The disappointment of being a victim of a ticketing scam has resulted in a business opportunity and burgeoning success for the Cork-based father and son team behind tech firm Tixserve, writes Pádraig Hoare.
Being turned away from a Rolling Stones concert after inadvertently buying fraudulent tickets was a bitter experience for PJ Kirby and his son James.
However, through that unpleasant experience sprung an idea the men believe can revolutionise ticketing at major events.
A former underage football star with Cork, PJ Kirby said the Tixserve concept developed with James is one that can work hand in hand with the GAA, as well as further afield with the likes of the English Premier League and the US National Football League (NFL).
According to Mr Kirby Snr:
“That happens at every large event where there is huge demand. If you take the O2 in London, on average there are about 400 people every night turned away at the doors because they have fallen into the trap of buying these tickets. It is quite a serious problem. Tixserve was set up in 2015 with a vision to move beyond the inefficient use of paper, which has seen ticketing companies and sporting organisations putting thousands of tickets into addressed and posted envelopes to manage entry into music and sports events.
Not only was the process costly, labour intensive and wide open to fraud through duplication, but there was also no opportunity for rights owners to establish a ticket-based digital marketing platform to engage with a clearly defined consumer profile, according to Mr Kirby.
Using Tixserve, consumers access the service by downloading an app to their phones. Consumers provide their name and mobile phone number to receive their tickets directly to their mobile phones, without the need to produce photo ID and credit card details at the venue gate and eliminating the need for paper.
The consumer is never denied access, even if they lose their phone or battery failure, as they can transfer their details to another phone.
At the same time, the system allows event organisers to name everybody who actually attends a particular event. Earlier this year, Tixserve struck a deal with leading independent ticketing company, Tickets.ie, specialising in selling tickets for large stadiums such as Croke Park and Páirc Uí Chaoimh, along with theatres, music and arts events, processing close to three million tickets annually.
Mr Kirby said it is not about competing with ticketing giants, but rather working with firms to ensure customer satisfaction and security.
“We decided not to compete with people who sell tickets. Ticketmaster is a very familiar brand, as is Tickets.ie in the sports and GAA area. There are 92 ticket sellers in the UK market alone. The problem is not the selling of the ticket, it is the delivery, the means of getting the ticket. We focus on the last mile of getting the ticket into the hands of the consumer in a more convenient way,” he said.
While firms like Ticketmaster and airlines were beginning to look at mobile tickets and mobile phone technology, the problem was that none of the solutions had the security needed to stop fraudulent use, he said.
“What we are offering is not just a mobile ticket that looks like a mobile boarding pass, it is fundamentally much more secure. It stops fraudulent duplication and you will always know who has the ticket. It can’t move from your phone unless it is authorised to do so.”
A GAA partnership would be a big prize for sentimental as well as business reasons, Mr Kirby said, because of the Glanworth native’s connection with Cork football going back decades.
“I relate to all the people in the GAA who work on a voluntary basis, and distributing tickets can be a pain when it comes to the logistics of it. With our system, the county boards and Croke Park can distribute tickets digitally now. You will know who is attending the event. We are in discussions to get the ball rolling for some of the less high-profile events. We would be optimistic because the GAA has done a lot of good things in recent years when it comes to technology that this will give huge convenience to people who go to games, and eliminates the selling on of tickets.” The system is also attracting attention further afield.
“We’ve engaged with Uefa, which plans to have 50% of its tickets mobile by 2020.
“There is an organisation in the UK, which we cannot name for non-disclosure purposes, that uses a platform we are integrating with. It will give us access to all major rugby, cricket and other sports events,” he said.