Ticketing upstart aims to revolutionise industry

Up and coming ticket company Dash Tickets wants top spot in the sector and plans to get there by challenging the whole culture of the industry.

Nick Schembri and Chris Smith founded the company in 2008, while studying at Wellington's Victoria University. The university's student association was having ticketing problems for its orientation event and challenged Schembri and Smith to come up with a better system.

As a web developer, Smith was responsible for the initial product build, while Schembri used his skills gained from his Bachelor of Commerce and Administration to promote it.

Since those early days the company has rapidly grown and has established a strong foothold in Christchurch. After the earthquake in February 2011, Dash Tickets were the only agent to stick with Christchurch, giving them opportunities to take on the major events.

Dash provided the ticket system for the Christchurch Arts Festival where it saved the trust over $100,000 in fees they would pay with competitors.

And here is Dash' major point of difference. Yes, it has lower fees but it also has a structure that hands over control to the promoter and venue to set up things themselves.

"We still provide the traditional methods, oversight, account management and customer support, because we need to have that. We allow the promoters to set up events and send their own tickets."

Also, Schembri – a long-time volunteer driver for St John Ambulance – said people are paying too much for tickets, because of complex royalty and sponsorship schemes between established ticketing companies and venues.

In some major venues there are schemes where an event organiser is charged an inside fee and a percentage of this is rebated back to the venue. Also, a sponsorship payment or other form of capital contribution to the venue is given for securing a long term contract.

"We have one fee and that either goes to the customer or promoter or it could be split," he said.

Schembri argues that Dash Tickets is much more innovative than Ticketek and Ticketmaster. "I've got a team of six technology gurus and we are constantly innovating our product. Whereas Ticketek and Ticketmaster have unchanging products, we are breaking the boundaries of marketing tools."

Why did you become an entrepreneur?

I didn't plan on becoming one, after solving a problem we had while ticketing our own events at Victoria University we were challenged by the students association to create our own solution and they would use it for Orientation in 2009. After this we realised a lot more people had the same problem so we refined our product and created a company. The feeling of being able to make a difference to this industry was the reason I wanted to turn this idea into a business.

What have been the biggest obstacles in running your company?

I have two, the first being young to start a company and having to deal with the problems people perceive with age – risk, credibility and experience. Being able to address these hurdles has been a tough ask. The second is being in a market where there are two or three large monopolistic competitors who are slow moving but have platforms that people trust and forced to use where venues have exclusive agreements.

Name one thing you've learnt from while in business and from who?

In business things often happen which you may think are personal or targeted at you, but in fact it is just business. It is important to take the emotion out of situations and understand the reasons why something has happened.