Ticket2Me has always been on our radar because the ticketing industry is a fast evolving and relatively untapped market in the region. As The Philippines first fully digital ticketing service, Ticket2Me always had the potential to scale very fast.

With over 11,000 users and having sold 29,000 tickets, Ticket2Me have a solid foothold in the local market. Their recent seed round from Singapore-based Citystate Group Pte Ltd provides them with funding and a network to scale their business regionally.

We spoke to CEO and Co-Founder Darwin Mariano to find out their plans and how the partnership with Cityscape will help them compete in different markets – especially with more traditional incumbents dominating the landscape.

Darwin shares how his experience in the showbiz industry and their strong local knowledge has helped them scale within The Philippines – and how they are going to overcome the challenges in each market.

A retail revolution is happening in Southeast Asia

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Congratulations on your recent funding. Can you explain the significance for Ticket2Me working with a partner like Citystate?

Citystate is an ideal partner for Ticket2Me not only for their many years of experience in the region but also for the diversity of their business expertise. At Ticket2Me, we realized early on that excellent product-market fit and disciplined execution will not be sufficient to ensure success. We need the right partners on the ground who can help us grow the business aggressively but responsibly to ensure sustainable value for our event organizers and ticket buyers.

This seed funding is the catalyst for your regional expansion, but do you expect significant competition from local incumbents in markets like Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Singapore already has a relatively saturated market with a clear leader in Sistic, so wouldn’t it be challenging to carve out market share?

Of course, there are many established, even dominant players in the markets we operate in and those we want to enter. We know it will not be easy. But we are not afraid. The live events market is also growing rapidly so there’s plenty of room for a new player. I’m absolutely confident that event organizers and ticket buyers are craving for smarter and more convenient ticketing platforms like Ticket2Me.

Ticket2Me has had success in The Philippines. What has been the main reason Ticket2Me has been able to grow so quickly in your home market?

Deep local knowledge, product-market fit and amazing execution on our part have been important ingredients behind our rapid growth in the Philippines. My experience as a theatre producer and show buyer for many years now has also helped me identify the real pain points of organizers and how a truly innovative ticketing platform can address those pain points.

The trend right now is the entire experience rather than looking at individual events. How is this impacting the booking and ticketing industry? Do you see it as a good thing for your industry?

Yes, the shift from individual events to entire experiences is good for the industry. In fact, McKinsey & Company says, in a report released in December 2017, that “over the past few years, personal-consumption expenditures (PCE) on experience-related services—such as attending spectator events, visiting amusement parks, eating at restaurants, and travelling — have grown more than 1.5 times faster than overall personal-consumption spending and nearly 4.0 times faster than expenditures on goods.” But many existing players are not ready for the shift because their technology needs to be ready to adapt accordingly. This creates a tremendous opportunity for platforms like Ticket2Me that can quickly respond to what event organizers and ticket buyers want, wherever they are in the world.

Looking at the technology aspect of your business, how are you using blockchain on your platform?

There are a number of interesting uses of blockchain on the platform. We currently use it for transaction records security and records integrity purposes but we are working on releasing a blockchain-based payment, discount and rewards system as well. There are a few more use cases that my team is working on but we’re unfortunately not able to disclose them yet.

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How do you see the industry changing and evolving in the next couple of years in the region?

I think there will be plenty of growth in the region given the expanding middle class throughout Southeast Asia and a growing market appetite for more experiences than things. We’re also seeing a lot of festivals also taking the place of individual events and more travellers going out of their home countries to attend events elsewhere. Legacy ticketing platforms that are unable to adapt will lose heavily to newer, more agile players. I will not be surprised to see greater cooperation and even consolidation between the more advanced ticketing platforms.

This startup is helping companies find the pulse of their employees

What advice would you give a new entrepreneur looking to set up a company in Southeast Asia?

Despite the many challenges, our region is probably one of the most exciting places to build businesses. But it is critical to understand and solve a real problem that people will pay for (and not just admire). Find co-founder/s or partner/s that fit – you cannot build a successful business alone so make sure you get help from the right people. Bootstrap for as long as you can and be careful about who you accept money from – the financial discipline will keep you laser-focused on what you truly need to do or spend on. But having said that, never run out of cash. Building good businesses take time. You need to make sure that you and your team have a long enough runway while waiting for the business to take off.

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