This is an updated version of a story that was first published in June 2017. The startup featured, TicketChain, has since rebranded itself as Evopass.
Just about every one of us has been in that tough spot where you’re shopping for a ticket to a show or sports match only to find it’s sold out.
The only option that remains in this situation is the secondary ticket market, which comes with its own headaches. Ticket touters online and in person often end up charging a lot more than face value and you run the risk of buying a fake or duplicate ticket and get turned away at the door.
65 per cent of the complaints about tickets to the European Consumer Centre Ireland had to do with inflated prices on the secondary market. 20 per cent of the complaints had to do with ticket fraud.
In July, the Government agreed to new rules regulating the secondary ticket market. The bill would outlaw selling tickets for more than they are worth.
The proposed law is already having widespread impacts on the market. This week, Ticketmaster Ireland announced they were shutting down their secondary ticket market outlet called Seatwave.
— Ticketmaster Ireland (@TicketmasterIre) August 13, 2018
“Secondary sites just don’t cut it anymore and you’re tired of seeing others snap up tickets just to resell for a profit,” reads a Ticketmaster news release. “All we want is you, the fan, to be able to buy tickets to the events you love.”
Ticketmaster says they will roll out a peer-to-peer system for reselling tickets. The company plan to launch that option sometime in the next year.
But a group of young Irish entrepreneurs are already doing that.
More than just a new ticketing company, Evopass uses smarter technologies that aim to keep costs down, prevent fraud and touting, making it not worthwhile for bots.
Co-founders Jake MccGwire, Kevin Murray, and Zach Diebold graduated from Trinity College Dublin. Now, they’re pivoting Evopass from a focus on the initial ticket sales and secondary ticket market to just the secondary market.
About Ticketmaster’s decision to shut down Seatwave, Murray says, “We’ll have to see how it actually affects the ticketing landscape and market.
Murray says the changes in Irish law as well as the business market shows they are ahead of the curve.
“We were in the right space with the right idea and built it early.”
Evopasss co-founders say there are big differences between them and the big competition. First and foremost: MccGwire believes Evopass can operate with much smaller fees because they are absolutely positive the tickets sold are valid. Tickets are entirely handled electronically with better record-keeping and added security features.
“[The existing] companies are happy to take a large cut, a huge commission, on the primary and secondary market while screwing over the artists and the fans,” says MccGwire.
Most other secondary ticket sites cant be entirely sure their tickets are legitimate. According to Diebold, much of what you’re paying for in fees is essentially insurance that if you get turned away you’ll get a refund.
MccGwire says there is an incalculable cost for the artist and consumer in that scenario. Sure, the fan didn’t lose money, but their night was ruined.
“You lose the experience,” says MccGwire.
He would know. MccGwire says he went to a concert with a ticket he purchased on the secondary market. He was almost certain the ticket would be fraudulent.
Nervous, he waited in line until it was time to scan. With the beep, he was in, and a massive weight lifted from his shoulders.
To prevent touting, Evopass limits the sale price on their secondary market to a small amount above face value, in line wth the new law. Buyers pay a 10% commission to use the service, while ticket sellers pay nothing.
Murray says people who want to buy mass quantities of tickets will always be able to program software to get around every anti-bot system. The only way to truly stop bots is to eliminate their incentive to operate.
Murray says, “If we reduce this incentive then they’re less likely put up the money to get if they can only get a tiny fraction or nothing at all.”
According to the Fan Fair Alliance, an organisation calling for better anti-touting laws in the UK, the online secondary ticket market made about a billion pounds from charging above face value in one year. That is money that doesn’t benefit the artists.
Murray says with Ticketmaster shutting down Seatwave, Evopass will be much more attractive to Ticketmaster’s competitors.
The Irish market
Honestly, a business like this is prime for Ireland, where the proposed pieces of legislation will directly impact the secondary ticket market.
Ticketmaster strongly opposed the legislation initially which, if passed, will cap how much people can charge on the secondary market.
In a submission to the Department of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation, Ticketmaster says resale horror stories were part of media sensationalism.
In the filing, Ticketmaster said, “Our data shows that less than 1% of the tickets that Ticketmaster Ireland sells on behalf of its clients are subsequently resold a vastly different story to what is told in the Irish press.”
Fine Gael TD Noel Rock, who proposed one of the regulations in the Dáil, said in his response that Ticketmaster wants to control both the primary and secondary market, because they make a lot of money on both.
In truth, Ticketmaster has done a lot to try and prevent fraud and exorbitant touting. For the West End production of the American show Hamilton, the company tried out a new paperless system. People attending the show cannot sell the tickets or give them to a friend.
There is essentially no secondary market. That prevents problems seen in New York with tickets to Hamilton going for several thousand dollars.
However, those changes aren’t entirely fan-friendly. Buying a ticket months or even a year before the production, you never know if a life went could prevent you from going. There needs to be some sort of secondary market to sell unused tickets.
As a startup, Evopass could do what that legislation cant and existing companies won’t: give fans the chance to see the shows they want at a reasonable price and with the ability to sell tickets they don’t need.
Besides the number of concerts and sporting matches, Dublin’s startup culture with plenty of accelerators, hackathons, and competitions played a major role in forming this young business.
The team first came together at the Blockchain Hackathon hosted by Chainsmiths. MccGwire and Murray, who studied business and economics had little to no experience coding.
“We were paranoid that if we go this completion wed be asked to join a team and they’d want to know what we can offer,” said MccGwire. “We were going to have nothing to talk about. So we decided to come up with our own idea.”
Since that hackathon, the Evopass team competed in Trinity’s Entrepreneurial Dragons Den and the Launchbox Accelerator Program.
One lesson the team learned in each competition: how to explain their product and, by extension, blockchain. They’ve gotten pretty good at it.
In a self-reflecting blog post in December 2017, the team said they wanted to move away from a blockchain-based system, which necessitated the rebrand.
Taking on major companies is never easy, but the Trinity graduates aren’t afraid.
“If you spoke to Eventbrite when they started, you would’ve asked them the same question: how are you going to beat Ticketmaster? They were successful,” says Murray. “It is an ever-growing pie, and you only have to take a portion.”
As Evopass continues to grow, they’ll have a bigger impact on the market.
That could be good news for fans and artists alike.