Interview: Alex McLauchlan, co-founder of TicketSource

TicketSource, an online ticketing and box office management system, happens to be one of the fastest-growing technology companies in Wales.

Last year, it was recognised at the Fast Growth 50 Awards after an increase in revenue of over 180 per cent from 2013 to 2015. Since then, it’s been recruiting new staff and recently moved to new and larger premises in Penarth.

Founded in 2004, the platform is now used by more than 20,000 event organisers and venues throughout the UK, USA and Europe. We recently caught up with the firm’s founder, Alex McLauchlan.

TD: What is your company, and what does it do?

TicketSource is a free online ticketing and box office management system. It was launched in February 2004 and since then has been used by over 20,000 event organisers and venues of all shapes and sizes throughout the UK, US and Eurozone.

The system is completely self-service and gives event organisers complete control of all aspects of their ticketing online 24/7.

It enables users to create and publish event listings, promote events, sell tickets and manage audiences for any type of event or performance in any size or shape of venue.

TD: Why did you set it up?

Back in 2004, Simon Wilsher, Gavin Davidson and I were all directors of Source Insurance Ltd, a leading producer of insurance comparison sites.

All three of us had also been involved with theatre and the arts in one capacity or another and one day the conversation turned to the limited options for online ticketing.

There were already a range of subscription-based online box office solutions available, but they were expensive and hard to use.

So the idea was born to use the same technologies that we were already applying to the insurance industry to create a free, self-service ticketing system that would give users full and instant control of their events online, while fully integrating in-house bookings and services.

TD: What has your start-up journey been like?

Our start-up journey was good, with strong, steady growth in the early years and more rapid expansion recently.

In 2014, shortly after celebrating our 10th anniversary, we made the service available in the USA and the Eurozone.

Last year TicketSource was named 20th fastest growing company in Wales in the Fast Growth 50 Awards after an increase in revenue of over 180 per cent from 2013 to 2015.

In 2016, the system handled online ticket sales for 75,574 different events. This resulted in a more than 40 per cent growth in ticketing revenues compared to 2015.

TD: What makes your business unique?

We have always prided ourselves on our high standards of service and our personal touch, which has led to very high rates of client referral. In fact, personal recommendation by existing users is still the most likely way for new users to hear about us.

We’re committed to keeping customer booking fees lower than our major competitors. From the outset, our goal has been to make just enough profit to be a viable business that can sustain top notch customer service, ongoing system development and best practice system security measures, while remaining as competitive as possible for users.

TD: What has been its biggest success and biggest obstacle?

I think our biggest success is achieving what we set out to do – to bring online booking within reach of smaller venues and event organisers. We introduced self-service functions to handle creating listings and managing an online box office, which not only gave event organisers greater control over their listings and online ticketing, but also removed many of the service centre costs that make traditional subscription system providers so needlessly expensive.

We are proud that this has given a huge boost to a number of niche sectors like rural touring. Our users now range from amateur theatre groups, pubs, schools and church halls to major concert venues and festivals.

I think our biggest obstacle has probably been the lack of well-targeted, cost-effective media for promotion to our target audience. We have a very broad potential user base but it’s made up of lots of very different and distinct niches, many of which are simply not targeted by a professional trade press.

Happily we have done very well from word of mouth, but also with the recent explosion in digital marketing and social media options, I think that obstacle is firmly in the rear view mirror.

TD: Where do you see yourself and the firm in five years’ time?

Going forward, our goal is to continue to build on our past achievements; seeking out the latest technologies and making them available in a cost-effective format to event organisers and venues of all types, sizes and budgets.

We want to expand our presence in the US and EU while continuing to serve our loyal customers here in the UK.

TD: What advice would you give to the next generation of business people?

Whatever sector you are in – cultivate empathy. Make a discipline of seeing things as customers do, not as you think they should be. It will not only let you see which opportunities are worth focusing on, but also how to make the most of them. Critically and constantly evaluate every touch point within your business from the mindset of a customer with no prior knowledge.

Identify the complexities in their interactions with you and try to streamline and embed those as variables in your systems and processes.  Make the end-to-end customer experience as intuitive as you can. Never make the customer work around what is the easiest process for you. Once you start making decisions based on what is easiest for the business rather than what adds greatest value for the customer, you are on the slippery slope to mediocrity.

Innovate – but understand the difference between focused innovation in service of creating real user value, versus being new for the sake of being new, or in hope of an easy win.

And finally, persevere; overnight successes are rare.