem with Ticketmaster. I had the former CEO of Ticketmaster on, Sean Moriarty. He talked about, “Here’s why people don’t like us.” He gave his point of view on it. I don’t understand why a site like yours, a marketplace people would have an issue with. Is it because you guys are driving prices up by making tickets more available?

Jack: Yeah. People don’t have an issue with us. Our brand is really strong. It’s more using PR communications to really in a lot of ways paint ourselves as a foil to that, to say, “You may think of legacy companies as X and help people understand why we’re radically different, why we’re altogether new and different and on your side and here fighting for you.”

Andrew: I see. So PR, search, and then is there a third thing that helped you guys grow? Do you do a lot of ad buys?

Jack: Later, but early on, we didn’t do much in terms of buying ads. Another thing we did that was cost-effective and I think hopefully was a win-win for the people we worked with was we did a lot of biz-dev partnerships with content sites. So I’ll give you an example of one of the ones that we’re most proud of. We had a longstanding deal with Yahoo Sports, which is the biggest sports site on the internet, where we power ticketing for all of Yahoo Sports.

Imagine a sports site, you’ll go throughout their schedules page, for example, and you’ll see a stats link, a news link and for each game, you’ll also see a tickets link. On Yahoo, that goes to SeatGeek. We’ve worked with the team there to integrate it in lots of different ways. The idea is we’re adding value for them, because if we’re doing our job, we’re giving their users a way to buy stuff quickly and efficiently. They’re obviously generating traffic for us.

We constructed that as a win-win early on. We’ve been partners with them since 2010. We did similar deals like that over the years that have been–

Andrew: What other ones? That was one of the early ones when you guys were first getting started and because it was Russell, I think, who had a friend or connection at Yahoo who was going to nurture your relationship and do more than he should have been expected to do. I get that. I get that someone’s pulling for a new entrepreneur and working with them. What did you do after that? What other partnerships were you able to get that worked?

Jack: More recently we have a deal with Living Social, which I guess is very soon going to be part of Groupon. But similar idea there, where events are a source of content for them they push out to users and they see really good deals on stuff. We’ve driven a lot of sales for them.

Andrew: I see you guys are also buying Google ads on search results.

Jack: Yeah.

Andrew: That’s such a tough market to compete in because all your competitors are doing the same thing. “Hamilton New York tickets,” every single ticketing company seems to be bidding on that.

Jack: Yeah. But ultimately, what we’re betting on there is we’re going to provide a better experience and you’re going to come back. So everyone, you’re right, there are a ton of people bidding on that. I’m extremely biased. I would argue that we are more invested in creating a great user experience for you than anyone else on earth. If we deliver on that, you’re going to use us for life, and you’re going to repeat and become a loyal SeatGeek user. We’re willing to pay the first time because we believe in the product and what we do and we’re the best out there. If we deliver on that, then we pay for you the first time, but after that, we don’t.

Andrew: So you mentioned earlier if I look at the web traffic, I’m not really getting a good picture because it’s mobile, mobile app-specifically. What was the decision like to get a mobile app together internally?

Jack: It was much debated. This was back in 2012-2013, a lot of people thought this was going to be a distraction, we had enough to worry about. God forbid we built a mobile app, that’s the last thing we need.

Andrew: But this is like five years after the iPhone came out that you guys were thinking about it and there was still internal debate.

Jack: Time moves quickly. Back then it was not an obvious decision. Most pure companies did not have one. You’re right. Today that seems like a ridiculous thing to say, but back then it was not obvious, at least to me. We eventually decided to do it, sort of thought about it almost as if it was–back then browser support was an issue.

Right now thanks to web standards, you don’t have to worry too much for building for Firefox versus Internet Explorer, etc. Back then you did. We almost thought about it as another browser we had to support. There was enough traffic flowing through native mobile that if we didn’t support it, we were shutting off a big fraction of the internet to SeatGeek in a way that was unacceptable, so we had to support it.

Andrew: So you guys decided, “Let’s do it.” How committed–what did you guys create as a first version? Facebook famously did HTML5. Even Google, actually, the first version of Gmail they used to have was just a wrapper around their basic website for Gmail. What did you guys do the first time?

