TicketFire Co-Founder Tanisha Robinson Discusses Digitizing Tickets With Her New App

Digitizing existing paper processes is nothing brand-new. Think of all the photo sharing or paper-work conversion services that are out there. They took what was once a paper-only process and changed it completely. But there is one historically paper-based service that a columbus, OH startup is aiming to bring into the digital realm in a route that it hasn’t been before.

TicketFire is an app that allows ticket holders to scan the their paper event tickets, and then share, vend or transfer those tickets to other people also using the TicketFire app.

It’s a captivating concept and it offers several benefits and improvements over the current process. The coolest feature in my mind is the ability to purchase or vend a ticket after an event has already started.

For instance, if two people are already inside a location for a show or sporting event, one person could vend their seat ticket to the other person, halfway through the event — effectively, upgrading their seat, at a possibly reduced cost. That is a fantastic concept and I’m curious to see, in pragmatic terms, how it plays out.


a few other services out there, like Flash Seats or StubHub, have similar offerings but neither are as streamlined for rapid, mobile ticket transfer as is TicketFire.

In any event, I had a moment to capture up with Tanisha Robinson — half of a two person faction (including Eric Kerr) who created TicketFire — to talk about the app, how it works and where it is headed.


JD: Give me the scoop on TicketFire?

TR: TicketFire is a mobile app — right now only on iOS — that allows you to take any live event ticket (concert, sporting event, etc.) and scan the paper ticket into you phone so it becomes a digital ticket. Once it’s a digital ticket you can share it, use it, re-vend it without having to keep track of your piece of paper any more. So we’re kind of bringing the paper ticketing industry into the mobile epoch…um, without trying to take down Ticketmaster. That’s the short model of what we do.

We launched in the app store in January. We’ve seen beautiful good adoption. TicketFire’s been used at the [NCAA] Final Four, Madison Square Garden, Premier League football, Major League Baseball, Major League football, The NHL. So, we’re seeing broad usage and we feel like it addresses a lot of the frustrations around having to be responsible for a physical token. It’s meant to be a tiny bit disruptive to this really old-school industry that hasn’t evolved in a couple of thousand years.

JD: Ok. That’s a beautiful cool concept. What’s Ticket leader think of this…of you guys re-distributing their tickets, potentially?

TR: We don’t know yet. We’re hoping to partner with them. We’ve been making some in-roads but we don’t have a formal opinion from them yet. We hope that they bless it.

JD: What if they don’t? I mean, have you readied
for that?

TR: Ticketmaster and Live Nation own the industry and I think paper tickets aren’t going anywhere and our hope is to work really well with Ticketmaster and Live Nation. Our process is patent-pending…

JD: So maybe you could be acquired by them?

TR: I mean, Ideally. Absolutely. There are definitely a lot of opportunities for the data around knowing who goes to what show and not just who bought four tickets somewhere. Ultimately I think there are a lot of marketing and data opportunities with the app.

JD: Are you allowed to re-vend a ticket today or is that considered scalping?

TR: We’re not actually re-selling. It’s simply that we are the technology that allows you to convert a paper ticket into a digital ticket and then magically move it around without having to have a creepy Craigslist interaction.

JD: Ok so lets say I purchase a ticket and I digitize it, but then I can’t go so I vend it to my buddy, I can only vend it for the price that I bought it, through your system.

TR: No, we don’t control the price at which people vend those tickets. It’s kind of like StubHub. StubHub is simply a platform and people purchase and vend them for whatever they want to vend them for. So for us, we are the platform, not the vendor. It’s a ticket exchange, but it allows people to not have to meet in person.

JD: Ok, so then I just digitize it using your platform and I collect money in money or from PayPal or whatever from someone else, outside of your system.

TR: Yep. Exactly.

JD: So I could scalp it, but TicketFire doesn’t have anything to do with that.

TR: Exactly

JD: So I don’t exactly know how StubHub works. Is it similar?

TR: StubHub is an ebay company that is basically a mart place to purchase and vend tickets. It can be person-to-person, ticket broker to person, but Ticketmaster themselves do not vend on StubHub. The problem with StubHub is that often paper tickets can only be FedEx-ed. So the ticket window closes the second FedEx can’t get you those tickets in moment for an event. The other thing that we think is cool is that because the ticket window can stay open it ‘s actually viable to purchase tickets when you’re inside the location already. So you could improve seats. This would allow sellers of tickets to say ‘this game is already halfway finished, and if I can get $50 for these fantastic seats I’ll do it. [Maybe leave early]. So it’s actually viable to improve your seats from inside the location, because you can move those tokens around.

