Ticketfly co-founder and former TicketWeb president Dan Teree is returning to ticketing with a new mobile ticketing platform called Big Neon that aims to be powered by the Tari blockchain protocol in 2020. The announcement comes just weeks after Eventbrite announced it was phasing out Ticketfly, the company Teree created with Andrew Dreskin.
Teree announced the launch of Tari earlier this year with Tari Lab co-founder and cryptocurrency pioneer Riccardo "fluffypony" Spagni and co-founder and entrepreneur Naveen Jain. Now, he tells Billboard the time is right to roll out the ticketing component of the open-source digital asset protocol, with the ticket sales initiative operational in the first quarter of next year.
"Ticketing companies are consolidating and getting bigger, but not necessarily better," says Teree, who exited Ticketfly in 2013, two years before it was acquired by Pandora originally at $450 million then reduced to $335 million at closing. Two years later in 2017, Pandora sold Ticketfly to competitor Eventbrite for $200 million, a price that was later discounted to $184 million. Last month, Eventbrite announced plans to sunset the Ticketfly brand and replace it with the new Eventbrite Music platform, which incorporates Ticketfly technology and has over 50 tech partnerships including YouTube, Spotify and Songkick and Bandsintown.
"They're still busy integrating, so it's hard to move the dial on innovation quickly," Teree says. "We're going to be building brand new, highly-focused applications in a secure language and cruising through development while they're doing client and data migrations and trying to do gap analysis on how [they] deep six the Ticketfly platform."
The Eventbrite development team, which includes 300 engineers and support specialists, easily dwarfs the Big Neon team and the Tari protocol is still in development, meaning Big Neon won't be chain-enabled for at least 18 months, Teree estimates. In the interim, Big Neon's mobile-optimized platform will operate on a centralized basis in the interim period.
"We're going to release Big Neon now and then we will chain-enable it once the Tari protocol is live and in the wild," Teree says. For now, Big Neon will offer a mobile-only ticket solution for general admission events. Promoters will be able to build shows and check ticket counts from a mobile website and app network, and the entire platform will be open-source. Teree said he believes other ticketing companies and entrepreneurs will be able to use the libraries, patterns and scripts from the Big Neon codebase to build in their own third-party distribution networks. Teree foresees Big Neon becoming the first ticketing company to combine primary and secondary ticket sales via block chain technology, allowing rights-holders to set rules around how tickets are priced and resold, while recapturing revenues from each subsequent transaction. Beyond ticketing, the Tari protocol is also being developed for other digital assets, like virtual items people purchase within video games, as well as rewards points and digital collectibles from online loyalty programs.
Former Ticketfly business development director Ryan O'Connor is one of roughly two dozen Big Neon employees spread out over two offices in Oakland and Nashville, as well as the Tari development team in Johannesburg, South Africa. Big Neon has confirmed two current Ticketfly and Eventbrite clients as early Big Neon adopters: Blisspop Productions in Washington DC and Public Works, an 800-capacity club in San Francisco. In a press release announcing the launch of Big Neon, Public Works founder Jeff Whitmore said, "I'm pretty damn confident the Big Neon team will deliver more innovation and genuine customer service in their first year than the other ticketing companies have in the last decade. The industry can use a good swift kick in the $%#!. My money is on Big Neon to provide that kick."
Tari Labs is backed by more than a dozen venture capitalist and growth funds, including Redpoint, Trinity Ventures, Canaan Partners, Blockchain Capital and more. While the current practice in ticketing is to incentivize new promoter and festival clients with large signing bonuses and recoupable advances, Teree says Big Neon was "granting incentive equity to our clients" upon signing.
Teree is sparse on many of the financial details of how the company operates, partially as a regulatory precaution after a U.S. District Court judge earlier this year ruled that the Securities and Exchange Commission had could apply securities rules to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Teree adds that he remains close friends with many former colleagues who now work at Eventbrite or previously worked at Ticketfly and left, but he notes he feels that he has several advantages challenging the middle market leader's market share.
"We're nimble and we're highly focused," Teree says. "Music is a very special entertainment genre and going to night clubs is unique. We plan to help our promoters not only sell tickets but to communicate with their patrons and to increase the overall revenue pool. We're trying to take a holistic approach to the music-going experience."