Start-up of the week: Future Ticketing

6 Mar 2017

Future Ticketing CEO Liam Holton. Image: Luke Maxwell

Our start-up of the week is Future Ticketing, a firm that was founded to put events and venues in control of their customer experience.

“We are replacing outdated, legacy ticketing solutions involving branded middlemen that charge high commissions, hijack your customer data and prevent you from branding your own events,” said Future Ticketing founder Liam Holton.

“Our cloud-based ticketing software platform enables venues, visitor attractions, events, promoters, shows and sports organisations to sell tickets directly from their own website and social media. It also allows them to collect data on their customers for analytics, marketing and future sales.

‘Our vision is to build a global standard for digital and cloud ticketing. We would like to become the Stripe of ticketing’

“We work with events and venues that sell tickets from 100 right up to 100,000-plus customers,” said Holton.

The market

The Future Ticketing software platform is downloadable over the internet so it’s very much a global product.

“A key differentiator for us vis-à-vis legacy incumbent players is that Future Ticketing is designed to be mobile-first.

“Some of our customers are selling as much as 70pc of their tickets over mobile and it’s a trend that is only going to increase among events and venues.”

Juniper Research estimates that globally, there will 23bn event and transport tickets sold over mobile by 2020. In a recent report, Technavio forecasted that global mobile tickets will grow CAGR (compound annual growth rate) 20pc in the period 2016-2020.

“Mobile is where the growth in ticketing is going to come from and we are positioned accordingly.”

The founder

Start-up of the week: Future Ticketing

Future Ticketing CEO Liam Holton. Image: Luke Maxwell

Holton comes from a background in marketing and sales.

“In my 20s, I ran my first business in Milan before returning to Ireland 15 years ago. One of my passions is sport and I was fortunate to work at Punchestown Racecourse, which hosts some of the largest and best-known sporting and music events in Ireland, attracting hundreds of thousands of customers annually.

“It was through my involvement on the events side and the need for a smart digital solution that the idea for Future Ticketing arose,” Holton added.

Co-founders Mark Cotter and Emelyn Murray have backgrounds in programming, process engineering, operations, web development and digital marketing.

The technology

Future Ticketing is part of the growing application programming interface (API) economy that is selling software-as-a-service (SaaS), doing away with the need for an upfront capital expenditure spend on hardware.

“Our technology is based on a standard LAMP architecture hosted using Amazon’s Elastic Beanstalk and RDS infrastructure. Our customer dashboard is highly flexible and easy to use, while customers can purchase tickets in as few as four simple steps.

“Our vision is to build a global standard for digital and cloud ticketing. We would like to become the Stripe of ticketing,” said Holton.

Future Ticketing began trading in mid-2014 and recently passed the 100-customer milestone, which is split 75/25 between Ireland and the UK, with new customers being added weekly.

“To date, we have processed nearly €9m worth of tickets in 70 countries worldwide.

“Our early strategy was to refine the technology in the marketplace and to prove its flexibility across different ticketing segments. This flexibility has given us customers in agricultural and outdoor shows, conferences, equestrian events, ferries, fun runs and cycling events, music venues, museums, racecourses, sports stadia, visitor attractions and even Santa’s grottos.

“We have a number of Irish racecourses as customers, including Punchestown, Galway and Listowel, while we also work with the Tullamore Show, which is the country’s largest agricultural show.

“There is huge potential for us globally in the area of visitor attractions and our customers in this area include The Book of Kells in Trinity College, Dublin, The Little Museum of Dublin and Newbridge Silverware. In the UK, we are working with major equestrian events such as Blair Castle Horse Trials and the Barbury Horse Trials.”

Holton said that Future Ticketing’s deployment time varies from as little as 24 hours up to eight weeks for more complex organisations.

“Fundamentally, we now have an off-the-shelf product, which can be downloaded from anywhere around the globe for free and from which a promoter could be up and running within a day or two. However, some larger customers require further customisation, particularly when we are replacing an incumbent supplier.

“In terms of funding, we closed an initial investment round of private investment before Christmas and we are funded to deliver our business plan for the next two years.”

Ticket to ride

Holton explained that like most new businesses, cash flow is one of the first and most important challenges to be faced and overcome.

“In year one, we worked part-time in the business, which helped. Thankfully, we developed a very good relationship with Bank of Ireland, who have been very supportive to us in our formative years.

“Another sizeable challenge is customer inertia and resistance to new ideas. It takes time for a new player to disrupt old ideas and dislodge established brands. You sometimes have to get the potential customer to physically see the range of benefits in action, and our technology is very sophisticated before you change minds. Once you get to that stage, however, there is real traction and buy-in.

“Finally, like so many Irish companies before us, the next challenge is to take the well-worn path to displacing incumbents in international markets. Because our product can be downloaded over the internet, there is a very significant opportunity for us globally.”

Golden age of technology

Holton genuinely believes that here in Ireland, we are living in a golden age of technological development and innovation.

“Over the years, economics have forced Irish people to open up to the wider world and to work abroad. This has broadened our horizons and enabled us to see things differently.

“At the same time, there has been the significant inward investment into Ireland over the last decade by global technology companies, which has created that critical mass of capital, ideas and new talent locating here from abroad. It’s a potent mix, which means there is a real platform for creativity and development in Ireland.

“Future Ticketing has emerged out of this environment. We are running an API company with global potential from Tullamore, Co Offaly.

“Sure, we have a few hipsters with beards among our staff but, in general, we are slightly older and more conventional in profile.

“Technology is enabling people from a variety of backgrounds and specialisms to build new solutions for the modern world, and it allows people such as ourselves who have prior business experience to build a new company.”

Holton’s advice to other European start-ups is to look to Ireland. “We would probably advise them to move to Ireland. From our own personal learnings, I would say trust your foundation customers and work with them as closely as you can.

“They will help you as you design and refine your solution. It speeds up the time it takes to get a product to market and when you get it to market, you have confidence that there is a demand for your solution.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years