No venue, promoter, sports team, or stadium likes empty seats. Not only is there a loss in revenue but if you go to a show or a ball game and the stands are not filled to capacity it looks bad. The problem lies in the fact that there’s never really been a good last minute ticketing platform.
Sure scalpers are abundant, especially outside of popular sporting events and concerts. You’ll notice that scalpers will charge a high premium an hour or two before an event, but once the event has started, or as the minutes countdown to show time or game time, those scalpers even lower their prices. Nobody wants to take a loss.
The ticketing space is a very difficult one to crack. TicketMaster/LiveNation has a stranglehold on most large venue tickets and they don’t seem to budge as the clock narrows down. Separate venues and groups that like to stick it to the man, like Pearl Jam, and of course your local bands have other alternatives for ticket sales.
Salt Lake City startup Text Me Tix, provides a really great way for venues, promoters and teams to fire sale tickets. The method of delivery is text messages, which according to Text Me Tix Founder and CEO Mark Harmsen, are read within 3 minutes of receipt. Why not use that urgency in the text message realm to sell tickets.
Text Me Tix is picking up a lot of traction. They just won the opportunity to pitch Zappos founder and Mr. Startup Las Vegas Tony Hsieh as the first place winner of the Crowdfunder.com, Crowdstart Las Vegas competition.
In the interview below Harmsen explains how Text Me Tix saves ticket buyers a lot of money and solves a huge problem for ticket sellers.
What is TextMeTix?
TextMeTix.com has unique relationships with venues and promotors allowing them to offer exceptional last minute discounts to hundreds of thousands of subscribers. 90% of text messages are read within 3 minutes of delivery making SMS a perfect “fire sale” platform for venues. We also work with venues and box offices to locate un-sold inventory the day of the event and offer event goers the ability to upgrade their seats into those un-sold (No more having to sneak down at halftime). 2 Billion smart phones are projected to be in use worldwide by 2015. We customize ticket preferences so customers love us because we offer suggestions on what to do at a discount and our partners love us because we put butts in seats!
In layman’s terms, how does it work?
Opting in to Text Me Tix is easy and free. Create a profile and customize their preferences at Textmetix.com or by texting TIX to 53535. When we get a hold of discounted inventory that matches subscribers preferences, we broadcast it to subscribers immediately via SMS text. Each text messages includes a link that directs subscribers to the Textmetix mobile website where tickets are purchased with just a few clicks. The best part about it is that your ticket is right on your phone.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
The Founder and CEO of Text Me Tix is Mark Harmsen. Mark left his post as the Director of Sales for an NBA basketball team to start Text Me Tix after recognizing the need to fill un-used seat inventory. He started experimenting by selling his dad’s season Utah Jazz tickets to his Facebook friends with posts like “Text Me For Tickets” and Text ###-#### 4 tix! By leveraging the power of his Facebook page, Harmsen took it a step further by deciding to build a list of text subscribers after learning that more than 90% of text messages are read within three minutes of delivery. Prior to creating Text Me Tix, Harmsen worked in sports and entertainment sales & marketing for Rock Star Shows, Dew Tour and NBC Sports & Olympics. He has a Bachelors Degree in Communications and Marketing from the University of Utah and a Masters Degree in Management from Columbia University.
Where are you based?
While tickets are sold on the site to events all over the country, Text Me Tix is based in Salt Lake City, Utah.
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
With a vibrant and growing technology start up scene, Salt Lake City has recently adopted the nickname “Silicon Slopes.” Three major Universities within 30 minutes and a number of entrepreneur groups meeting openly and regularly fosters a great culture. BoomStartUp accelerator is located in the heart of Salt Lake County and was recently recognized as one of the top 15 small business accelerators in the country. Text Me Tix recently graduated from the BoomStartUp class of 2012.
How did you come up with the idea for TextMeTix?
CEO and Founder Mark Harmsen came up with the idea when right after the devastating earthquake in Haiti. The American Red Cross was using texting to raise funds to help victims. Harmsen thought applying texting to upgrade seats while at the basketball game would be effective and easy.
How did you come up with the name?