Jack: We invested a lot of time in it. We built something that was native to iOS. It was feature poor. It was a very streamlined ecommerce experience. You couldn’t do much in it besides look up an event and buy tickets to it. In fact, the ecommerce part didn’t happen within the app. We were talking earlier about how we used to link people out to third-party sites to purchase.

This was back when we did that, so we didn’t have to build checkout in the app. When you would load it up, it would just be a big ass search bar right in the middle of the page. You’d search for an event. That was easy. The hard part and the part we invested 90% of the time on was building an interactive stadium map, almost like a mini version of Google Maps map within a native iOS app, which was a core feature of our desktop site and something we invested a lot of time on, but transporting that to mobile was hard.

Andrew: Tell me if I’m understanding you right. When I go to StubHub to find Hamilton tickets, for example, I see a row of tickets with prices and dates. When I come to SeatGeek, I see a row on the left side of my screen, but the main part is the actual theater’s outline and when I mouse over any of the tickets, the seat in the theater kind of lights up to let me know where I’m sitting. That’s what you’re talking about. That’s what you needed to create for the mobile app too.

Jack: That was a really fun UI challenge, right? You couldn’t literally copy it. We had to think about given the user doesn’t have the mouse, how does that translate? Given the screen is oriented differently, how does that translate?

Andrew: I wonder about that. So I actually don’t know. I’ve got the app right here, of course. I can’t make it light up, right? If I tap on the ticket, I can’t–oh, I know what I can see though, I can see the perspective of the stadium from that seat.

Jack: Yeah.

Andrew: Got it. I see. But I have to tap on it. I can’t see it unless I click over. Got it. That’s a limitation of no mouse over.

Jack: So one choice we made is by default, on mobile, when you load up an event, the first ticket in the list is active and then as you scroll the list on the bottom . . .

Andrew: Right.

Jack: So that’s a very specific thing we did for mobile because the mouse doesn’t exist.

Andrew: I see. As I scroll up, a new ticket gets highlighted on the list and the seat is highlighted on the map above the list. I see. How soon after you launched did it take off and become a success?

Jack: Honestly, pretty quickly. It was pretty clear early on that we were on to something bigger than we realized. At the time I think we thought about it as an experiment that we hoped would work. I think a lot of people at SeatGeek didn’t see us as the future of the company as being mobile, and it became pretty quickly that was the case.

Andrew: How? How did you get people to download the app?

Jack: It was promoted pretty heavily by Apple early on, which helped a lot. I’d like to think it was because we invested a ton of time in building something really great. That helped. Another thing that really helped was that, again, time moves quickly, but back then 2012 or so, mobile ecommerce was very nascent and because of that, paid media or buying installs on platforms like Facebook were still super cheap. No one had really figured out how to monetize that yet. We were able to get really efficient traction that way as well.

Andrew: What I wonder is this. I get installing an app for email. I go to email every day. I get installing an app for my doctors. I’m with One Medical. I freaking love that I have an app that I can just communicate with a doctor and not have to go in. I do that maybe once a month. But for tickets, I might need a ticket four times a year. Why install an app for something that I do so rarely? Why shouldn’t I just go to the website?

Jack: On one hand, it depends on how often you do it. Our users on average by tickets eight or nine times a year, some people more, some people less.

Andrew: Okay.

Jack: But the other big thing–and it’s a technology issue. We and anyone else can still deliver a better experience in a native app. That gets down to hardware acceleration and the limitations of JavaScript and other things like that. We can fundamentally deliver a smoother mapping experience. We can use notifications. We can use Apple Pay. There are things that are simply not possible in the mobile web that are possible natively.

Andrew: Okay. But then you still have to communicate that to a user who just wants to buy a ticket. How do you do that?

Jack: How do we communicate that it’s worth downloading the app?

Andrew: Yeah, exactly. I might just go to the website and I know I can use a website on its own. Why would I want to go and install it? How do you communicate to me that I should?

Jack: Yeah. It’s a product marketing challenge. It’s incumbent on us. There are lots of little ways you can do that, to tell people basically why it’s worth it. I’ll give you one pretty compelling example. Let’s say you and I are going to an LA Dodgers game together and let’s say I bought the tickets. I want to transfer one to you using the SeatGeek app. I would do that, and I would send it to you within SeatGeek.

