What makes Andrew Dreskin so damn cool? Maybe it’s his demeanor. I’ve probably interviewed the Ticketfly CEO a half-dozen times and the tone of every interview has been calm and collected. The guy’s definitely confident and quickly takes control of the conversation. And while many stumble in deploying the curious lexicon of techie culture, Dreskin flawlessly pulls it off. He doesn’t sound like all the other knuckleheads who use techno-talk to make up for a lack of substance.
Journalists like to call bullshit on Silicon Valley jargon. There’s a great story from last year about the staff of The New Republic quitting their jobs en masse after their CEO Guy Vidra told the writers the new mission of the 100-year-old magazine was to “become a tech company” and “to break shit.”
Dreskin doesn’t shy from creative expression; in the interview for this story, he told me, “It’s time to create a buttery ticketing experience,” and that “a rally cry for us is reducing friction.” As a writer, it’s a very challenging thing to put to text. But what reads like technorati double-speak on paper, actually sounds quite different in casual conversation. Coming from Dreskin … it sounds more like jive talk.
Yeah, jive talk. Slang. The way the cool kids communicate, with swagger and a predisposition to not giving a fuck. Most people in powerful positions in the music industry are cool by merit — they didn’t grow up being cool and only became so after they amassed some clout in the business.
But Dreskin is different. His company’s unspoken ethos is to challenge the titans and counter the Ticketmaster narrative by putting new powerful tools and data in the hands of customers. Few other executives in live entertainment have the cojones to challenge TM and its parent company, Live Nation. Providing an alternative to the most powerful ticketing company and promoter in the world isn’t just good business for Dreskin. It also makes him pretty damn cool.
INNOVATION IS EVERYTHING
Last year, five-year-old, San Francisco-based Ticketfly sold 11.2 million tickets, valued at $250 million, for 80,000-plus events in North America. It’s an amazing surge in growth that has caught the attention of a number of VC funds and investors, raising $37 million since its inception.
It’s not slowing down in 2015, as three innovations centered around mobile are primed for wider activation. The company just acquired the popular Will Call app and its powerful Bar Tab payment system, and Ticketfly recently launched Pulse, a mobile app created for promoters and venues.
“One of the moments I knew we had to build Pulse was when I was sitting with a great young promoter in St. Louis,” Dreskin said. “Over two hours, I watched him check his ticket counts six or seven times. He was pinching and zooming the screen trying to navigate the backend. At that moment I knew we had to create a mobile-friendly tool to monitor real time information.”
Pulse is a mobile app that gives promoters real time sales, ticket counts and scans from a mobile device. It allows promoters to drill down sales by ticket type and price, as well as watch tickets being carted and sold in real time.
On the consumer side, Will Call is quickly becoming “the leader in proximity aware technology,” Dreskin said. Using beacons that communicate with a phone, WillCall and Bar Tab can instantly recognize customers via cellphone and open a tab for them when they walk into a bar or venue. and prompt them to order food and drinks through a simple swipe of the phone.
HOLISTIC VIEW OF THE EVENT
What’s on the horizon for Ticketfly? Dreskin said the company is experimenting with a new POS system that gives nightclubs and venues a full 360-view of event revenues.
“To show true profitability of an event, we need a combined view of concessions and ticketing,” he said. “And controlling the POS is crucial to having a strong loyalty program” that rewards patrons for every transaction, both in-venue and online during the ticket purchase.
“We tell people we’re not a ticketing company,” Dreskin said. “Our goal has always been to offer interesting technologies around the ticketing transaction.”
Ticketfly is working on tools to aid in booking, in-venue technologies like point of sale and some new tools for event discovery and social media.
“We’re very bullish on the social opportunities,” Dreskin said. “We’re finding that what events your friends are going to is still the biggest driver of ticket sales. It’s not who you listen to on Spotify or the songs you have in your iTunes library. The best driver of ticket sales what your friends are doing,” and what bands and venues they’re choosing to experience.
“We believe the live entertainment industry is plagued by what we like to call Great Unsolved Problems (Ticketfly calls them GUPs for short) and we spend a lot of time thinking about solutions,” he said.
So what’s pressing right now? Combating scalping, fraud protection and cyber security.
“Those are very substantive, long-standing problems and we’re going to make big dents in 2015,” he said. “It’s a holistic approach and we have to tackle pricing, transferability, fraud and rules for resale. I don’t want to give my competitors our road map going forward, but we have found some really interesting technology to deploy moving forward.”