founder

Founder Profile: This Founder Never Wants You To Buy A Fake Ticket Again

Summary

Have you ever bought tickets from a scalper or stubhub only to get to the gate and be told you aren’t allowed in? There are few feelings that leave you feeling queasy and unsettled.  

Live sports events are supposed to be fun but can be ruined by the $2.3B in fake tickets sold every year. On the other side of the equation, it is pretty wild to consider that despite all of the ads in a stadium, teams rarely have a good handle on who the heck is actually attending their games.

Perhaps blockchain technology can help bring transparency to who is attending games while forever ridding the ticket markets of fakes! That is a world I think we would all like to live in. Harold Hughes and his team at Bandwagon are out to solve this very issue.  

Check out more about the blockchain-enabled company below.

Chris Lustrino

Harold, can you tell us the genesis story of Bandwagon?

Harold Hughes

As I was finishing my MBA at Clemson University, I took a class called Strategic Management that was essentially a case study class where we reviewed startups and were tasked with making decisions based on the information they had at the time. It got me to thinking about if I created a company what I would focus on.

I knew that anything I built would have to involve sports and focus on connecting people. Growing up as a first-generation American to Jamaican parents, my 4 siblings and I didn’t have much and even when we did, it was just enough. That often meant only one of us being able to go on the class field trip or doing without laptops that our peers had.

That disparity in the classroom was tough to deal with but I was fortunate to be able-bodied because when it came to the soccer field or basketball court, I always felt like the playing field was level. So to me, sports has always represented a way to connect people from all over regardless of their differences. We created Bandwagon to help elevate the live game experience for fans everywhere and that game experience starts with the ticket.

Chris Lustrino

Many people who have used sites like Stubhub have likely run into a fake ticket at some point. So why is this able to happen?

Harold Hughes

Unfortunately that is the case. One our investors had it happen shortly after he decided to invest in us and it definitely confirmed his decision to back us. There are two main problems with ticketing. The first is the fact that we’re still printing paper tickets.

The second is that these ticket platforms don’t talk to each other. Because teams, concerts, and event organizers are still using paper tickets, the ability to confirm authenticity is a challenge because the ticket is essentially able to move unseen while offline. 

At the same time, since the ticket companies don’t talk to each other, it’s not uncommon for the same ticket to be listed on multiple sites at once, increasing the likelihood that a fan will end up with a fake ticket.

Chris Lustrino

Do you have a sense of how large a problem this actually is from a dollar standpoint?

Harold Hughes

Bandwagon is addressing the $30Bn ticket market of which we believe that more than $2Bn is being lost, by fans and other stakeholders, to fake tickets.

When we look at the problem, we think about the fact that despite these “100% money back” guarantees that most ticket companies offer, fans would much rather have more confidence that the ticket that they purchased will get them into the game or event of their choice.

Chris Lustrino

How does Bandwagon help to solve this problem?

Harold Hughes

Bandwagon is using blockchain technology to provide more perfect audit trails of ticket transactions for the event organizers, the ticket companies, and ultimately the fan.  

By focusing on fan identity – i.e. who actually owns the ticket – we’re able to help our partners eliminate fraud while increasing fan engagement. This allows for higher marketing efficacy, better communication on the day of the event, and improved public safety.

Chris Lustrino

How does blockchain best enable Bandwagon to create more transparency and better tracking capabilities of the individual ticket holder?

Harold Hughes

The data that’s needed to move the state of the industry forward is siloed in the databases of many different stakeholders who have different needs and market drivers.  

The teams that issue the tickets know about their season ticket holders but not what happens to the tickets after they leave the distributor.  The secondary markets know when a ticket is being sold but not where it was originated and equally important if it’s being sold on another market at the same time.  

Marketers and vendors may have an expected target audience, but may not know who actually attended the game or who the ticket buyer brought with them.

From a lost opportunity and challenges perspective, we see our solution working for three parties: teams, ticket companies, and brands. For teams, personalization of marketing messages and services begins with identity.

By knowing who is in the stadium regardless of the marketplace that the fan used to purchase their tickets, teams are able to curate the fan experience and deliver value that can’t be obtained at home. For ticket companies, identity is everything when it comes to solving the fraud problem.

By having a clear audit trail of authenticity, ticket companies can now allow fans to list tickets with certainty of their origin, ownership, and restrictions. As for brands, the biggest opportunity is the ability to do lower customer acquisition costs by using enriched data of fans based on the preferences that they display in aggregate or down to the individual fan level.

We believe that blockchain is the right technology to address these issues, by allowing stakeholders to cooperate on a shared model of tickets and fans, with the confidence to know that the model is only ever accessed and modified in ways that meet agreed-upon business rules, enforced by smart contracts securely, mathematically, and cryptographically.   

We believe that under this scheme, all stakeholders are properly incentivized to participate in data-sharing, in a way that opens new markets and new opportunities to capture fan engagement and provide enjoyment and a satisfying fan experience.

Chris Lustrino

What is stopping a secondary marketplace or a company like Ticketmaster from creating their own security platform like this?

Harold Hughes

One of the biggest values that we provide is that we are a true third-party validator. While companies like Ticketmaster or StubHub are clear market leaders from a volume standpoint, either of these companies creating a database solution that invites other ticket companies to load their customer and transaction data into their platform will likely be unsuccessful. 

From a technical standpoint, traditionally, when stakeholders want to open their data for collaboration they have to build and maintain gatekeeping applications to sit between their internal database and the wider world.  These gateways provide security and ensure that data integrity is maintained.

This gives you a little bit of transparency but only compounds the siloing issue–five stakeholders, five databases, five gateways; fifteen stakeholders, fifteen databases, fifteen gateways. All with their attendant maintenance complexities and costs.  