You’re going to get that ticket and you’re going to want that with like 100% certainty. You don’t want to have to load up a page to maybe get it. You want it freaking on your phone when you show up at the gate. That’s only going to be possible if you have the native app. As a result, we’re going to lead you into a flow that when Jack transfers you a ticket, it leads to you getting the native app. Yeah, it’s selfish because we want you to have the app, but it’s also really for your own good. When you show up at Dodger Stadium, we want to make sure you get in for sure.

Andrew: Okay. What percentage of your sales are done through the app as opposed to the web?

Jack: I think it’s about 70% through the app.

Andrew: Wow. How much of your traffic is on the app or the users are on the app versus the web?

Jack: I don’t know exactly. I think it’s around 70% as well.

Andrew: Wow. You guys have–my browser is frozen. But you guys have a lot of web traffic too. There it is. Monthly visits according to SimilarWeb, 3.4 million. Huge. All right. I’ve got to tell people about the second sponsor. You think if I read enough of these sponsorship messages I can get as big as you guys, or should I get the hell out of this business? What the hell? Look at this. The amount of growth you guys have had in the last six years is unreal. It’s because of little distinctions that you keep on making throughout. How’s your personal life changed because of this, because the company now is doing so well?

Jack: I have probably less of one.

Andrew: Really? How many hours per day are you working now?

Jack: Probably easy to think about it on a per week basis, probably about 80, I would guess.

Andrew: 80 hours. Take a typical day, you wake up at what time?

Jack: 7:00.

Andrew: And do you do anything before getting to work that’s meaningful?

Jack: Some days I’ll go straight to work. Some days I wake up at 6:00 and work out.

Andrew: Then you get to work. What’s the first thing you do at work?

Jack: Email.

Andrew: Email. And you do it yourself?

Jack: Yeah. Of course.

Andrew: Really. I get so many emails. My assistant goes through the first pass, and then I get on a call with her and we do it together.

Jack: You do email together?

Andrew: Sorry?

Jack: You do email together?

Andrew: Together. I can’t sit and do it by myself, and so we’ll do a screen share and we go through email and then if I have any questions about something, she might fill me in and if there’s something that I think that I’ve got it, I can make a decision on but there needs to be more work–I’ll give you an example.

One of my past guests wanted me to do a $1 purchase on Kickstarter. It’s a guest, a friend of mine. She doesn’t know whether I should do it or not. I get it. “Andrea, can you please just go and do this $1 campaign.” So she’ll do it, and then I’ll move on to the next email. That kind of thing helps a lot, plus having a monitor, somebody there watching is helpful.

Jack: Interesting. Does she respond as you?

Andrew: No, never. And very clearly she at the top of the email will say, “This is Andrea, Andrew’s assistant. I think I can handle this for you.” I’ve seen a few people who respond on behalf of the person. I think it’s a little weird if it’s not them. But I learned this from Drew Houston. I used to email Drew and I could get Drew to email me right back. One day I emailed his personal email address and his assistant emailed me back and I said, “How did you do that?” It turns out there’s a delegation feature in Gmail. I go, “All right, let’s try that.”

Jack: I’ve got to look into that. I like that.

Andrew: Yeah. You end your day typically at what time?

Jack: It varies a ton, between 7:00 and 11:00.

Andrew: Do you have any productivity tips, like that, that you do, the one I have my assistant answer my email and then do it with me?

Jack: I really like gamifying my to-do list. I keep a pretty meticulous to-do list, attach a priority to each thing, expected number of minutes, and then I’ve basically written a little bit of code to track when I start and end each task, estimate how long to do each thing and almost treat it like a game where I allocate how many minutes I have to do something, how many it actually takes and see if I can beat the expected number.

Andrew: Is there something that’s like a regular part of your day that you do this for, like email, for example, do you time how long you spend on email?

Jack: It’s almost like an exception because otherwise it can dominate your day. I have three 30-minute blocks for email, and I try to not let myself do more than that.

Andrew: I see. Interesting. You should try having an assistant look at your screen, see how much faster you work with someone looking over your shoulder.

Jack: How long do you spend on email?

Andrew: It’s hard to say. Today I spent only 35 minutes, and we got through 65 messages, maybe 70.

Jack: Wow.

