London-based ticketing startup Dice, which sells mobile tickets without booking fees and with a current focus on millennials wanting to discover new bands to see live, has closed a $6 million Series A funding round.
The round wasled by Evolution Equity Partners with participation from existing investors White Star Capital, Designer Fund and Kima Ventures, along with severalmusic industry angel investors. It also addednew investor Lumia Capital for the round.
With the Series A, which closed in June but is being announced now, Dicehas raised $10 million to date topping upto its initial$1.6M in seed funding in the interim. Its grown to 42 employees over that time, including a music and data science team focused on building machine learning algorithms to help users figure out what theirnext big night out should be via a shortlist of recommended gigs shown below each listed event.
Handily its investor roster includes DeepMind co-foundersMustafa Suleyman and Demis Hassabis a connect thatDice CEO and co-founder Phil Hutcheon tells TechCrunch has been very helpful as it develops its recommendation algorithms. Its also aimingtomake its data work forpromoters to help them figure out when and where to put on a gig, and even what to charge. So its aimingto serveboth sides of the music industry: fans and artists.
The app includesa waitlist feature where fans who miss out on buying a ticket in the primary salecan add their name to benotified if another Dice user subsequentlywantsto return tickets to resell via the app (at the same price). This then generates demand data that Dice can useto helppromoters and artists run more successful events in future.
Machine learnings a big part of our future as we expand and go into new territories.
Machine learnings a big part of our future as we expand and go into new territories to help understand new things, says Hutcheon. Because its easy to know your own city but when you go into new cities and especially as you expand and scale what are the right venues for this type of artist to play at? Does their audience go to this venue or that venue? Whats the best price to get someone to attend the concert? What was the waiting list like for that artists?
The weather? The time of the year? What else is on that night? All these things factor in to the success of an event. And one of the things that weve been trying to teach promoters is that its probably not a good business model to have every concert available go on sale at nine oclock on a Friday. Maybe stagger it through the week. Its okay for it not to sell out in five minutes it will sell out, but it might just take a little bit longer As long as each venue is full on the night, thats fine. Thats our objective.
We last covered Dice almost two years agowhen it launched its iOS and Android apps in its first city,London. Since May this year its beenlive nationwide in the U.K., and Hutcheon saysits now selling35 per cent of its tickets outside London.
We joke around that Netflix is our competitorbecause theyre trying to keep people in and were trying to get people out, he says, while conceding that a more traditional rival would be a ticketing giant like Ticketmaster. Although Dice is intentionallyfar more selective in what it sells.
Diceclaims its app is on the phones of close to half (40 per cent) of the millennials in London at this point, although Hutcheon wont break out active users yet.
Hewill say that over 700 artists have sold tickets on Dice thus far (it never sourcestickets via secondary routes and is vocally anti-tout, including building its own tech aimed at spotting and preventing touts from buying up tickets; a mission helped by Dice tickets being tied to the mobile device they are bought on).
Healso says they have signed up all the venues they want to work with thus far emphasizing that Dice remainsan intentionally curated gigs experience, so they only put events on the app whichthey personally rate and think their primary audience of up to 33-year-olds will also enjoy.
The team is particularly pleased about snaggingapartnership with Apple that will see Diceoffering tickets for acts performing at the Apple Music Festival in London this year through a series of in-app competitions. Another bit of news its announcing today.
The Dicepitch from the get-go has been aboutbuilding a fan-focused, trusted events brand using seasoned gig goers to power expertcuration to give its usersthe confidence to spend money to go out. Ithas evolvedfrom aninitial human-onlyin-app gig curation to a blend of human and algorithmic recommendation to try to crack the new (live) music discovery problem at scale.
Nor do they just have new/up-and-coming artists on Dice. Some very big and mainstream artists, playing in massivestadium venues, have also allocated tickets for sale onDice including Justin Bieber,Adeleand Taylor Swift.But then not allmillennials are going to wantto go and see a lesser known grime artist play in a basement in Hackney Wick. Some of these kids even wantto go see Mumford & Sons another mainstream artist Dice has sold tickets for via theapp So theres an inevitable element of variety neededto cater to users music tastes.
