Tix Ticketing’s Founder and CEO, Sindri Már Finnbogason, discusses his arts-focused company’s expansion into the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium…
The Covid-19 pandemic caused chaos for the live events industry with venues closed and no tickets selling from Beijing to Baltimore, and back again. While stages lay empty and instruments and microphones were silenced, performers were left counting the days until they could once again play to the public. Ticketing teams longed to bring people back once again to venues.
Frustrated by a lack of action and determined to ensure his company, employees and the arts industry as a whole could thrive when the world reopened, Tix Ticketing Founder and CEO, Sindri Már Finnbogason, used the time to plot the operator’s next move as it headed beyond its Icelandic and Scandinavian home to bring enhanced systems to arts organisations and cultural venues in new markets.
Soon Tix was taking its fledgling steps in the UK and Benelux regions and bringing its versatile platform and innovative outlook to a welcoming array of theatres, operas and concert halls.
“When Covid started we immediately developed solutions for our clients in Scandinavia to help them deal with the issues that they had,” Finnbogason says. “Then, in the summer of 2020 I basically just got bored; nobody was selling anything and no action was happening. So, in the beginning of August 2020 I decided to expand to new markets.
“I really had no strategic plan on what markets in the very beginning, I just reached out to some friends in the industry and started calling people all over the world and within days I was doing presentations online in many different countries and getting extremely positive feedback.”
Tix was founded by Finnbogason in 2014 in Iceland and soon accounted for more than 80% of that country’s ticketing market. Having grown to selling more than one million tickets per year it is now the country’s only active ticketing operator.
While initially focused on just the local market, it soon moved overseas and has since partnered with more than 60 cultural venues in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the Faroe Islands.
The company’s status was confirmed in 2019 when it signed up the largest cultural venue in the Nordic Countries, the 4,000-capacity Musikhuset Aarhus in Denmark.
Having committed to new horizons in the dark days of 2020, things could not have started any brighter in the Benelux and UK regions. Finnbogason’s positivity was a precious commodity during the early days of the pandemic.
He said: “I think the reason that venues were willing to meet up with me was that most of the culture venues had very depressing projects of refunds, cancellations and so on; so why not take one or two hours and meet this Icelandic guy for a presentation!”
As well as the opportunity to hear a positive voice, Finnbogason found venues were very open to hearing about alternatives to tech systems that were leaving them frustrated.
He said: “Why the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK? The main reason for these countries was that I could see that many of the culture venues were spending a lot of time and money on integrations, development, and the systems that they were using were not that user friendly and just outdated.
“Some culture venues in these markets were perhaps using four to five systems every day to handle their ticketing and on top of that paying developers and data experts for trying to achieve their goals.”
Tix has made a storming start to life in the Benelux region, with eight customers already up and running and three more implementations currently in progress in those markets.
Most eye-catching is the deal with Amsterdam’s famous Het Concertgebouw, considered one of the finest concert halls in the world, which will go live in October. Signing with that historic venue has proved the highlight of Tix’s expansion so far, with Finnbogason spending months in the Netherlands to ensure the deal was tied up.
Signing up such a prestigious client illustrates that venues in seemingly mature markets are crying out for a new way of ticketing.
“We are just getting started but also being very careful of not growing too fast,” Finnbogason said.
“What we are bringing to the market is a ticketing solution that can handle both small venues and very big venues and focus on simplicity and features that really help our clients to focus on the things that they need to be focusing on.
“A ticketing solution should not only sell tickets and send data to external systems. It should evolve and keep up with the market and most importantly be ahead with new features and new development. It is extremely important to listen to our clients on what they need but it is equally important to not just say ‘yes’ to every single feature they would like.
“I also think that a big reason for our success is that we are a company owned by developers and complete ticketing nerds. We will always have development as the top priority.”
As well as the developments in Benelux, Tix has continued to sign up new partners in Scandinavia in recent months such as Oslo Concert Hall. A debut in the important UK market is getting closer too.
“We are focusing on the culture segment of the market in the UK, theatre, opera, symphony and concert halls,” Finnbogason said. “This is a segment that we love to work with, and we have no plans of expanding to other segments of the market, like sports, festivals and so on.
“We have had quite some presentations in the UK and the feedback is the same as when we started in Benelux: extremely positive.”
The right culture
Having made that initial leap from Iceland to the wider Scandinavian market, Tix had some preparation for expanding operations to new regions. Finnbogason and his team have sought to repeat their initial success in the UK, Belgium and Netherlands by ensuring new teams share the same positivity, work ethic and innovative outlook.
“Our operations run in a very similar method in all markets but it’s also changing a lot lately since we are growing so quickly,” he said. “Even though we have staff in six countries working for different markets we communicate a lot between the countries, and they learn from each other.
“It’s very important for us that we have local support in the local language of each market we operate in. We will always build up a team in each market, but they are part of our Tix international team.
“In terms of the UK, it’s very much the same there and also how we will run the operations there compared to the other markets.”
With continued success in Scandinavia, new clients in its expansion regions and an exciting roadmap set to be delivered soon, Tix’s service is proving to be a masterpiece across the culture sector.