Enter the Bandwagon blockchain. Smart contracts allow us to embed the data integrity logic into the data itself. Anybody can make the change with any partner with confidence that data integrity is maintained. Security is maintained not by a piece of in-house software but by strong, industrial cryptographic security. Fifteen stakeholders, one database, no gateway.

Chris Lustrino

So who pays for Bandwagon and what do you estimate sales cycles will look like to sell to these organizations?

Harold Hughes

Our customers are teams, festivals, and event organizers. We’re still trying to figure out the sales cycle as it took us 4 months to land our first collegiate team and it took us a matter of weeks to land our first festival customer. What we have confirmed is the fluidity of our product as it relates to different types of events.  

That was important for us as it assured investors that our business model (and revenue) wouldn’t be cyclical as we can deliver our solution for any ticketed live event in any country using digital tickets.

Chris Lustrino

How does Bandwagon actually create value above and beyond that of the fees you charge for your service “aka” why would a team want to pay for this?

Harold Hughes

Our customers choose to work with us because we help them understand who is coming to their venue, how often they return, and 1st party data to help them understand the brands they support and decisions they make.

Aside from eliminating fraud, a team or other event organizer would partner with us because we are focused on helping them understand who is showing up on the day of the event regardless of where that fan buys their ticket.

Chris Lustrino

What types of data do you hope to collect on users and how do you think about monetizing or creating value from this data?

Harold Hughes

We collect third-party data like lots of companies which is your traditional age, gender, socioeconomic status, etc. kind of data. That information is good but often paints an incomplete picture. As a Chief Revenue Officer for an NFL team shared with us, “In today’s age, buying a season ticket is an irrational decision when you factor in the fact that most season ticket holders aren’t attending each game.

Because of that, we can’t simply market to users based on blanket demographics. We need to know what makes them choose to part with their hard earned money and that’s not sitting in some off the shelf database.”

That said, we’re able to also capture first-party data to help these teams and event organizers see a snapshot (in aggregate) of the ways that fans are engaging with their favorite team or events online as well as the partners in the ecosystem that help us gather offline data to round out profiles. We plan to provide this to our customers as they are able to use it to do better in-game activations and also extract maximum value from their sponsors.

Chris Lustrino

What does your team look like today and what type of team do you need to build this into a fully functioning business?

Harold Hughes

I’m a Clemson University graduate and after spending almost 10 years in the supply chain and asset management space, I started Bandwagon as a solo Founder but quickly realized that I’d need some help.

Our CTO, Arshad, is a Nebraska Cornhusker and has played several roles in the startup ecosystem from Founder to Investor. He’s responsible for our architecture and pulling in the resources needed to make our vision come to life. Sam, our COO, worked with me at the Fortune 1000 company and excelled as a salesperson and a Team Leader.

Hampton, our Director of Data Architecture, is the brains behind our blockchain solution. As an ex-Googler and with a Ph.D. in Computer Science, Hampton’s blockchain expertise has helped us transform our solution. La-Vaughnda, another Clemson Tiger, holds her J.D. from American University and serves as our Director of Brand Strategy to help with our B2B brand messaging.

Rounding out our team is our newest team member, Kim. Kim is our Head of Sales and Business Development. Her background in SaaS sales having worked for CareerBuilder mixed with her approach to finding and supporting customers has opened several doors for the few months that she’s been with us. 

As we build out the team to hit our next milestones, we know that we’ll need an additional Ops person, a Dev Ops person, a junior developer that we can groom, and a UX/UI person. That’ll really help us take this to the next level.

Chris Lustrino

What does your go-to-market strategy currently look like?

Harold Hughes

We’ve been really fortunate to have incredible investors and advisors that have helped us open doors. We believe that by getting in with a couple teams in each league at a discounted price, we’ll be able to leverage the rest of the market in a “follow the leader” strategy.

We also understand that though we are very sports focused, there are other markets that are ripe for our product offering so I’ve been working closely with Kim, our Head of Sales, to go through our 2019 prospect list and I’m happy to report that we have potential customers in over a dozen countries on that list!

Chris Lustrino

Why are you conducting an equity crowdfunding raise and what type of additional capital do you think you will need to raise to build this into a cash flow positive business?

Harold Hughes

I’ve learned over the years how important it is to have the right investors and partners working with us. Along our journey, we were introduced to the folks at Republic as an opportunity to connect with viewers in the upcoming season of Meet The Drapers.

Meet The Drapers (MTD) features the legendary Silicon Valley family, the Drapers, as they host entrepreneurs and give them the opportunity to pitch their company to a global audience. The difference between MTD and shows like Shark Tank is that instead of the Drapers pulling out their checkbooks on the spot, they turn to the viewing audience and encourage them to invest in the companies and founders that they believe in.

As a Black Founder, I’m especially excited about the opportunity to introduce early-stage startup investing to people who have largely never had the opportunity to invest and before the JOBS Act, didn’t have the vehicle. I’m passionate about building our band of supporters as we know that some of our most promising business development has come from our investors making introductions for us.

Now people all across the globe will be able to jump on the bandwagon by investing as little as $100. We absolutely expect to raise a round in 2019 but from looking at the cash that we have in the bank and the success of our crowdfunding campaign, we feel confident that we’ll be able to exceed our next milestones.

Optimizing in-stadium revenues through enhanced transparency and attendee data can bring real value to all sides of the market. With an intriguing value prop, i t is up to the team now to execute and show that the market is ready to adopt this novel technology solution to an age old problem.  

Hopefully we will all be saying goodbye to fake tickets for good! Be sure to invest HERE if interested.

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About: Chris Lustrino

A Boston College Eagle for life, on a mission to democratize startup investing for all people at KingsCrowd, with a passion for Fintech, investing, social impact, doing well and doing good, and an avid runner, cyclist and writer.

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