Andrew: It’s hard to predict because all it takes is one person that emails me a big legal PDF I need to go through that then would add another 15 minutes to my day. Do you do anything at night before going to sleep that’s useful?

Jack: Nothing particular. I’ve been meditating in the morning, which I love.

Andrew: You do what, meditate?

Jack: Meditating in the morning when I wake up every day.

Andrew: What’s your process?

Jack: Sitting in a chair silently 10 minutes.

Andrew: Ten minutes and an alarm will go off?

Jack: 15. Yeah.

Andrew: Wow. Interesting. It’s not like transcendental meditation or any kind of specific format. It’s just you sitting in a chair?

Jack: Mindfulness meditation.

Andrew: How’d you learn how to do it?

Jack: I have an executive coach I use who’s been a very good teacher. I also use a bunch of apps, read about it a bit, went to a retreat once.

Andrew: Who’s the coach? Is it someone I know?

Jack: I don’t think so. I’m not sure she’d. . .

Andrew: Okay.

Jack: Let me get back to you on that.

Andrew: And the retreat, where’s that?

Jack: I was just in New York at a meditating center here.

Andrew: Okay. I went on a personal retreat to Ananda. I forget exactly where it is. It’s like California, Nevada, somewhere around there in the mountains. I love it, just going away and focusing on something is the best way to get good at it.

Jack: Awesome.

Andrew: All right. Toptal is the company I was going to talk about. Do you know Toptal?

Jack: No.

Andrew: Great. I get to introduce you to Toptal. Here’s what they are. They started out as this network of developers. They said, “Look, there are people who don’t want to work in Palo Alto. They don’t want to work in Mountain View because they don’t want the commute. They don’t want that lifestyle. But they’re fantastic developers.”

So the founders of Toptal knew them and started creating this network of these great developers and they hired them out. If you needed a great developer, they’d ask you how do you work? What are you working on? For example, for you guys years ago, maybe all your developers are working on the web, but you have this hunch you should be building a web app or a mobile app.

You go to Toptal and say, “Look, I need a mobile app. It can’t be a crappy mobile app. I need the best of the best because otherwise I’m going to get lost in the App Store. It can’t be bad because I have all this competition and if I look bad in the first round, then no one is going to want to try me out, they’ll just switch to the competition.”

So you talk to them about how you want to do it, think it through, they bring you not just one developer in that case, a team of developers who will get you going, who work under your guidance or your CTOs guidance and you get to vet every one of them. But basically, they’ve done so much work ahead of time that most of the people they put in front of you you’re going to want to hire. Then you start working with them using whatever–what do you guys use, Slack to talk to your developers on your team? Slack, right?

So you add them on Slack. You work with them like they’re full-time in house. Boom. They finish the product. You launch it. You keep the ones you want to work with after that. Maybe you want to hire the whole team. Who knows? And you’re good to go.

That’s the thing about Toptal. They’ve been used by companies like Airbnb and many other well-known companies that we know of. They expanded beyond development now to design, so you can hire designers this way. They expanded to finance, so if you wanted someone to help organize your books in preparation for the next round of funding, you could do that.

Anyway, here’s where anyone who’s listening to me can go check them out, including you guys at SeatGeek. If you want to hire from Toptal, get the best of the best, go to Top as in top of the mountain, tal is talent, Toptal.com/Mixergy. When you go there, they’re going to give you 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours and that’s in addition to a no risk trial period of up to two weeks.

There’s a reason they keep sponsoring here is because it’s working for them. People are hiring like mad from Toptal. My guess is it’s mostly interviewees. People like you who are sitting there going, “I’ve never heard of them,” tell someone on my team to go check them out.

All right. By the way, why do you meditate? What do you get out of meditating?

Jack: I think it’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer given how much I like it. I guess the classical answer is it helps you be better at being present, which I think is true. I think for people that aren’t really into it, that seems kind of silly. I don’t know. I see a variance in the social psychology literature of happiness and sort of what drives human happiness, which by the way is one of the reason why I’m so into live entertainment.

There’s a lot of literature around live entertainment being a really high leverage way for once you’ve reached a substance level of income, being a really high leverage way to spend your money to engender human happiness. Another very high leverage way to spend your time to engender happiness is meditation and sort of the practice of being present.

Andrew: Do you optimize for that? You optimize for happiness, not for productivity or for user base or money?