I had a feeling I wanted a name that described what we did in it but decided to make a list of 50 potential names (regardless of whether the domain was available of not) and then get feedback from more than 20 family members and friends. I kept narrowing the field of names until I got to the final 5. I believe they were EzTix, TextTix, TicketMonkey, PixieTix, and TextMeTix,
SInce not all the domains were available I decided to create a budget I was comfortable spending on a domain. Many domain owners were unreasonable on the sale price but in the end I liked TextMeTix and the owner was easy to work with in selling the domain.
What problem does TextMeTix solve?
There is a problem that exists for venues all over the world every single day known as un-used inventory. It leaves money on the table. Not just in ticket sales but in ancillary forms of revenue like parking, concessions and merchandise for the event. Text Me Tix helps alleviate that pain by putting butts in seats and increasing revenue for organizations, excitement for fans and exposure for sponsors.
What’s your secret sauce?
To be honest the main ingredient in the secret sauce is texting. There are plenty of deal platforms out there but what makes us unique is that we specialize in SMS. We push notify with a text and since 90% of text messages are read within 3 minutes of delivery, we know that it’s effective and immediate. We also text the ticket to you so that it’s where you want it…..right on your phone. With offers and tickets directly on your phone, it makes it really easy to share deals with family and friends as well as transfer tickets. We understand that pushing offers to customers on their cell phones can be intrusive and that’s why we’re not a daily deal service and we only push out ticket offers that align with customer’s personal preferences. Aside from some really great technology, the culture of our brand is fun and spontaneous. People like to be associated with Text Me Tix because we’re keeping people involved with fun events on your phone and through our social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest).
What’s one dilemma you’ve encountered in the startup process?
One dilemma I’ve encountered personally is trying to convince people that we’re unique. Whether it’s investors, friends, family or strangers, when you tell them you’ve quit your job to build a start up, a lot of the time they think you’re crazy and just wasting your time. They like to plant doubts in your head and tell you that somebody else like Google or Facebook is already doing that. It’s important to keep your bearings straight and trust your strategy. That doesn’t mean abandoning the lean start up mentality and feedback, just not letting the haters get to you.
What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?
Building a team can be challenging. For one, your start up is your baby, but just like moving a sofa up 5 flights of stairs (Which I did while in grad school at Columbia University) it’s a lot easier with more sets of hands to help you. I tried for a while to go at it alone but it wasn’t until I really brought on advisors, development, design and marketing / sales help that we started turning the heads of investors, vendors and ultimately customers. Another challenge to overcome in building a start up is being cocky and refusing to absorb criticism and the idea of necessary pivots along the way. The book “Nail it and Scale it” provides some good analysis in the first chapter teaching that the demise of a lot of start ups can be in stubborn founders not being willing to make compromises. I’m glad I learned this early on.
Who are some of your mentors and business role models?
The entrepreneurship blood runs thick in my family genes so I think I have my parents and siblings to thank for that. My dad is as entrepreneurial as they come and at a young age I knew that I wanted to live a life like his with not just financial freedom, but the time to enjoy that freedom. Owning his own business allowed him to travel with us as a family, spend time with my mom and attend the recitals and games of six kids. I’m not sure about the six kids part but I can’t wait to have that peace of mind and introduce the American dream to my kids someday.
While I might not always agree with them, I also find in the spot light but adolescent like entrepreneurs such RIchard Branson, Mark Cuban and Timmothy Ferris fascinating. A lot of people despise them for their extravagant lifestyles but the idea of using wealth to engage in things that are genuinely beyond measure like space flight, private islands, owning a professional sports team or becoming a world kickboxing champion and New York Times best seller is pretty cool.
What’s next for TextMeTix?
Well we just won First Place in the Crowdfunder.com CrowdStart Las Vegas competition which comes with the opportunity to pitch Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh and the Vegas Tech Fund for a $500,000 investment. If we secure that funding there’s a good possibility that Text Me Tix could relocate to Las Vegas and begin broadcasting our offers to the hundreds of Vegas shows and events every week. Aside from that we are finalist in the Grow America Springboard competition in Salt Lake and are in the process of making some key hires and relationships with venues and distribution partners. I really with I could say “Shark Tank” but we’ll have to continue to keep our fingers crossed on that one.
Check out the Crowdfunder challenge here
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