Tix Fix: Launching a Ticket Service
When Springsteen plays the Garden, he's got a huge ticketing apparatus behind him. For everyone else, there's TicketLeap. Chris Stanchak's five-year-old, Philly-based company handles online ticketing for small and medium-sized events across the country-plays and concerts, club dates and ballgames, parties and conferences. If you're selling tickets to a speed dating event, an archery tournament, or a yoga retreat, TicketLeap's the place to go.
Stanchak's a tech-oriented guy who ended up getting a business degree almost by accident. He was a systems integration consultant working at UPenn to shepherd the university through the anticipated pitfalls of Y2K; he ended up sticking around to learn a thing or two. TicketLeap-a concept that drew upon both his tech and business smarts- started in Wharton's Venture Initiation Program. The idea made so much sense that in 2003, Stanchak turned it into a reality.
For the first few years, TicketLeap was a back-burner operation: Stanchak operated it part-time while working at GSI Commerce. As recently as a year ago, the company had exactly one employee: Stanchak's mom, Connie, who took care of account management and sales while her son handled the technology and financial end of things. After a round of Series A financing in July, it's now a $2 million operation with 14 employees (including Connie Stanchak, who's now director of client services) that handles nearly 4,000 events every month.
We touched base with Stanchak during an action-packed period when he was working hard to take his business to the next step.
Wednesday, September 17, 2:48 p.m.
"I'm in my car, driving to Emerald Stage2 Ventures-a VC group-to give them an introductory pitch. I'm in Center City Philly, driving down Lombard Street. It's a 20-minute drive-but I've got 14 minutes to get there. There's a guy who isn't turning on a green light! [honk] "We met with a new potential partner this morning. We're also calling Halloween events- haunted houses, hayrides, parties-to see where they need to sell tickets."
Monday, September 22, 10:53 a.m
"I'm in a meeting. Iqram [Magdon-Ismail], our VP of technology, is demo'ing our new product, a virtual box office, for a client. It lets event organizers do tickets right at the venue with a credit-card swipe, just like in a movie theater. We're putting the finishing touches on it-interface stuff, making it look a little nicer. The functionality's all there. "The client is the Video Game Expo which is happening at the Pennsylvania Convention
Wednesday, Septemeber 24, 1:07 p.m.
"It looks like the Video Game Expo deal is going to happen. We just need to work on getting the contracts together. They just left, and I'm taking a breather. I was up late last night, then up again early this morning. Now I'm trying to catch up on my email."
Monday, September 29, 1:07 p.m.
"I'm meeting with our business development guys about a potential partnership with another ticketing company. We have to explore whether or not this is a fit, and figure out how we're going to get back to them if we want to move forward with it. It would help us become a full-service company with foreign operations. We could do some of the things you'd see with a larger organization, which we deliberately don't do now."
Friday, October 3, 2:36 p.m.
"Just got back from the Wharton General Management Conference. I was on a panel that included general managers from larger companies along with startup entrepreneurs- everyone from IBM, Bank of America, and Google to myself. Someone asked "What did you do the first two years?" I said "After two years I was almost bankrupt." I told everyone how it wasn't easy. You have to stay focused and persistent, and not give up on your idea. Now we've got the opposite problem: We're getting so much work all the time that it's almost draining. It's everything I've always wanted.
"I learned, from the guy from Google, they give their employees a certain amount of flexibility to explore ideas on their own. Some of Google's best ideas have come out of that. In some ways we're building the same structure here to let the creativity flow. As we grow, it might work to let people explore their ideas, particularly when it comes to technology-rather than just saying, "Here's what you need to get done."
Wednesday, October 15, 2:32 p.m.
"One of our investors just met with me and two members of our team. We reviewed what's happening with our competitors and what our response should be. We looked at some of the partnerships that our competitors are doing. Working with other companies in our space-do we want to do that as well? We know we're making the right moves, because we see people doing similar things-but we're doing better. We also talked about capital-raising for the future: We're thinking of a serious "B" round.
We're launching our new [virtual box office] product with the Video Game Expo, and also with NYEPhilly-the largest New Year's Eve event in Philadelphia. Sales are going through the roof. We're hitting a tipping point-the more people that use our site, the more valuable it's becoming. Every day is better than the day before. We're by no means a household name, but we're coming along.
"Aside from that, I'm fighting wicked allergies: I'm in a head cloud. But it doesn't matter- you gotta keep going."
MBA Jungle, Winter 2008-2009