Jack: Well, sort of life optimization and SeatGeek optimization. I guess they may be sometimes at odds but often consistent. So personally, I’m sort of optimizing for happiness and fulfillment and other things like that. I think in terms of how we run our company. SeatGeek is not run for Jack’s happiness. Hopefully those things are consistent.

Andrew: What else do you do for happiness, to make sure you’re enjoying your day?

Jack: I do think that the job you have is one of the most impactful things you can do, spending a scary amount of time with the people you work with. My favorite thing about SeatGeek is just our team.

Andrew: Yeah. But then you also have all these crises. It’s fun to hang out with your team. It’s fun to hang out with Russ at coffee shops thinking of big ideas. It sucks when something happens like what happened to you guys at the Super Bowl 2015. Do you remember what I’m talking about.

Jack: Yeah. Sure.

Andrew: What happened there?

Jack: This actually was an industry-wide thing. A little bit of context–there was something in the secondary market for tickets called spec selling, which is when a seller lists a ticket which they do not yet have, sells that ticket on the promise that they will deliver it later. It’s for most events highly discouraged. We don’t allow it across the board. Super Bowl historically has been an exception, the reason being that nearly all Super Bowl tickets don’t get released until the last minute. It’s not possible to require a seller have the ticket far in advance because they simply aren’t out in the wild yet.

Back in 2015, there was effectively a squeeze on the market where there were too many of these sales and simply not enough tickets to actually fulfill them. So then a few days before the event, when it actually became time to fulfill them, a bunch of people went out and fulfilled the orders. There weren’t enough tickets, prices rose. Sellers had to break a lot of orders, go to users and say, “Listen, I’m really sorry. I don’t have your tickets. I’ll refund your money. There’s nothing I can do,” which sucks from a user perspective.

So SeatGeek, we were in a bit of an unusual perspective in that as we were talking about earlier, we weren’t actually a marketplace. We were actually just a lead gen to a third-party website. So, theoretically, we could have kind of washed our hands of it.

Andrew: Forget theoretically, legally could you have said that?

Jack: Yeah.

Andrew: You could. It’s not your issue. You guys were just referring out.

Jack: Yeah. But we made the decision when we could to go to bat for the user, to do whatever we could financially to buy tickets and fulfill the order, ended up losing quite a bit of money. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but a substantial amount of money at the time, but we did it because we thought it was the right thing to do.

Andrew: Wait, so somebody bought a ticket, didn’t end up getting the ticket. You then paid for what? Would they have flown out to see the game?

Jack: In many cases, yeah.

Andrew: They fly out. They don’t have a ticket to see the game, but they’re in the city. I forget what city that was in. What do you guys pay for in that case?

Jack: What do we pay to get the ticket?

Andrew: Did you buy them the ticket?

Jack: Yeah.

Andrew: You paid whatever you needed to, to buy these guys the ticket because they made it out there. Here’s what I heard. If a ticket was selling for $2,000 on your site and somebody bought it for $2,000, you might have actually had to go and spend $20,000 to get that ticket for the person.

Jack: It would probably be more like $10,000, but that was the basic idea.

Andrew: You were willing to do that, and you don’t know how much money you lost. I’ve got here in my notes that you guys might have lost over $1 million on that.

Jack: I don’t think it was quite that much, but it was a lot. Yeah.

Andrew: Your thinking was what on that?

Jack: That we owe it to our users, that we ultimately have built a brand around standing up for our users, around user trust and that even if it meant a meaningful financial loss, it was important we stand behind that.

Andrew: You can kind of do that because you’ve got funding. First of all, you’ve got revenue, right? But second, you also have funding too. You guys raised–is this right–is Crunchbase’s $103 million, is that right?

Jack: Yeah.

Andrew: How much of that did you guys use to take money off the table and be a little safer in your personal lives?

Jack: We didn’t do that.

Andrew: None? It all went straight to the business.

Jack: We cleaned up our cap table a little bit in terms of earlier angels and that sort of thing. But nearly all of that was straight to the business.

Andrew: Where does that go in the business? What’s the big expense you needed to raise money for?

Jack: All the classical stuff you expect, so investing in the brand and marketing, building out our team, building out infrastructure. A lot of it is still left too. It’s not like we spent all that. We see this as a very long-term journey that we’re just still at the beginning of.

