To many, sites like Viagogo and StubHub are exploiting genuine fans by selling tickets at inflated prices, meaning everyday consumers can’t afford to see their favourite sports teams, artists or performers.
The secondary ticketing industry is said to be worth around £1bn. So, despite well-known artists and MPs’ calling upon re-sale sites to change how they operate – to stop ordinary fans being priced out – they seem inevitably reluctant.
Although Ticketmaster has recently closed its secondary resale sites, Seatwave and GetMeIn. These two sites will be replaced by a fan-to-fan exchange where fans can sell “…tickets they can’t use directly through their Ticketmaster account, for the price originally paid or less.”, according to Ticketmaster’s UK managing director, Andrew Parsons.
But now, two young entrepreneurs are taking things even further. They want to end ticket touting, facilitate strict price caps on secondary ticketing markets and redress the balance in favour of consumers using blockchain technology.
Imperial College graduates, Annika Monari, 25, and Alan Vey, 24, aim to use their blockchain solution, Aventus Protocol to disrupt and fix the broken ticketing industry. Their aim is to give event organisers the power to know exactly who owns each ticket, offer tickets for reasonable prices and ensure tickets can’t be duplicated.
Annika and Alan also want to put a stop to scrapers using their technological solution thought-up while they studied at university together. But the two young entrepreneurs, who have expertise in Physics and A.I, plan to work with the likes of Ticketmaster to help them ensure that fans aren’t being exploited.
The Startup Network caught up with them to find out more.
Tell us about your background?
Alan: Annika was fascinated by physics, interning at John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory before starting her degree. And I had an affinity with economics, taking a gap year to work in the entrepreneurial business department at Deloitte, then working as a quantitative developer for six months at hedge fund, Brevan Howard.
Annika: We met during our studies at Imperial College London, where Alan was studying Artificial Intelligence with a focus on statistical and logic-based machine-learning, and I was studying Particle Physics. My thesis studied the Higgs Boson decays to dark matter through statistical machine-learning; Alan’s concentrated on film rights distribution on the blockchain with BAFTA and the BBC, working alongside Professor Will Knottenbelt, Director of the Centre for Cryptocurrency Research and Engineering.
What is the market issue you are addressing?
We created the Aventus Protocol to combat counterfeit ticketing and uncontrolled resale in secondary ticketing markets. It’s an open standard for ticketing based on the blockchain: a secure technology solution that can enable controls over the secondary market, provide ticket transaction security, and allow artists and managers to enforce fair ticketing for fans.
Every ticket held on the blockchain is given a unique ID which can be tracked as it is transacted from rights holder to primary seller to secondary seller to consumer. We essentially provide transaction integrity throughout the ticketing supply-chain, allowing rights-holders to set rules around how a particular ticket can be transacted: at which minimum and maximum price caps, through which secondary sellers, at what times, etc.
What’s been the company’s journey to date?
With the guidance of Imperial College academic advisors, we started to research the media and entertainment industry and explore how we could utilise blockchain technology to solve core challenges. It became obvious that there was a clear need in the ticketing industry to break down data siloes and improve trust, security, and efficiency in the industry.
We started out sitting in a room in the basement of Imperial, just the two of us for 16 hours a day, researching, designing, iterating, learning, talking to people, being shot down – continually trying to grow until we had something of value. The outcome of that was the proof of concept for the Aventus Protocol. We released the whitepaper and held a token sale that ended in a staggering seven minutes, exchanged a total of 6 million AVT (the native utility token for the Aventus ecosystem) for 60,000 ETH.
We then started building the business, to our current 25 employees, based on Fleet Street in London. An Alpha version of the Protocol providing scaled-down functionality was released on the Rinkeby Public TestNet in July 2017 for community review and comment, and full source-code for the Beta release was initially made available to the public in May 2018.
After undergoing a successful auditing process, the Protocol was deployed in Beta onto the Ethereum MainNet in June 2018.
Developers can now access the protocol and accompanying source-code, giving them the tools to begin building (or expanding existing) ticketing applications and services to take advantage of the benefits of blockchain.
What challenges have you faced to date?
Inexperience – we haven’t done this before, so people treat us as having no idea because we’re young or try to take us for a ride. Because we’ve publicly raised a lot of money, certain people look at us like a piggy bank. We’ve tried to address this by hiring a senior and experienced management team with a background in the entertainments industry, who can bring that gravitas to the table.
Hiring the right people is also important. There’s two types of people we look for: really driven, vibrant, hungry, perhaps a little less experienced – but want to make a difference and to learn quickly. And heavy-hitting industry experts, who will bring that experience and deep, established knowledge.
How does blockchain prevent fraud, scalping and high re-sale prices?
The Aventus system works by enabling the creation of unique secure tickets on the blockchain where the business rules associated with the tickets – for example transfer and resale rights – can be controlled throughout the lifecycle of each ticket. Those rules are persisted throughout the ticket supply chain.
The Aventus Protocol has been designed to ensure only legitimate events and unique tickets can exist on the blockchain: this means the way tickets are validated to allow access to an event make it very difficult to pass off forged tickets as genuine.
When it comes to scalping and resales, the Protocol allows artists and ticket rightsholders to set rules which whitelist or blacklist secondary sellers, set price caps on resale, or even ban secondary selling outright for a particular ticket. We don’t create those rules, but we give event organisers the tools that allow them to control pricing in the secondary market – at a level as granular as they wish.
What does the future hold for Aventus?
We see ourselves as working in the wider entertainment rather than purely music. With a lot of big older industries there can be a lot of bureaucracy; they can be very traditional and resistant to change. The way they do things is entrenched, so coming in with new technology can be an uphill battle to ignite a change. We’re trying to give them the tools to do things in a more efficient and technologically-driven way.
We’re working actively and collaboratively with the ticketing industry to build and grow the Aventus ecosystem based on client feedback and constant iteration. We believe this is the right way to test and challenge assumptions (both the industry’s and our own), educate (and learn from) key industry players, and ultimately drive blockchain adoption at a business and consumer level. We believe this demand-driven, business-led approach means that the Protocol will become something of true value, which can revolutionise the ticketing industry from the bottom up.