Say hello to Anika Monari and Alan Vey. Smart. Young. And Determined. They’ve been asking the industry a lot of questions.
This entrepreneurial couple are the brains behind Aventus – the vehicle they hope will be the ticketing world’s salvation: a global, open standard for event ticketing.
The duo burst onto the startup scene – garnering headlines and gasps in equal measure – with the success of their September 2017 Token Sale financing round. The sale of the AVT token raised $18.8m to deliver its “fair, secure, and transparent blockchain-based event ticketing solution that practically eliminates fraud and unregulated touting”.
In the year and a half since, the team has been evolving and redefining its offer to the market. A lot has changed – not least the couple’s own knowledge and understanding of the entertainment ticketing business.
“I think it’s fair to say that we started very much with an academic approach. The market has well-published issues with fraud, customer confusion and resale – with little or no oversight. Our token sale documentation set out the case for solving these issues using blockchain as the foundation,” explains Alan Vey. “We released a beta version of the protocol, sold the tokens and then released the first version of the protocol at TheTicketingBusiness Forum in April last year. Since then we’ve ran some trials – to test the concept – and then have been speaking to lots of people. We needed to understand the ecosystem of ticketing and what event promoters want from ticketing.”
It transpires that, perhaps unsurprisingly, “transparency and fairness” isn’t necessarily at the top of the list for all event owners and promoters.
EVOLVING THE BUSINESS. INFORMING THE PRODUCTS
Between the industry trials and discourse, the Aventus offer has evolved into an ecosystem. The first layer is the Aventus Protocol itself – the foundation block of the business – which is being supported by “lots of grants we aim to distribute out to entities to help build new tools or integrate the protocol into their existing solutions to drive tickets onto the protocol”, says Monari. “The first grant-funded entity is Artos– this is our ‘bridge to blockchain’. We’re using this to overcome issues around privacy and transaction speed on the blockchain, and build supporting infrastructure that makes it easier for enterprises to integrate it into their existing software stacks.”
The second business to receive funding is FanDragon Technologies, a US-based company working with a Venture Capital firm to commercialise a key use-case of the technology: secure, controlled ticket delivery and transfer.
Currently, the couple is busy working with other industry names to look at grant structures and other use-cases for protocol usage.
Today, Artos has a team of 25 in London – “mostly software engineers”, insists Monari. FanDragon Technologies, on the other hand, has a team of around 10 in Los Angeles – mainly on the product and business development side.
SETTING THE (OPEN) STANDARD
“We’ve stopped putting such a strong emphasis on blockchain in the Aventus ecosystem,” says Vey. The label was becoming a distraction. “I’m told 7 out of 10 execs think they’re experts in blockchain! We needed to cut through the noise. We are not an e-commerce or SaaS ticketing company. We see ourselves instead as a provider of tools and enablers to the sector.”
The founders say that the current multi-faceted business structure is designed to better meet the needs of the market, and get maximal adoption of the protocol by pricing the base technology at a low cost (ultimately releasing it open source) and working with industry to come up with use-cases of their technology that solve particular problems at that point in the supply chain.
Small scale ticketing trials last summer – for events between 2,000 and 10,000 tickets – proved to be eye-openers. “We learnt a lot during the product trials. Our best results, for example, were where we had tickets offered across multiple sales channels. We also learnt that vouchers can work for redeeming tickets. Much better than sending the actual ticket when there is no or little integration,” says Monari. “More importantly though we learnt that the academic design was great but not a fit for commercial aspects of this business. There was a lot of potential to correct and we’ve made changes across the stack.”
The full version of the Aventus Protocol is expected to be released this May. It will be offered to the industry as cheaply as feasible with Aventus hoping for widespread adoption as a ticketing standard for value transfer.
“A big lesson was around the public transparency our solution can offer – especially where it relates to ticket resale. Many artists and promoters do not event want this. There are many interlinked vested interests at work. Obfuscation is the word I would use for our solution.”
WE DON’T SELL TICKETS. WE MAKE TOOLS.