Andrew: Is this right–Ashton Kutcher is an investor, Accel Partners, Eli Manning investor? Does Dreamit still has ownership of the business? They do? They still have equity in the business? Founder Collective–am I missing anyone who’s especially well known?

Jack: TCB is a large early investor.

Andrew: Okay.

Jack: Not early investor, they led our Series C.

Andrew: So you didn’t take any money off the table, you’re freaking working 80 hours a week, when you do things like answer email, you don’t just do them, you’re actually timing yourself, which is a tremendous amount of pressure, you’re coming back here six years after you guys were first on here still doing promotion for the business by yourself, on your own. What’s the best part of having done all this because it seems like a ton of work?

Jack: It’s fun, right? It’s work if you don’t enjoy it.

Andrew: What’s the most fun of your day, outside of doing this interview, which has got to be number one?

Jack: Obviously, this is the highlight.

Andrew: Yeah.

Jack: Most fun part of my day?

Andrew: Yeah. Or your week or your job, what’s the part you look on and you say the kid who actually left Bain & Company would love that I get to do X? What’s X?

Jack: It’s changed over time. I still love product stuff, building things. I don’t code at all anymore. I used to code quite a bit. But when I get to work with the guys and girls on the product team, I love that. As our company has gotten a bit bigger and we’ve gotten better at–this is sort of weird answer, but it’s true.

We’ve gotten better at trying to predict and operationalize our business and say like, “Okay, we’re going to set out to do these specific things over the next quarter,” and this is a 10Mb Excel file that backs that up and we actually do that, it’s very satisfying to have the complex organization, very complex business that we’ve modeled out and actually marshaled an increasingly larger organization towards certain goals and we hit it, that’s been a lot of fun.

Another thing that’s been a cool learning experience for me is for our first three or four years as company, we were purely a product company and so focused on building great stuff. But very little focus put on finance, marketing, sales, sort of everything else. A lot of the last few years for me go from being a world class product company to just being a world class company full stop. So learning a ton about all of those other areas and getting to learn from experienced execs who are a lot more knowledgeable than me as we try to make SeatGeek world class.

Andrew: What did you learn about taking care of the finance part or the sales part of the business you didn’t know that’s incredibly valuable that we can pass on to the audience?

Jack: This is maybe an embarrassing thing to say, but I’d say early on in our history, I had a lot of skepticism and avoidance of budgeting and sort of the formality of financial planning and thought that was just an annoyance I didn’t have to deal with. It’s part of the luxury and freedom of startups is you don’t have to deal with that kind of bullshit. So we had raised over $100 million before we had anyone running finance.

I think we had one or two folks who had just joined in an accounting role, that was it in terms of SeatGeek finance. I had a guy named Brad who joined a little over a year ago and has sort of totally changed, really created the makeup of the finance org that we have a very complex model/budget for the next year or the next three years, which is good in its own right, but the part that’s been really cool is all of sudden you can sort of like think of what you want your P&L to look like and actually have levers to move and have a perspective on like how you want your business to look and then actually go make it happen in a way that was totally intangible before.

Andrew: I see. It’s like goal setting on a big level for finance.

Jack: Yeah. It’s almost like the whole OKR framework. It’s almost like OKR is sort of like this Google goal setting framework, objectives and key results. I bring it up because I almost think about the budgeting processes of like having this business objective of profitability and then you have these different results of like different lines in the P&L that you can move in different ways to actually get there.

Andrew: Do you think that would have helped you if you had–this guy we’re talking about is Brad Tacy?

Jack: Uh-huh.

Andrew: Okay, a guy that used to do finance for Spotify. Do you think if you had him for like a week a year, maybe three years ago that it would have helped you with planning or if he would have created this projection years ago for you on a regular basis that would have helped, or did you have to grow to this level before you could use that?

Jack: I don’t think that would have helped because I think he would have not been familiar enough with the business for him to have much to add.

Andrew: I see.

Jack: I think it probably took him four or five months before he was at place he could begin to do that.

Andrew: Got it. Okay. All right. Well, congratulations on having gotten this big. I’m looking forward to our next interview in about five, six years where who knows how big you’ll get. But it’s inspiring, frankly, to see it because I knew you guys when you were just getting going, when you were just making it into something people said, “What is that? Is that like Y Combinator, this thing?”

