Russell D’Souza co-founded SeatGeek in 2009. SeatGeek predicts ticket prices for events based on a variety of factors and after analyzing millions of transactions to develop patterns. Russel graduated Dartmouth College in 2007 and has already raised over 1.5million for SeatGeek while also being part of the founding team of Scribnia.
Russell is very focused on the business model behind SeatGeek and advises young entrepreneurs to stay away from the twitter and facebook models. He also talks about the importance of your network and how you have to focus on meeting the right people because they will drive your business in the end. Read Russell’s interview below…
You guys launched at Techcrunch 50, how did this event help accelerate your success?
You only get one shot to launch a business and you should do it on the biggest stage possible. TechCrunch50 is an instant stamp of validation and makes it easier to raise VC funding and to grab mindshare.
How do you make such accurate predictions in your price forecast?
We analyze millions of ticket transactions. Our algorithm looks at every factor that can conceivably affect ticket prices (e.x. the weather prediction, pitching matchups, playoff chances, artist popularity, etc…). We’ve tested our algorithm extensively and found it to be 80-85% accurate.
You have developed some strong partnerships with large businesses. How do a bunch of young guys at a startup find these type of business development opportunities?
Launching at TechCrunch50 helped give us greater visibility and established us as an innovative player in the ticketing space. Several of our largest partnerships began after TechCrunch50.
Kayak.com, who offers a similar service for the travel industry was founded by the top guys at Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia, doesn’t it take seasoned veterans to make a company like this successful?
Often, it’s people who are outside the industry who can think most creatively about how to solve problems. We always approach ticketing from the perspective of the end-user. Jack and I are avid sports and concert fans and we started the business because we knew the experience of feeling ripped off when buying a ticket. Sometimes, that relentless focus on the end-user can get lost when the founders haven’t experienced the problems they are trying to solve firsthand.
Some companies (cough: Twitter) would rather their valuation be based on a multiple of their number of users, than a multiple of their earnings. That being said, why make money, when you could just get a bunch of users?
Companies like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are too often viewed as the goal of every Internet company. They aggregate an audience that is so large that they can’t help but make money. I’m less inspired by these types of ad-supported procrastination tools than I am by Internet companies that solve a problem that people are willing to pay for.
We’re laser-focused on a $15 Bn secondary ticketing industry that lacks analytics and market intelligence. When you are the only company providing analytics in this space, there are myriad ways to make money.
Companies like Farecast.com have been bought by Microsoft to power Bing’s Travel predictor. Any acquisition goals or timeline that you’d like to see an exit in?
Farecast has been a great inspiration for our team and shows that there are some great exit opportunities for innovative metasearch companies. However, we’re in no rush to sell SeatGeek. We’re committed to building a truly innovative and sustainable company before even thinking about exiting.
How do you see New York’s up and coming tech scene in comparison to San Francisco?
I’ve spent very little time in San Francisco so can’t comment on it. However, I can say that I love the New York startup scene. There’s a real community here and companies go out of their way to help one another. Also, its small enough everyone is inter-connected. Many companies are going through the same challenges like raising money and acquiring users. Its really helpful to bounce around ideas and get advice from these companies.
What’s one piece of advice you have for the Under30CEO?
Its certainly important to spend hours a day obsessing over building an awesome product. However, most businesses grow exponentially by fundraising, cutting deals, and hiring awesome people. To accomplish this, young CEOs need to constantly expand their network. The folks you meet will be able to help you down the road in ways you might never expect.
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Category: Entrepreneur Interviews