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Alex Burkhart came to Cincinnati from Mansfield, Oh. for Xavier University's Entrepreneurship program. A few short years after earning a degree in 2011, he's put his education to use.
Burkhart soon will launch Tixers, a website that lets people swap sports or concert tickets. The startup has gained early support from the Greater Cincinnati entrepreneurial community. It took top honors at the 2012 Cincinnati Startup Weekend, an annual competition.
Tixers recently was accepted into the Northern Kentucky's UpTech startup incubator, from which Burkhart says he will launch the site.
9 Questions for Tixers founder Alex Burkhart
1. How did you come up with the idea for Tixers?
I'm a huge sports fan. I've been to every Major League Baseball team’s ball park and to over 500+ sporting events in my lifetime. It was in the middle of the fourth quarter at Paul Brown stadium after attending three major sporting events in a 36-hour time span, when I was completely exhausted, that the idea of Tixers hit me.
I'd gone to all of these games virtually for free by leveraging my network of friends who had tickets. They know I generally return the favor when they want to attend a sporting event. I wondered, How can I virtually allow people to get more out of their tickets to be able to share tickets more easily?
2. What role did Cincinnati Startup Weekend play in taking your idea further?
Cincinnati Startup Weekend played a huge role in validating the idea. Actually talking to potential customers about whether they would use a website like this was vital. During the weekend I went outside the Bengals stadium and compiled research from my main target market, season ticket holders and those who enjoy attending events. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
The idea ultimately won the competition, which added to the momentum that this concept really could work. I also became better connected with the major people in the Cincinnati Startup community that is currently booming.
3. Is money exchanged between buyers and sellers on the site? How does Tixers work?
Ticketholders who cannot attend a game post their tickets to the site and almost instantly receive points/credit based upon the face value of the ticket. Sellers no longer have to worry whether their ticket will sell or not on a site like stub hub or give their tickets away to friends/coworkers/clients for hopefully something in return. They can then use this credit for any other tickets they see on the site.
They can also send suggestions to what events they would like to attend and we can try to find tickets for them. Other people that do not have points yet on the site can purchase tickets on the site as well. Essentially, someone could give up tickets to a Reds game today that they may not have used for Bengals tickets in the future.
4. How do you make money? Are users charged a transaction fee?
I make money when people redeem a ticket using their points through a small convenience fee. It's similar to what frequent flyer mile programs offer. For example, with Delta, you can use your 30,000 miles for a free flight but there is almost always some kind of fee around $5 for doing so. I can also make money off a spread based upon demand of the tickets being exchanged through the site. There is also a huge business-to-business sales model to allow corporations to better efficiently manage their season tickets in addition to sports franchises wanting to fill more seats.
5. Are you targeting sports tickets, or are their plans to include other events like concerts?
I am targeting any venue that requires a ticket for admission. Sports and concerts are the major targets, though. I am specifically focusing on tickets that have the ability to be transferred electronically as well.
6. What are you hoping to get from your UpTech experience?
UpTech really provides many of the resources necessary to help make startups more likely to succeed. They provide funding, technological support, legal, and other professional services support that help eliminate the barriers to entry for starting a company.
I am hoping UpTech can help me link into the Greater Cincinnati region in many different ways that will encourage people to trust and use the site. There is a huge opportunity for people to leverage the Tixers platform considering the amount of high- profile sports teams and concert venues around, in addition to corporations and fans that have access to tickets.
7. Where are you in the process of running the company? Is it operating or are you planning to launch during your time at UpTech?
Phase one of the Tixers website is virtually complete. It is a minimum viable product that is being tested currently to ensure the process of swapping tickets runs smoothly. The goal is to definitely launch during my time at UpTech in order to prove the concept and continue to receive feedback to make the site better so that we can eventually launch on a national scale after testing in Cincinnati.
8. What has been the most challenging part of making your idea a reality?
Besides balancing my full time job at Macy’s Corporate offices in Cincinnati and building the website, it definitely has to be the technology. I am not technical in nature so I have been trying to leverage the right resources to build the technology but I am still in need of a solid partner that can manage it more heavily as I focus on the other important things to move the company forward.
9. What's next for Tixers?
Solidifying the right team of people and partnerships that can make this business successful. UpTech will aid tremendously in giving the support necessary to do this. Most importantly is promoting Tixers. We are currently doing what we can without the site being up in running by allowing the “ticket sharing/swapping” model to be tested, but we are in the stage now of funneling it through our website. I f people in the community are looking to sell/buy/trade tickets, we want them to first look at Tixers as their best resource to be able to do so.
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