Anyone who has attended a concert or live event within the past few years is aware of the challenges of simply buying a ticket. Between the fees, bots, and other technological hurdles, it’s enough to put you off of even trying, so it’s safe to say that the entire ticket process could do with some improvement.
Brothers Ritesh and Jigar Patel share the roles of CEO and cofounders of Ticket Fairy, a platform for both ticketing and event marketing. They spoke about Ticket Fairy’s unique function and position as well as how their own history with both events and startups informed their latest venture.
Mary Juetten: What’s the name of your company and where are you based?
Jigar Patel: Ritesh and I are cofounders and CEOs of The Ticket Fairy. I like to think we are based ‘everywhere’ and, in Ritesh’s case, ‘nowhere.’ He’s somewhat of a nomad and moves around, while I am now based in Dubai, and we have teams in Los Angeles, London, Auckland, Mumbai, Armenia, and Berlin. We tend to go where it makes sense to be. Ticket Fairy is global and our next launches are in the UAE and Mexico, so that’s where we each currently are.
Juetten: When did The Ticket Fairy start?
Jigar: We launched a very early version in late 2011, so Ticket Fairy has been around for a while. It’s just that nobody really knew we existed until around 2015, and that’s when we entered a new phase of growth, following our first external investment and taking part in the Y Combinator program.
Juetten: What problem is The Ticket Fairy solving?
Jigar: We keep event organizers in business by increasing their top line revenue and reducing their risk exposure. We improve their financial position, which helps to solve their biggest challenge: survival. We then support their growth with important data, insights and digital marketing workflows, which improves their profitability and growth potential. Ticket buyers actually pay less in service fees with us than they’re used to, and can even end up attending events for free by earning their ticket money back.
Ritesh Patel: We also protect fans from ticket scalping by naming every ticket, matching it with photo ID at the entrance of the event and providing a secure, face-value-only resale system that matches buyers and sellers safely, mitigating fraud and bad behavior. During Covid, this has also enabled events we work with to contact trace effectively.
Juetten: Who are your customers and how do you find them?
Ritesh: We’re both a B2B and B2C company. On the B2B side, our customers are event organizers, such as festivals, conventions, venues and artist management agencies. We find those through several channels – outbound sales, paid ads, distribution/affiliate partnerships and referrals from existing clients.
On the B2C side, we like to think that ticket buyers are our customers as well as those of the events they’re attending, because we really try to look after them. We feel that ticket buyers resonate with the value our brand brings instead of just being regarded as a transactional platform.
Jigar: Ticket Fairy sits neatly between event organizer and fan. We try to keep our B2B and B2C efforts semi-independent, but otherwise synchronized and in perfect harmony. We help event organizers to not only survive, but thrive, and we achieve this without extracting more money from individual fans through exorbitant fees or bad practices.
Once we acquire a B2B client, we tend to inherit their existing consumer base and often become the gateway for maintaining that relationship. We provide full customer support to ticket buyers, not only technical but also all the information they need to know about the event itself, becoming their go-to for everything related to it, taking that burden off of organizers’ shoulders and solidifying our relationship with their attendees.
Juetten: How did past projects and/or experience help with The Ticket Fairy?
Ritesh: Jigar and I started a few businesses together directly before Ticket Fairy, but the 2008 financial crisis flattened them, despite being incredibly viable companies, and we found ourselves in an extraordinary amount of debt, working 20-hour days to try and recover from it.
I had previously spent a decade throwing underground music events, simultaneously working a day job as an engineer at ad-tech and digital marketing startups, to help subsidize the losses of throwing those events. It’s super difficult to be a profitable events business and it became evident that the industry didn’t need another transactional ticketing platform, but it did need intelligent technology to generate revenue, so that’s what we built. Ticket Fairy was started as a solution to financial risk, to assist event producers to realize their creative vision, without having to sell their houses if their events didn’t sell enough tickets!
Juetten: Who is on your team?
Jigar: We employ around 40 people in various locations around the world at the moment, across engineering, business development, on-site operations, customer support, and content creation.
Juetten: Did you raise money?
Ritesh: We’ve raised just over $5 million so far, from some of the smartest investors in tech and entertainment, including:
- Y Combinator
- Steve Chen – Founder/CTO, YouTube
- Justin Kan – Founder, Twitch
- Steve Huffman – Founder/CEO, Reddit
- Daniel Gross – Former Director, Machine Learning, Apple
- Emmett Shear – CEO, Twitch
Ritesh: I think that if you created a “fantasy investor” list for a startup, most of our actual investors would be on that list. We’re incredibly grateful that they believed in our vision and backed us!
Juetten: How do you measure success and what is your favorite success story?
Jigar: Financial success is easy to measure; It’s just a little misleading. ‘Success’ itself is relative. I have difficulty in attributing it to a financial marker, because we’re all on different playing fields. So, here’s how I measure it: overcome odds that are stacked against you, and that’s success. The bigger the odds, the more successful you are.
Ritesh: I think that the real definition of success is not how much money you make for yourself, but how much of a positive impact you make on people’s lives. Your own financial success should be a result of that impact, not your primary measure of how successful you are. If you always strive to add value, money comes as a side effect of that.
My favorite recent success story is Roblox. They built something incredibly engaging, which was simultaneously educational for kids, and went public via a direct listing rather than the traditional IPO route.
Juetten: Any tips to add for early-stage founders or CEOs in growth mode?
Jigar: Remember why you’re doing this and let that be your guide. Listen to your customers, stay lean, keep moving, maintain focus, be innovative and aim to build something people will actually care about. If not enough people will care, you’re possibly going down the wrong path.
It’s tempting to keep looking at what your competitors are doing, but who wins a race looking sideways? If you’re creating innovation, there is no time to look anywhere other than the road ahead of you. You’re in the race. Look forward!
Ritesh: Oh, and don’t let bumps in the road get you down. Every billion-dollar company went through the same thing that you are. Believe in your vision for what needs to exist and learn from every blip along that path, no matter how minor. Your big, well-funded competitors probably can’t execute as quickly and scrappily as you. Use that to your advantage.
Juetten: What’s the long-term vision for your company?
Ritesh: We aim to become the industry standard of the live entertainment industry in the same way Salesforce is for corporations – a platform that you can run and grow your entire events business on, incorporating e-commerce, digital marketing, CRM, event management, finance, monetization, and more.
To that end, we also see Ticket Fairy directly impacting the ability of an artist to make a substantial living from touring, as we enable the events they perform at to make enough revenue to pay those artists well and consistently. We recently had a very large, prestigious venue tell us that our technology would help them to recover their losses from Covid, which is a huge indicator that our vision actually addresses the needs of the market.
Jigar: But, we’re going further. Ticket Fairy has the potential to impact lives beyond the live entertainment ecosystem. We are acutely aware of the social, environmental and philanthropic responsibilities upon us, and to that end have clear goals for what Ticket Fairy needs to represent. Very little from our original vision has changed on that front. We’re not quite ready to reveal what else we have planned, but I believe what we are building will surprise people.
Thank you to Ritesh and Jigar for taking the time to chat and best of luck with the future plans for Ticket Fairy. I for one am not sad to see the current ticket buying system go by the wayside in favor of something better. #onwards.