Tech startups make music and events a smooth operation

Luke Rynne Cullen: Applaud helps performing musicians earn a living

Two Irish companies are disrupting the events space with innovative technology.

Applaud is an online marketplace for booking live music acts, while ticketing tech company Tito caters for organisers of events of all sizes.

Software developer Paul Campbell founded Tito with Doc Parsons in 2014. Tito’s first line of code was written in 2010 for Funconf, a “mysterious” tech conference held on a bus tour around Ireland.

The founders worked on Tito as a semi-sideproject for a few years, raising around €45,000 through a crowdfunding campaign in 2013. Tito caters for any organisation, from community to commercial, that is holding an event that requires ticket sales, Mr Campbell said. It charges a percentage of proceeds, with no fees for charity events and 1% for non-profits.

Early on, Mikeal Rogers was inspired to use Tito for his NodeConf. Since then, Tito has worked with tech conferences such as Web Summit and Dublin Tech Summit. Mr Campbell said he is excited to be partnering with C2 Montreal this year.

With customers in 55 countries, previous clients include Twilio, Intercom, and Shopify. Having bootstrapped until 2017, Tito received €250,000 match funding from Enterprise Ireland under its High Potential Start-Up Fund. A total injection of €500,000 in funding helped the company to double its revenue and grow the team, based on Dublin’s Dame St, from three to ten.

Tito processed $80m (€71.1m) in ticket sales in 2018. The company currently handles €300,000 worth of tickets each weekday and is projected to pass €1m in revenue in the next 12 months.

Competing in a space already occupied by ticketing giants Eventbrite and Ticketmaster, Mr Campbell says Tito’s USP is its “strong developer focus”, a stress-free user experience, and commitment to data privacy.

Meanwhile, Luke Rynne Cullen was studying English while managing the Trinity Orchestra when he came up with the idea of an online booking agent for musicians.

His experience in booking performances for the orchestra at corporate events and festivals and as a freelance violinist helped him to recognise some of the pain points that musicians face.

He said:

Sometimes when you do a gig and you’re expecting payment, there’s an envelope there at the end of the night, and it’s €200 short. As a freelance violinist it’s cash on the night; with orchestras it’s 30-day invoicing.

And then you need to factor in additional expenses such as transport costs, he added. Using the Applaud model, he doubled the orchestra’s bookings and increased its profits 10-fold.

Amended: "Mr Rynne Cullen said Applaud’s mission is to help musicians make a living from performing through its technology solutions. Currently, the platform charges a 10% service fee, which Mr Rynne Cullen said is considerably lower than the market standard of 20% to 30%.

He plans to move to a subscription model, offering a free profile where musicians can showcase their work. A premium service will have additional features, including a booking management system with online payments.

The team is currently taking part in the New Frontiers programme at TU Dublin Hothouse. With the new platform up and running, it aims to be in a position to seek private investment later this year.

The company is initially focusing on the lucrative wedding market. There were over 21,000 weddings in 2018 in Ireland, with wedding bands charging an average of €2,500.

With clients in the live music, wedding, and corporate events space including the Grand Social and Thinkhouse, and more than 250 musicians signed up to the platform, the company is focusing on user growth as it moves towards a more SaaS-based model.

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