In the past year, two startups from Manchester’s Northern Quarter have appeared on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den. The first of these, TickX, turned down two offers in the den but is far from struggling as a result.
Think of TickX as a kind of Trivago or Skyscanner for event tickets. It’ll find you the cheapest deal across 35 sellers for music, theatre, comedy shows and the like. Most events don’t sell out, and with a recent explosion in online ticket sellers, competition for your cash has ramped up. TickX acts as a central hub for event discovery as well as price comparison.
Steve Pearce and Sam Coley founded TickX in early 2015 out of frustration with how hard it was to find tickets for events. Split initially between Manchester and Scotland, they threw aside any worries young early-stage entrepreneurs often have about raising funding outside London and went straight for a big name. They approached Ministry of Sound and managed to secure a £175,000 investment.
This big-name deal was meant to be secret. And it was, until Dragons’ Den’s Peter Jones cheekily blurted it out on national television. An early profile from the Manchester Evening News led to the show’s producers inviting TickX to apply. After around an hour in ‘the den’ (condensed down to a few minutes for TV), Pearce and Coley received two investment offers. After one of those moments where the entrepreneurs huddle at the back of the room away from the dragons, they turned them both down. That didn’t harm their fundraising efforts though – they’ve since raised an additional £750,000 from 24 Haymarket and a group of angels.
The cash they’ve brought in will fuel international growth for a company that Pearce and Coley say has seen 30-40 percent revenue growth for the past few months. They’re already in the process of expanding into Ireland and Spain, but that doesn’t mean they’re finished with developing the UK market.
The view from the cheap seats
TickX is working on new features like the option to see a first-person view from each seat in a venue when you book. That means you can compare views of the stage; maybe the cheap seats don’t have a view any worse than the pricer options. A Facebook Messenger bot and Amazon Alexa skill are on the way, to help you find and book a night out in a more conversational style. And you’ll soon be able to follow musicians, comedians and other performers on TickX to make sure you always know when they’re going to be in town.
They also see the potential to partner with travel firms. You can book a hotel and car hire when you buy a flight, so why not a good night out, too?
Meeting TickX, it’s easy to see they have the attitude and drive needed to achieve their global ambitions. Pearce and Coley say that the events ticketing business is worth a total of £47.5 billion across the UK, Europe and USA, so they’ve got a lot to get their teeth into.
As for the other Northern Quarter startup to enter Dragons’ Den? Former Northern Stars winner M14 Industries walked away with a deal, then canceled it and raised a better round. If nothing else, those dragons are great for publicity.