At the last count, Hutcheon says the app had around 1,400 UK gigs on it. All really, really good, he asserts. Everything on Dice is good. Were creating this universe where we have quality on there. While at the same time trying, with the recommendation features, to account for variety of taste and how taste can fluctuate within the same person. So, in other words, just because you went to see that one grime artist that one time doesnt mean you only want to see grime artists all the time
Weve taken our time to do discovery because we want to see what works, he tells TechCrunch. And its pretty amazing how accurate it is. The next release of discovery on Dice will have [a users] top ten artists to check out over the next month, based on your behavior within Dice.
Why the focus on millennials? Because theyre going out more, of course. And the occasionalhigh profile Taylor Swift gig aside, Hutcheon says Dicessweet spotis identifying new artists, building those new artists up and getting them to larger venues which typically means selling cheaper tickers. (Which in turn meansits youthful users can afford to goout more often and therefore use the app more. So, in short, Dice gets to roll more.)
You want people who use Dice multiple times a month not just goes to one Bruce Springsteen concert a year and thats it, he adds. Thats what we really focus on. How do fans discover the new artists and get to the concert, know about them, and then discover the next one?
Dice is grossing eight figures in ticket sale transactions at this point, according to Hutcheon which he describes as pretty good going for just two years in. Although its not actively monetizing yet beyond a few sponsored gigs with brands like Red Bull.
We know how we want to monetize but were still building the product and still growing, he says, adding: We just need to get a bit bigger.
The new funding will be going towards moreproduct dev work with a fully fledged launch of itsdiscovery recommendation feature due soon (a rough-cut MVP version is live now), likely next month; and work ongoing for a feature that will allow users to transfer a ticket to a friend through the app (while preservingDicesanti-tout features).
Its also eyeing international expansion with Dublin set to be its first city launch outside the UK. AU.S. launch is on the cards too, slated for the end of this year or early next, though Hutcheon talks excitedly about Dices potential in variousEuropean cities too.A bigpart of his job is making the decisions about where to focus, he says, adding: Theres still a bunch of things we need to build which will hopefully be finished by the end of October. And thats when our focus is outside of the UK.
With the core tech of the ticketing platform built, Hutcheon reckonslaunching into new locations can happenquickly a case of getting people on the ground to scope out the music scene and determinethe right sorts of venues/gigs for theaudience.Dice employs a team of A&R scouts to goto gigs and findnew bands that puton a good live show. (Thats actual humans going to gigs to find the next cool live band; robot scouts most definitely arent on the roadmap, he laughs.)
It may not need to be a choice between the US and Europe; we may be able to do everything at once, he adds. What weve seen when weve launched outside of London is its not too much work on the ground Because weve built an end-to-end solution from buying the tickets, automatically paying promotors, having discovery promote the events themselves.
For outside of London we have two people looking after the whole of the UK and thats itSo for me its just making sure that when we do go into a territory that we have a long term plan. That we dont just turn up and then six months later retreat.
Ultimately, for all its music passion and pedigree, the teamis also looking beyond gigs with the core ticketing platform clearly applicable to other verticals. And, along with international expansion, launching into additionalverticals is oneway to grow usage without having to compromise acurated for quality mission.
Gettingbig enough to see a path to monetizingwithout losing the inherent selectiveness of itsbrand promise looks like its lining up to be Dicespost-Series A challenge.
Hutcheon cites theatre and sports as two other verticals on its radar for 2017, although whether any apps it launches for those segments would also be Dice-branded or called something entirely different is yet to be determined.
We are concentrating on music right now but I think this time next year we would be in different verticals like sports and theatre, he says. Music is something that were super passionate about, and will always be in our hearts, but the technology side it is a lot of people spending a lot of time solving complex things and it can address issues in different arenas.
Maybe you could pre-order your Tesla on Dice, he adds. If you think about it, theres so many people trying to buy something at the same time and being able to handle that traffic, and let people know if they havent got the ticket immediately that theyre on the waiting list.
The worst thing is to go on sale at nine oclock and then be stuck in a queue for 35 minutes or hours And then at the end of it being told oh sorry, we couldnt get you a ticket. So weve built it in a way that within a few minutes youll know if you havent got a ticket. And well put you onto a waiting list, and when someone cant make it its your best chance to get a ticket.
So fromtickets topotential Tesla buyersBut ifyouve solved the problem of serving surge demand witha frustration-free mobile salesexperience then your tech has the potential toscale beyond selling 5 tickets for Toyboy & Robin at The Nest. Or even 55 forTaylor Swift inHyde Park.
Or atleast, thats what Dice is gambling on.