Search, Seat Inventory Build Ticketcity.com

By David F. Carr  |  Posted 2005-10-01 Print this article Print

A Web-based application helps the ticket broker efficiently search for and buy hard-to-find tickets.

Revenue Per Employee $1 million

Randy Cohen's aha moment came in 1987. Shortly after he graduated from the University of Texas, the school's basketball team made it into the Top 10. When the Longhorns were scheduled to play the then-top-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks at Texas' Frank Erwin Center, Cohen saw his opportunity.

Betting that the game would sell out, he bought 100 tickets at $7 each and sold them a week later for $15, turning a quick $800 profit. By 1990, Cohen launched a ticket brokering business that would eventually be named TicketCity.com.

Though it has a ".com" in its name, a relic of the dot-com boom years, TicketCity.com takes about 80% of its orders over the phone. And yet the Web applications it built for its online customers—both consumers and professional ticket brokers—to pool, search and buy event tickets are now in the hands of its internal sales staff and spurring the company's productivity.

This year, TicketCity.com expects to do more than $20 million in sales with 21 full-time employees and three part-timers.

TicketCity caters to people who have decided they absolutely have to get into an event where the tickets, or at least the best seats, are sold out. Called "scalping" when it's done by some shady character in the alley behind the stadium, reselling tickets has turned into big business for firms like StubHub, which says it does about $100 million in sales, and TicketsNow, which is projecting 2005 revenues of $125 million to $150 million. These businesses typically aren't subject to anti-scalping laws as long as they pay sales tax and otherwise behave like good corporate citizens.

Purchases average more than $600 and can range up to a few thousand dollars, with a profit margin of about 30%, says CEO Cohen. During a conversation in early September, he reads off a few of the latest sales on his computer screen—$720 for four tickets to University of Texas vs. Texas Tech football, $150 for one ticket to the Austin City Limits music festival, and $2,850 for six tickets to a Texas/Oklahoma football game.

David F. Carr David F. Carr is the Technology Editor for Baseline Magazine, a Ziff Davis publication focused on information technology and its management, with an emphasis on measurable, bottom-line results. He wrote two of Baseline's cover stories focused on the role of technology in disaster recovery, one focused on the response to the tsunami in Indonesia and another on the City of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.David has been the author or co-author of many Baseline Case Dissections on corporate technology successes and failures (such as the role of Kmart's inept supply chain implementation in its decline versus Wal-Mart or the successful use of technology to create new market opportunities for office furniture maker Herman Miller). He has also written about the FAA's halting attempts to modernize air traffic control, and in 2003 he traveled to Sierra Leone and Liberia to report on the role of technology in United Nations peacekeeping.David joined Baseline prior to the launch of the magazine in 2001 and helped define popular elements of the magazine such as Gotcha!, which offers cautionary tales about technology pitfalls and how to avoid them.

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