Covid-19 has really put the kibosh on live events over the past 18 months, but in the tech world that has also meant live event startups that have found a way to survive and thrive. throughout the period received a lot of attention. In the latest development, Of – a London-based company that has built a platform to help people discover and attend live events that may be of interest to them – has raised $ 122 million, a round of funding that sources say values ââthe $ 400 million business.
SoftBank Vision Fund 2 is leading the round, a Series C, with iPod ‘father’ and Nest co-founder Tony Fadell (through Future Shape), Blisce, French entrepreneur Xavier Niel, Mirabaud, Cassius and Evolution – all previous funders – are also involved. (The company’s previous investors also include DeepMind co-founders Mustafa Suleyman and Demis Hassabis, notable given the company’s early interest in data science and recommendation algorithms.)
Dice is focusing primarily on live music these days, and at the height of the pandemic, with everyone locked away, it revamped its business model to focus on live streaming: now with some 6,400 live streamed events and thousands of other in-person events under its belt, to attract a larger audience with a wider range of needs, it is developing around a multimodal strategy, providing options to discover and attend / buy tickets to live streaming and in-person events.
The new funds will be used to expand Dice’s geographic footprint with a particular focus on the United States, as this is where Dice’s business appears to be growing the fastest at the moment, as cities and consumers gradually exit. from pandemic hibernation to spending time together again, in some cases at a breakneck pace. Phil Hutcheon, CEO and co-founder of Dice, said that in New York City alone, more than a million people have used Dice to research and attend events in August alone.
(Note on Investors and Founders: Hutcheon co-founded Dice in 2014 with Ustwo, the agency that also spawned Monument Valley, helped incubate Tray.io, and worked on many other creative projects alongside his agency business. digital: I confirmed that Ustwo, who had not played an operational role in Dice for years, also sold his stake in the startup during this cycle.)
Giants like Ticketmaster, Live Nation, StubHub, and Eventbrite dominate the event ticketing landscape, but Hutcheon argues that these and other older platforms are too static and unsuitable for the modern age, and especially modern demands.
They are costly to both event planners and attendees, and they have been slow to tackle some of the more damaging aspects of the event industry, such as ticket sales and counterfeiting; and some of the most promising aspects of it, such as providing better information to event planners based on all the data that can be gleaned from the event browser and the average consumer.
âThe world has been opaque around live performances, but now we are in 2021,â Hutcheon said in an interview. âThe answer to changing everything is transparency. [Legacy ticket companies] makes things much more complicated than they should be.
Dice’s response was to focus on three areas, Hutcheon said. First, to make ticketing easy and secure for users and sites. Second, discovery: making sure that people interested in a particular show receive reliable recommendations on other events they might like, in places they can realistically visit. And the third is the community. In Dice’s case, that originally (and still does) means finding like-minded people on the site, as well as visiting Dice and finding out what your friends or people like you might be interested in seeing. . Now, on top of that, there is a broader mandate for the community, Hutcheon said.
âWe didn’t think about it at first, but the loneliness was a big deal,â he said, noting that a third of 17-21 year olds a good place for the company’s consumers, reported loneliness during the pandemic. âGoing out to see the culture brings people together. “
Dice took a very technical approach to solving all of this. First, he focused on building a network of venues and promoters that he works closely with on ticketing – there are currently over 3,600, spanning not only venues and venues. promoters of music, but also theaters and their ecosystems. Along with this, it has its own set of data, created around those who visit the site and purchase events, which in turn are used to help create and recommend events to Dice look-alike visitors.
Then the tech stack on which it is based is focused on digital and mobile ticketing to prevent resale and counterfeiting and provide a legal way to resell tickets where the venue can refund a purchase and resell on Dice. And it continuously provides analytics to venues, artists, and promoters so they can better understand how and where they see demand for specific concerts and artists, when to consider larger or smaller venues, and more. .
All of this helps Dice stand out in what is otherwise a fairly crowded market which, on top of that, has gone through some rough times. And just like Hopin and his huge boost through virtual events, it has helped Dice attract investors.
âThe concert industry is a tangle of archaic tools and ‘industry standards’ taxing where performers get paid last. The sites pay for marketing and are beholden to the ticket conglomerates. Fans have to hunt shows and regularly buy overpriced tickets from secondary markets or scalpers. That does not make sense ! Fadell said in a statement. âDICE is reorganizing the entire live industry, not just a part: venues are connected to fans and artists. Artists benefit from transparency, access and control. Fans easily discover local shows and global live broadcasts, and purchase safe tickets for scalpers with just one click. Fadell is
It was neither quick nor easy to build and scale. Dice, now active in dozens of cities, has deliberately reflected on these city launches: he chooses one venue to relate to multiple venues so that, as Hutcheon described it, a rich picture of musical (and other) events. of a city can be sketched out. filled in and filled out – and then fed into recommendations for more events. Referrals are a lucrative part of his business, with discovery driving over 40% of tickets sold on Dice.
Hutcheon believes that Dice’s recommendation algorithms âare a huge advantage,â but so too is his selectivity. âWe’re pretty cautious about what happens to Dice. The big question for us was, how do you scale curation? Our solution was to partner with the best organizations and places, and with major bookers or artists.
It’s clear that Dice doesn’t mine social graph data from other platforms, which in part means that it took Dice around 3.5 years to launch its own platform.
Building your own dataset, Hutcheon said, âwas seen as dumb at first. âYou could get there a lot faster if you used Facebook’s Open Graph,â people told us. But now, this is considered smart for several reasons: It gives us more control, but it’s also pro-privacy. If a site visitor doesn’t want recommendations and only wants to see what’s popular, then that’s fine too.
Dice does not exploit social data from other platforms, but it does use it to bring more audiences to its service: it counts Spotify among its partners in this regard.
The next steps for Dice will be not only to expand to more cities and host more live and in-person events – provided the pandemic R numbers are controllable – but also to continue to innovate on the side of the world. live broadcast. There is a lot of room for improvement there.
âWe were seeing artists on Instagram doing pretty amateur and lame performances, so we just appealed to the artists and said, get paid and do it right,â Hutcheon said. So far, the focus has not been on just any performance, but on trying to create iconic and distinctive performances: think Nick Cave playing at Alexandra Palace in London.
âThe fact that people were buying tickets in advance for the live broadcasts made me realize that people needed things to look forward to,â he added. And he still thinks it will continue even if the doors to theaters reopen. Dice’s live events data shows that for in-person events where tickets are purchased on its platform, around 80-85% of all tickets were sold to people living in major cities near the Dice. ‘event. But when it comes to virtual live broadcasts, only 39% were from big cities: âolder consumers, or younger kids, who wouldn’t have gotten to see Nick Cave at Ally Pally. “
Now they can, and that kind of “special” feed that isn’t a replica of anything a ticket buyer might see in person will be what Dice focuses on going forward. âThat’s why we built the live broadcast stack. The future is hybrid broadcasting, âHutcheon said.
âWe believe DICE technology has the ability to transform the future of live entertainment,â said Yanni Pipilis, managing partner of SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a statement. âAlong with the flexibility and security of seamless ticketing, the platform connects fans, artists and venues in a whole new wayâ¦ We are thrilled to partner with DICE to help create experiences remarkable events for fans around the world. “
Dice says he’s currently on track to have 49,000 artists and creators using his platform by the end of 2022.