JD: Oh, so you could purchase half of a ticket, prorated sort of, while you are already in the location.

TR: Yeah, you could purchase a ticket and the seller could be reasoning
“well I could still get some money out of this” and you could get the ticket digitally transferred to you and move seats.

JD: That’s captivating. But here’s another ask I have. I remember — going route back here — Napster didn’t vend anything but they were a facilitator and they were shut down because of that. So how is this disparate from say, something like that? I mean, are you worried about that?

TR: Not really because it’s not licensed content. And there are precedents. There are a lot of ticket mart places, people vend tickets on eBay. I mean some states are beautiful heavily regulated but for the most part it’s a widely know industry for re-sale. We are simply a platform for all of that. We’re not super worried about that.

JD: That’s true. I guess it’s not content. It’s an utility. Another ask… do you store the tickets on servers or is it finish pass-through from person to person?

TR: We do [store them]. Basically each ticket has a special ID. So if you transfer your ticket to you buddy and they download it… you can no longer access that ticket. So we do move them around.

JD: So you scan your own ticket, dump it into TicketFire, then you can no longer get to it again. But you have the genuine paper ticket? What’s to stop you from hoax?

TR: So it’s the same problem with Ticketmaster. You can download your ticket as a pdf and print multiple copies if you wanted and there’s nothing to prevent you from doing that today.

JD: Whoever gets to the location first, right? They still only let one ticket go in at the location.

TR: Exactly. And that’s Ticketmaster’s rule on it. If there’s any sort of discrepancy they refund the genuine purchaser and kick everyone else out. So it’s not something the existing ticketing industry hasn’t seen before. But at least this is a route to contain it and have some data on who’s actually using them.

JD: They kick people out?

TR: Yes, that’s the ticket policy.

JD: How could they find someone inside of a realm?

TR: I guess it would be based on the disputed seat.

JD: Oh yeah, I guess for a place with seats. Not a general admission kind of place.

TR: I mean, if people want to scam on tickets, they can anyway, with the existing infrastructure; without TicketFire.

JD: So is there anybody else doing this? Who is your tournament? Do you feel like you are first to mart with this?

TR: We feel like we are. Most ticketing startups are focused on competing with Ticketmaster. We feel like we fit really well inside the existing [system], which is paper and barcode scanners.

JD: When do you plan to go to automaton platform?

TR: We’re in the midst of raising some money now to go to automaton. We’re beautiful precise about who we want to lift money from. We want strategic partners from inside the industry.

JD: Who all is involved in your business?

TR: It’s just me and a guy called
Eric Kerr. He’s the technical co-founder and developer.

JD: How many tickets have you processed?

TR: I haven’t checked in a few days and since I don’t have a factual respond at this moment, I’d rather not say.

JD: I mean like ballpark. Are we talking about thousands, or tens of thousands or hundreds?

TR: I’d say at least in the thousands.

JD: Ok, here’s another ask. Can all venues redeem a digital ticket with their scanners even on a phone’s reflective screen? Laser scanners don’t always work on reflective screens.

TR: So far, we’ve only had a couple of instances where there was trouble. Typically with any digital ticket, it’s like “is your brightness turned all the route up” and that usually resolves it. For that vast majority, we haven’t had any problem with the tickets functioning with Ticketmaster’s barcode scanners.

JD: Wait, does Ticketmaster provide scanners to all the venues or something?

TR: They do. Yep.

JD: Wait. To like, all venues?

TR: Not to all venues, but to all their partner venues (which is like probably 90% of them).

JD: Back to the reflective screen ask. If the location has an older style laser scanner (that will reflect off the screen) what happens? Do the tickets have a number or something that can still be hand keyed?

TR: yes, they do.

JD: Do you guarantee that Ticket leader will take the ticket?

TR: We can’t do that yet but that’s why we are hopeful for some strategic partnerships

JD: Ok, so what happens if person a sells a ticket to person B for $50 and they transfer it between them via TicketFire, but then Ticket leader doesn’t let person B into the location? What happens then?

TR: So basically if it won’t scan, then Ticketmaster enters the barcode and as long as it’s a valid barcode number then it’s not an issue.

JD: But what I mean is, for whatever reason, there’s a dispute. Maybe the guy at the counters is like “What’s this? Where’s your paper ticket?” What happens in a dispute?

TR: I don’t know actually. We’re beautiful brand-new and our hope is to have strategic partnerships in place so that we can guarantee the tickets.



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