Founded in Amsterdam in late 2013, Tiqets is a white-label business-to-business (B2B) service that aims to help hotels, airlines, and online travel agencies (OTAs) up-sell their customers with ancillary tickets to activities, attractions, and events (such as concerts).
The startup has received an investment of $450,000 from Investion, a Dutch growth capital firm, to accelerate its plans to build up more local content, develop its mobile technology and its online marketing, and improve its database services.
Tiqets, which says it has 11 people working full-time on it, already contracted with a dozen travel companies that collectively serve more than 10 million customers a year and it is looking to partner with more providers of tickets to concerts, theatre, and sports.
It's specifically focused on doing B2B with the travel vertical. It says it is connected to more than 70 small and big online booking agencies like Seetickets and Ticketmaster and has compiled a database with 1 million tickets for various outings.
Q&A with co-founder Christiaan Solcer:
Tell us how you founded the company, why and what made you decide to jump in and create the business.
When I was on a holiday to Berlin I was wasting a lot of my time searching for things to do. I was reading standard city guides with generic entertainment but nothing that would make it a unique experience.
It would have been way easier and better to get a clear overview of relevant things to do when I was still back at home, preparing my trip. How cool would it be to find out that a band playing my favourite music will perform when I’m in Berlin, and combine that with a tour based on my interests?
Tiqets wants to make sure people will have a greater travel experience by showing relevant date and non-date things to do for the date range and destination of their trip before and during their trip.
Size of the team, names of founders, management roles and key personnel?
Tiqets currently employs 11 people. The founders and their roles: Luuc Elzinga – CEO; Bas de Boer – CMO; Maarten Raaijmakers – CTO; and Christiaan Solcer – business development.
Estimation of market size?
Research shows that more than 24% of travel expenditure is on entertainment and dining: a gap in the current ancillary revenue streams of the travel industry that can now be fulfilled by the services of Tiqets.
Nobody does exactly what we do, the Tiqets database includes more than 15 million tickets to over 1 million events in 2.000 cities in the world.
Companies like Viator also provide a B2B solution for travel companies but is mostly focused on tours and activities. That’s just one of our categories, we also provide date based events like concerts, sports and theatre.
Revenue model and strategy for profitability?
The revenue model is based on a performance based earning model getting a commission from the company we sell the tickets for. We share that commission with our travel companies and only start partnerships performance based because we really believe we provide a great service for the customer which will result in high conversion rates.
The strategy for profitability is quite simple, connecting as much travel companies as possible. We don’t have a marketing machine to reach out to the billion international tourists. We are integrated in the travel companies and they will use their marketing forces to generate additional ancillary revenues.
What problem does the business solve?
Tiqets solves the problem of wasting time at your travel destination searching for fun things to do. You can already view events and buy all the tickets you want directly from home, even before your trip.
How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?
The initial idea was to create a consumer portal to show all things to do in the world.
The pivot was to integrate that entertainment database into all touch points travel companies already have, like their website, confirmation e-mails, in-flight screens, hotel front desk applications and even the hotel TV-screen. Way more relevant for the traveller to see the database throughout all those touch points instead of consumer portal.
Why should people or companies use the business?
Travel companies should use Tiqets because we are able to create a greater travel experience for their customers. This way they will earn more on ancillary revenues but even more important is creating an experience that will make the traveller come back for their next trip.
What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition (apart from PR)?
B2B: regional salesteams that directly contacts the e-commerce management of the partners, supported by PR & best practices with high convertion rates.
Our partners (to the end consumers): Integrate entertainmant in their websites, emails, off line campaigns, etc. From the “inspirational phase” up to the “welcome in shanghai” email.
Where do you see the company in three years time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?
In three years Tiqets will be integrated in hundreds of companies like airlines, hotels, OTA’s, navigation software, taxi services, all touch points that people on the road have access to.
In three years Tiqets is the company that sells out venues by selling tickets to a whole new target audience; the traveller. The challenge we have to overcome is connecting the local dive shop on a deserted island and sell tickets/vouchers for them.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
Travellers simply can not easily find unique things to do at their destination. You would expect your airline or hotel to help you with that, like they do with a car rental, but the only thing they provide is generic entertainment. Nothing based on the travellers’ personal interest for the date range at their destination.
What other technology company would you consider yourselves most closely aligned to in terms of culture and style... and why?
Booking.com. Also a Dutch company which changed the way people book their hotel. There was something missing in the hotel industry and we want to do the same but now for the entertainment industry.
Tiqets' decision to focus on "where the money is" -- namely, a B2B model -- seems astute. It enables OTAs to differentiate themselves by offering tickets and events. Tiqets is taking a tried-and-true revenue model that has worked elsewhere and applying it to a niche in travel.
On the downside, integrating a service like this can be difficult. Much depends on the elegance of the technical solution and on the skill of the sales team.
Reach out to travel companies, and find out what their needs are. Don’t build a product in a vacuum without knowing what a customer would really be interested in.
We recommend the founders seek out advice from mentors who have experience in dealing with travel companies and activities/events, as well as read 10 lessons I learned from building a travel startup. Attending conferences, like the upcoming ITB Berlin event, could help them put faces to names of industry players and "warm up" cold calls.