Forget they didn’t know you. They didn’t even know the people who invested in you. Now everyone seems to know about SeatGeek. Frankly, apart from them knowing this is something you can’t really put a number on or anything, the app is just fun to use. It just works so beautifully well. I love it.

All right. Thanks so much for doing this. Thank you all for being a part of it. We’ve obviously been talking about SeatGeek. You can go to the website, but you probably are going to want the app instead, so go to the–oh, wait, wait, wait. I forgot to talk about the one thing, SeatGeek Open, the future.

Jack: Future.

Andrew: Right. The thing that I botched in the intro where I said it’s a radically open approach to ticket sales by a venue, that was the one sentence I had to read and I still got it wrong. I think your description of it is better. What are you trying to do with that?

Jack: Yes. It’s a whole new part of the business we launched earlier this year. Classic SeatGeek is a B2C app. SeatGeek Open is for venues and teams and artists, promoters. It allows them to run their business better and reach more fans. So the idea is let’s say that you run Dodger Stadium and historically maybe you’ve worked with a legacy ticketing company like Ticketmaster. That ticket company has only allowed you to sell through one single channel.

Andrew: Which is Ticketmaster.com?

Jack: Exactly. It might not be the most popular channel on the internet, it might not be the best mobile experience on the internet. I’ll leave that up to you.

Andrew: There aren’t a lot of people installing the Ticketmaster app the way that they’re installing SeatGeek or just browsing the app the way that they would browse other apps, for example.

Jack: Even if it was the best experience, not even the biggest–it’s very atypical in an ecommerce setting to have mono channel distribution, not even Apple only sells through Apple.com. They sell through the whole internet. It just makes freaking sense. So SeatGeek Open allows venues and teams to run their business by selling tickets across the whole web on any ticket site but also on any other ecommerce site, any physical location to reach users where they are across the whole web. That user data then flows back to the team so they can ultimately create better experiences for fans.

Andrew: Meaning that if I buy a ticket, they’ll know my name and how to contact me so that they have a relationship with me. They don’t do that with Ticketmaster?

Jack: No. In some cases they’ll have that information, but usually they won’t. So when we go out and talk to teams, a very common complaint, maybe the most common complaint is the team does not know who’s in their venue. There’s all sorts of [inaudible 01:01:37] from that, from a marketing concern but also even a security concern about not knowing who’s actually attending your events.

Andrew: I see. I understand that sports teams can do that. But like other venues can’t because they’re so tied into Ticketmaster, right? They’ve got long-term relationships with them.

Jack: Yeah. I’ll give you an example. We’re going live with our first team, Sporting Kansas City, early next year and that’s replacing Ticketmaster, which was previously ticketing that venue. So, this is a long-term deal that usually would be replacing another ticketing system within a venue.

Andrew: This has got to be a real long-term bet for you guys. It’s not the kind of thing that can take off in a year even, am I right?

Jack: Yeah. Totally. It’s us investing over the long-term but because I think there’s a huge need for this and a ton of opportunity and because teams are so frustrated, venues are so frustrated. Artists want to reach their fans. They want to create better experiences and the rails just don’t exist, like the technology doesn’t exist to enable that.

Andrew: I’ve heard so many entrepreneurs talk to venues because they want to get their software in venues in front of thousands of people and the one thing that resonates with venues, like, “Yeah it’s nice if you can do this, it’s nice if you can do that, but can you tell us who’s here? I want to be able to contact them.” That always seems to be the big winner. If you have like a bot, for example, and you want a venue to use the bot. Don’t sell them on all the things they can do. Sell them on the one thing they want, which is they’ll know who’s in their stadium.

That’s huge. You guys are doing that, among other things and we’ll keep watching SeatGeek Open as it develops. And of course, SeatGeek the app is available for us right now. The two sponsors I mentioned are–the first company will help grow your sales in an organized way. Check out Pipedrive.com/Mixergy. The second one will help you hire a great developer or designer or even someone to do the finances for your company. It’s called Toptal.com/Mixergy.

Thanks for doing this.

Jack: Thanks, man. Appreciate it.

Andrew: You bet. Bye, everyone.


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