Interview with Ander Michelena (Ticketbis)
Ticketbis is a website where everyone can buy and sell event tickets.
I interviewed Ander Michelena, Ticketbis founder to find out more. This is the two hundred and twentieth in a series of DW startup interviews. Big thank you to Ander!
How would you describe Ticketbis in under 50 words?
Ticketbis is an online platform which allows users to buy and sell tickets to all sorts of events all over the world. Ticketbis acts as an intermediary between users who have tickets to an event that they won´t be able to attend and those users interested in buying them.
How did you meet co-founder Jon Uriarte?
We actually met on a flight to London. We were both in the airport when we discovered that we were workmates, both working at investment bank Morgan Stanley. We had more things in common, such as we were both from Bilbao and we were both supporters of the football team Athletic Bilbao!
What gap in the market did you discover that persuaded you to launch Ticketbis late 2009?
At the time we were working at Morgan Stanley and we were both burnt out. We had been researching different business models that had had success in the United States and we noticed that there was a gap in the market for a secondary ticketing market in Spain, so we decided to go for it and start Ticketbis. We jumped in the swimming pool and luckily there was water!
Who do you see as your target audience? How are you reaching them?
Ticketbis’ target audience is men and women aged between 25 to 45 years old and the majority of our users know exactly what they are searching for, so for us Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is fundamental; the majority of sales actually come from SEM. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is also very important for us. It is essential that we are well positioned in search engines, mainly Google.
You have offices all over the world! How do you manage time differences and distance?
In Spain we have offices in Madrid and Bilbao, with the majority of staff in Spain situated in the Madrid office. In Latin America we have offices in Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Mexico City, Bogotá and Santiago de Chile. I spend the majority of my time in the Madrid office, whereas Jon usually divides his time between the offices in Madrid and Bilbao. With our offices overseas we hold regular meetings using tools such as Google chat and Skype to make sure we stay connected with what is going on. In addition to this both Jon and I try to go at least twice a year to the offices in South America and we get the staff working there come and work in Madrid, this way the whole Ticketbis team gets to know each other. We believe it is important that all the pieces of the puzzle that make up Ticketbis are connected.
You’ve received $5.65M in funding. How difficult was it to secure this funding?
Actually we have received slightly more than that. In total we have raised $7.9M (€5.8M) in four rounds of funding.
We both left Morgan Stanley in 2009, during the crisis. We knew it wouldn’t be easy to find capital but we knew from talking to potential investors that we had a good idea. Finally after fighting for 4 months we closed our first round of funding of $550k (€400k) among the famous triple F: Friends, Family and Fools. Convincing Friends and Family is easier because they will always support you if they can. However, the challenge is to attract “Fools” or angel investors with a track record, who can open up doors for you. We had good luck of finding 2 businessmen who had had a lot of success: Eneko Knorr (founder of ideatecca and Hostalia) and Nicolás Iglesias (founder of Arsys). Later we closed our second round of $1.3M (€1M) where we were lucky enough to have investors such as Fabrice Grinda and José Marín. One year later, in 2012, we closed our third round of funding, obtaining $1.2M (€900k), and then in July 2013 we closed our fourth round of funding $4.8M (€3.5M).
Why have you targeted South America?
We decided to target South America as there were no competitors there who were working in the secondary ticketing market. Moreover, internet connections are constantly improving, and e-commerce is growing at an incredible rate. Also the most important sporting events and the biggest music tours can all be found in South America.
How do you differentiate yourselves from your competitors?
What differentiates Ticketbis from other secondary ticketing companies is that we are present in more than 18 countries; this allows us to offer tickets to over 1 million events all over the world. In addition, we have a global team made up of local professionals, originating from all the markets in which we operate. This enables us to offer our clients a more personalised service, in their native language and in their local currency.
What protection do you offer against forged tickets?
Ticketbis has guarantees in place to make sure that the tickets purchased by the buyer arrive on time and are 100% legitimate. In order to ensure that the tickets are original and are exactly the ones which the buyer had ordered, we don’t pay the seller until the buyers has attended the event and have confirmed that there were no problems with the tickets. Additionally, the finance department make routine checks to check that there are no problems with payments. Our main concern is that both the buyer and seller are covered.
Where do you see Ticketbis in 5 years time?
We have plans to continue our strategy of international expansion, and as well as this our intention is to reinforce our position as market leaders not only in Spain but also in the other countries that we operate. Since founding Ticketbis we have witnessed its rapid growth and we hope to continue with this growth for a long time!
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
Initially there were a few hurdles. Firstly, Jon and I had no idea of the ticketing market or how e-commerce worked, and there was a moment of fear when we got everything up and running and we thought “now how do we find buyers?”; you cannot imagine our relief when just a couple hours after being officially online we made our first sale. I even still remember the first buyer´s name! He bought two tickets to see U2 in Barcelona.
What advice would you offer to any soon to be startup founders out there?
I would encourage all would-be startup founders to pursue their dream and make it a reality. In my experience there is no “perfect moment” to start a business. I also believe there is no secret key to success; you just need the desire to work hard and to not become disheartened if things go to plan in the beginning. It is important to stay motivated, and if you execute your idea well you will continue moving forward.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
Honestly the thing that excites me most at the moment is the fact that we are creating jobs. In Spain right now youth unemployment is over 50% and knowing that we are able to create jobs is really motivating for me. In the last year we have gone from 80 members of staff to over 200 who speak more than 20 languages from 17 different nationalities.
Can you convince the reader to start using Ticketbis in under 50 words?
Just found out that you can’t attend a concert that you had bought tickets for months ago?
All the tickets to see your favourite band are sold out?
Buy and sell your tickets on Ticketbis!!
Finished reading? Check out Ticketbis!