This is the first in our new series “8 Questions” — in which we sit down with founders in the Playfair portfolio and ask them to share their startup journey.
We first met Zack and Jonathan back in 2012 and were blown away by their vision and tenacity as founders. Fast forward to 2019 and they now have over 1m customers in 100 countries, and are building the world’s largest marketplace for music festival experiences. To help them fulfil their mission, they’ve recently raised $15m Series D funding and brought 1,300 loyal customers on board as investors in crowdfunding 🚀.
Today, we sat down with Zack, co-founder and CEO, to hear his story from deciding to take the plunge as an entrepreneur to building Festicket to where it is today. We hope this can help other founders and aspirational entrepreneurs in their own ventures, and maybe plan that next summer festival trip ☀️.
1. What inspired you to be entrepreneurs?
I always wanted to have my own company. While I learned a lot working for other people early on in my career, I was constantly thinking “How could I do this better myself” and learning from good examples (not to mention all the bad examples I would never want to repeat). I was just waiting for the right idea that could grow organically into something really interesting and useful. With Festicket, we found that idea.
2. Can you take us back to the beginnings of Festicket?
By 2012, I had been working in the finance sector in London for a number of years and was going to see live music a lot in my free time. It was in that year that I really started to get into festivals. In fact, I went to 45 events in 2012 alone. I think for me, and for a lot of people, festivals are an amazing way to relax and escape, especially if work is stressful. Of course, when you go to that many events, you end up spending a lot of time planning and organising. It got to the point where I was frustrated that there wasn’t a central platform for festival information and tickets, all in one place. We started working on the site and it just grew from there really fast.
3. What is the hardest lesson learned since day 1?
Without the right skills on your team, it’s impossible to succeed. For example, we decided quite early on that we wanted to deal directly with festivals and providers so we could sell on their behalf, instead of using affiliates. This was of course very difficult at first, as there are very well known and dominant leaders in the ticketing and travel markets and we were totally unknown. Luckily, we made some great hires early on to help us get our foot in the door. The same goes for the technology side of the business. We’re completely dependent on our website functioning, so having a strong tech team was essential from day one. It could have easily been a disaster without the right people on board from the start.
4. What has been your strangest day as founders?
Seeing our brand grow in fame is quite surreal. We always talk about the “dinner party” test — that moment when someone you’ve just met has already heard of your company. I remember this happening quite early on and it was someone in the festival industry so I was really excited to get that early recognition. I got the same feeling recently when I saw our TV ad go live on Channel 4. It’s a crazy feeling to know that something you created has taken on a life of its own.
5. What have you learned from your investors since you first fundraised?
A common problem startups face is spreading themselves too thin, especially when they are trying to diversify their product too quickly. Playfair and our other key investors have always encouraged us to stay focused on the metrics that matter rather than trying to be everything all of the time, which has been incredibly helpful advice. We are lucky enough to do something that no-one does on the same scale — combining festival tickets with travel — so focusing on our USP has been a really profitable decision for us so far.
6. As founders, what are your proudest achievements to date?
As festival goers, we always dreamed of going on a trip to Coachella in California. For us, it is the epitome of a destination festival — the best artists paired with amazing weather and incredible scenery. So when we signed a deal with them this year it felt like a massive achievement. We also really enjoy the annual company meeting in September, where the whole team comes together to reflect on the year and celebrate success. We’ve hit some major milestones this year so I am really looking forward to sharing these achievements during this year’s meeting.
7. Crystal Ball: what are your plans for the next three years?
The next few years are all about growth and developing our product even further. We’re expanding into new markets — last year saw us open an office in San Francisco to tackle the US market and we’re signing festivals in Asia and Australasia too. We are also planning to scale the events we have on our site, so we can guarantee the best choice and experience for price. We believe there’s a festival out there for everyone and we’re making Festicket the best place to find it.
8. #1 piece of advice to an aspirational founder?
It’s a bit cheesy, but you really do need to be passionate about what you do. Firstly, you’re going to have to work insanely hard to get the company off the ground. Secondly, you need to use that passion to inspire everyone you hire to work hard too. No business has ever been successful due to one person. It’s a massive team effort, which means every entrepreneur needs to be able to hire and nurture a high-performing team that feels the passion too. We ultimately have our team to thank for our rapid growth. This is what will continue to keep us ahead of the competition in the years to come.