Vendini, a holistic ticketing platform for live events, has raised $20 million from New York-based investment firm Level Equity.
Founded out of San Francisco in 2001, Vendini strives to differentiate itself from its myriad competitors with an all-in-one platform covering tickets and associated services, such as marketing, social media integration, analytics, and customer relationship management (CRM). It provides venues across North America with the necessary software and hardware — like scanners and RFID wristbands — to promote events and sell tickets.
Though the ultimate goal is to help companies shift tickets, founder and CEO Mark Tacchi told VentureBeat that the company’s mission is much more than that. “We’re trying to foster a very specific relationship that goes beyond helping the box office transact ticket sales — we’re focused on helping the entire business be successful,” he said. “The all-in-one solution that we’ve built includes tools from top to bottom. We also give our venues access to their data, unlike a lot of other companies.”
Notably, Vendini’s new cash influx represents the company’s first outside funding after having bootstrapped its way to $1 billion in gross sales in the 14 years leading to last March. We’re told this sales figure is about to hit the $2 billion mark, which means that Vendini has had more or less the same number of ticket sales in the past year as it did in all the years that preceded it. We’re also told that the company was profitable, though as a private company it’s not at liberty to divulge specific numbers.
This leads us to one obvious question — why seek investors’ cash when things appear to be going very well?
We have strong organic growth, and I’ve always believed that taking money too soon can be problematic. We’ve been purposefully operating with a very bootstrapped mentality, and then implemented an acquisition strategy in which we acquired three companies over the past four years to help us move more rapidly into new verticals and improve our product. But we’ve really been waiting to make sure our product, and company, were lined up exactly where we wanted before we took any kind of investment. We’ve been trying different things out and building our platform with autonomy. It’s like we’ve been aiming at a target, and now we’ve locked on. Now, we’re aimed and we’re ready to fire – we know exactly how to invest this money to make the biggest impact.
It is true that startups can struggle under the weight of too much money and the expectations of impatient VCs. Vendini could have raised cash before now, but it has held on until it felt it had a real purpose for the investment. Indeed, the company is now looking to ramp up its offering by hiring new people and building out its platform with new features and functionality.
“There’s an entire segment of live event venues not getting the solutions and support they need,” added Tacchi. “Since the beginning, it was never about just ticketing software for us — it’s always been about building a cohesive, all-in-one system. We’re excited to keep building, innovating and giving organizations the tools they need to compete and succeed, and this round of funding lets us do that faster.”
The Jobs era
There’s also an interesting back story to Tacchi — he worked under Steve Jobs from 1993 to 1997 at Next, the computer company Jobs founded after he was ousted from Apple (and which was later acquired by Apple in a $400 million deal that brought Jobs back as CEO). So has Tacchi taken any of the design philosophy from his early years at Apple into Vendini?
“Working at Next and then Apple essentially laid the groundwork for who I am as an entrepreneur and how I build my product,” explained Tacchi. “One of our cornerstone philosophies is almost identical to what Steve did with Apple — make everything light-switch simple. The people using our products aren’t computer scientists, they shouldn’t have to be using complicated systems that are difficult to use. Obviously, this is what Apple did with just about every product they put out, and I try to do the same with our product.”
And what about any other design lessons picked up under Jobs?
In terms of the company in general, something I noticed early on at Next and Apple was that Jobs surrounded himself with top talent. People have this image of him being rude or angry, but really it was that he didn’t have a tolerance for anything, or anyone, but the best. Honestly, I was really honored to even be in the same room as everyone else there! The talent was truly top-notch, and it was wildly apparent. I’ve tried to translate that idea to my company; we always strive to hire the best.
Vendini is targeting mid-range live event organizations, ones that are perhaps not quite big enough to get red-carpet treatment from the major ticketing companies but which need something more substantial than the DIY alternatives out there. The company says it works with 4,000 venues across festivals, performing arts, live music and nightclubs, museums, universities, and more.
“There is a huge group of venues that have been historically under-served in the industry,” added Tacchi. “For example, massive arenas like Madison Square Garden are probably going to be using Ticketmaster, which was designed with huge venues in mind. Then you have people hosting smaller events from personal parties up to small conferences, using a self-service, freemium model — a good example of that is Eventbrite. That leaves a TON of underserved venues right there in the middle, and that’s our sweet spot.”