TickX: Meet the Event Ticket Comparison Site that Turned Down the Dragons’ Den

Have you ever fruitlessly searched for when your favorite artist /show/sports team is next coming to town? Have you been frustrated by the sheer amount of both ticket and ticket-resale sites that pop up? Have you then struggled to figure out which one is the most trustworthy, or will give you the best deal?

Well all of that is about to change!

We sat down with Steve Pearce, co-owner of the tech company TickX to discuss how he started his own company right out of university and his vision of becoming the events industry’s version of SkyScanner.

By combining a winning idea, an immense amount of sweat equity, and proprietary technology, we discuss how TickX came to be and how they plan to become THE go to comparison platform for consumers.

Steve, kick us off - What’s your elevator pitch for TickX?

TickX is a search engine and comparison site for event tickets. We consolidate over 70,000 music, comedy, theatre, festival, and sporting events from 35 ticketing partners to one single platform. Our global vision is to become the Skyscanner for event tickets. Our value to event goers is providing them with key information all in one place - what events are going on, when they're happening, which provider is selling tickets, and who can give them the best deal.

Where did the idea behind TickX come from?

Tickx actually started off as club listing website while I was at the the University of Manchester. I quickly realised that there wasn’t any single decent place where event goers could see all the information they would be looking for when looking into events.

I pitched the idea to my friend Sam and he really saw the value in offering a comparison service. Joining forces, Sam took on the technical side of the business, while I oversaw managing the commercial and marketing side of things.

We saw that this had been done before in hotel, travel and insurance industries across multiple markets and thought that with the huge similarities between the travel world and the events industry, we could replicate the success of those models here for our purposes.

While appearing on Dragons’ Den, TickX received offers from all 3 investors but you made the decision to turn them down - can you tell me about that experience?

It was a pretty surreal experience. We never actually applied to go on Dragons Den, we were contacted by BBC research team, asking us if we would be interested in pitching to the dragons. We hopped on a call, they liked what we were doing, and we were invited in to pitch. It all happened very fast - it was an incredible experience, from pitching to the dragons to having the idea validated by them offering to invest. And the result of being on television aired to millions of people has obviously given huge exposure to the brand, both with event goers but also industry partners.

To be honest we just felt the offers undervalued the business - a lot of our friends and family thought we were crazy at the time, but we have no regrets at all. We’ve ended up raising 10 times what we were offered since then, and have brought on board some incredible value adding investors such as Ministry of Sound and the ex CEO of BUPA. Since we are a young team, we’re very keen to surround ourselves with the best - and that’s exactly what we’ve done.

What has been the most difficult part of securing funding?

I think the key to raising funding now is that you don’t have people investing very early on in just a powerpoint presentation - they want to see proof of proprietary technology, they want to see proof of the commercial agreements you have, and they want to see proof of any marginal traction you have.

We worked pretty much around the clock, evenings, weekends, and holidays, building the platform, developing the technology, and bringing on board commercial partners. We pitched to MOS (Ministry of Sound) and they could see we had a lot of sweat equity - investors really see that time investment and it has a lot of weight. They also really believed in our idea as well - they’d seen proof of its concept in other industries and it was time to tackle events.

That was the seed round and my biggest learning was that it’s key you have something built, even if there's not much traction yet, you need to have proof you’ve got something which you can grow.

During the second round of funding we were growing 30% MoM which was a really strong position for us to be in. The crucial part of the 2nd round of funding is getting a number of parties excited and interested in your vision - no one's interested unless someone else is interested as well. At the end of the day no one’s going to want what no one else wants.

Would you do anything differently if you could go back in time(in the last 4 or 5 years)?

All the mistakes you make you do learn from them - and I’m pleased they happened when they did because there have been instances down the line in which we avoided that mistake because of the learning we gained in the past. As a startup family you're constantly solving problems and overcoming hurdles - looking back we would have spent even more time researching the investment funds and key stakeholders we spoke to because investing your time in speaking to the right people is absolutely crucial.

Are there any conference experiences that stick out in your mind? It can be difficult to decide which are the right ones to spend your time on.

The best investor showcase we’ve attended is EIE 2016 (Engage, Invest, Explore). We presented at this last year and it provided some incredible exposure. We were one of the top 5 businesses to do an extended pitch to the 1000 investors in the room. I would highly recommend any founders coming through to look at EIE in Scotland.

The other amazing conference we did was the ‘New Faces and Disruptors’ panel at the Technology Forum (this is a global ticketing conference). I would recommend anyone in the ticketing industry to attend the Ticketing Technology forum - it’s got all the influencers in the events and ticketing world in one central location. It was a great podium for us to announce that we are going to be expanding internationally as well.

Looking forward, what’s next on the horizon for TickX?

We are rolling out seating maps across the UK, so you can actually see/select a given seat in a theatre! You can then see the actual view you would have from that specific seat. It gives you better perspective on where you're sat and what exactly you're paying for.

A few other key initiatives for us over the next months will be expanding internationally, and launching our chat bot (this is really cool - it uses AI technology which responds in real time to customer requests about events, prices, locations - you name it!) So it’s quite busy at the moment!

Our vision is to be the global go to platform for consumers , and so with that in mind we are currently building something powerful for event search and comparison for media and travel partners - it's called TickX for Business. We’ll be announcing some major partners over the next few months.

The reason we're doing that is we are also looking to expand into the travel sector. Where we really see the value of TickX is with travel partners - think of it this way: you book your flights, your car rental, your hotel, and the next thing you’ll look to do is to see where to go and what to do when you get there. So we're looking at partnering with some major travel firms to work on that. So that being said, we have some very big plans for the rest of 2017!

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