Taking the feedback from the sector, Aventus has since focused on providing a series of tools which allow event owners to determine how their tickets can be sold – and resold – and the parameters for those transactions.
“Communication around tickets is really important. If an event owner is changing the way people should behave then they need to work with their customers. They need to explain the process. One promoter told us that: A customer can be dumber than you will ever anticipate and you have to be able to deal with that!”
If that holds true then any new ticketing tools will need to be intuitive, with Due Diligence on sales, checks and balances, and suitable reporting. If not, the offered ticket sales process will simply create more and more customer service issues.
“We’re trying to solve some of the sector’s problems,” enthuses Monari. “Not add to them!”
“We know enough now from the various trials where we can add value. We’re not going to be subtracting any revenues. Nor are we going to compete with anyone as a ticket retailer,” explains Vey. “Instead we will provide tools to help the industry.”
I’M IN WITH THE IN-CROWD
Of course, Aventus is not alone. Almost weekly there’s news of a new startup ticketing solution using blockchain. At the same time, the market leaders are also adopting and trialling blockchain in their portfolios. Ticketmaster acquired Upgraded in September 2018. More recently, Swiss-based cloud-based ticketing group SecuTix has released its own TIXnGO blockchain ticketing solution “to combat ticket fraud.”
The Aventus founders are unfazed by such news and, in many ways, welcome it: “It’s recognition that the tools are maturing. That the market is embracing – and has to embrace – new technological solutions. All these headlines and deals help to educate the market and validate our approach.”
They firmly believe that these other startups are not competitive to them, but rather potential collaborators and protocol partners. “We want to be that base layer – the transaction and provenance layer for value transfer in ticketing – Aventus intends to build better blockchain tools and spend all of our time on that. Therefore, they have a head start on the development – with products better-suited for commercial application.
“Transaction speed and scalability were also highlighted as potential issues during the trials. We now have an open system that can handle 20,000 tickets a second,” says Vey. He describes this as “a tier 2 solution to, in effect, scale blockchain – and “not necessarily on Ethereum”.
“We have married the benefits of closed, private blockchains like Hyperledger with open public blockchains like Ethereum fully delivering on the value of both around security, privacy, scalability and independence”.
THE SAME TICKET. DELIVERED DIFFERENTLY
FanDragon Technologies is effectively offering the industry a “method of mobile ticket delivery” – in effect, a ticket wallet, using the Aventus Protocol.
“There does not have to be a change to access control for the venues or event organisers. That’s so important,” says Vey. “And there’s little change for ticket sellers and ticket buyers. The existing supply chain can remain unchanged, if that’s what is wanted.”
One of the first adopters of the Aventus protocol is Santa Monica-based Fandragon Technologies. There’s not much market information so far other than the strapline: Your Tickets. Your Rules. Our Tools.
But, in a recent presentation at a US trade show Steve Machin, Global Director of Ticketing Strategy and Innovation for FanDragon said that increased regulation of secondary market “will create additional demand for solutions that can enforce rules around the transfer of tickets, and that can empower tickets themselves to be smart or dynamic.”
It’s not just ticket delivery where Aventus believes it adds value.
AND SO TO MARKET
In mid-March, Vey and Monari reiterated that the “full version 1 to go live in the very near future” and claimed that “it will be capable of transaction processing rates of circa 20,000 per second”
Privacy concerns may be allayed by the implementation of ZK-Snarks (for the sake of simplicity: a novel form of cryptography).
With the protocol live, Aventus’ founders anticipate the rollout of further SaaS and ticketing company integrations.
“We can’t say too much at this stage but one of these applications should be released in May with it scaling up to be handling in excess of a million tickets annually using the Aventus Protocol.” They also claim “two large ticketing companies are also exploring integrations with Aventus”.
Is that enough to accelerate adoption? A critical mass is needed and with multiple, diverse offers coming to the market, team Aventus will be gambling its reputation – and token holders money – that they have truly understood and delivered on the needs of the ticketing sector.
Or, is it a case of a market being disrupted without it even realising? Steve Jobs did that to the music sector with iTunes. He was another smart person on the outside asking – and answering – the right questions.