Rapid growth of Ticketing Hub, and their goal to revolutionise ticketing technology for tourism.
In this episode, Carl Pihl, founder of Ticketing Hub, an easy-to-use platform for operators to create and sell ticket inventory through multiple distribution channels. Ticketing Hub is referred to as the "Shopify for tickets". Carl shares his background as a serial entrepreneur and discusses how he identified a problem in the ticketing space, leading him to start Ticketing Hub. They also delve into the specific focus of Ticketing Hub on tours and activities, with notable clients including the largest food tour and VR company in the world. The episode concludes with Carl reflecting on his early start as an entrepreneur and how it has shaped his journey to building Ticketing Hub.
The key moments in this podcast are:
00:02:19 Becoming an entrepreneur early.
00:05:40 Favourite entrepreneurial moments.
00:07:32 How hard and lonely entrepreneurship is.
00:11:30 SEO and AI advancements.
00:13:12 Leveraging technology for smaller operators.
00:16:44 Giving time back to clients.
00:00 Charles Brecque Welcome to the Legislate Podcast, where we interview founders and people in tech growing interesting companies. Today I'm very excited to welcome Carl, founder of Ticketing Hub on the show. Ticketing Hub is the Shopify for tickets. Carl, thank you for taking the time for being with us. Would you like to please share a bit of background about yourself and Ticketing Hub?
00:22 Carl Pihl Charles, thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here and meet everyone. So yeah, I'm Carl. I'm a serial entrepreneur. Set up a few businesses in the past and realised that there was a problem in the choice and activity ticketing space.
00:35 Charles Brecque So I started Ticketing Hub and now we're growing about 200% a year. That's amazing. And what does it mean to be the Shopify for tickets?
00:44 Carl Pihl So we provide an easy UI for any operator to create their ticket inventory and then sell it through multiple distribution channels, their website and in person.
00:56 Charles Brecque So if I was, for example, an events company, I'd come to Ticketing Hub and use you to
01:02 Carl Pihl run those events. We do have events, but we specialise in tours and activities. So we have the biggest food tour in the world that uses us, the biggest VR company in the world. We have the pyramids of Egypt where they're sound the night show. So we focus on people that have recurring dates or recurring options per day, even though
01:19 Charles Brecque we can still cater to festivals and things like that. You became an entrepreneur quite early on and you've even been on The Last Millionaire. So I guess, what got you into entrepreneurship and how has that sort of brought you to Ticketing
01:34 Carl Pihl Hub? I think I was a born entrepreneur. And from a young age, I was trading baseball cards and Marvel comics and selling phones when the Nokias were out and I was able to get them from China. So I think I had that in me and my father never really worked in his life and that was a problem for me. And my mother was the opposite. She was the head of finance for the Fiat Group in the US. She was managing 12 subsidiaries. So I would never see her. My parents were divorced. So I just didn't want that for my coming family or future family. So I just thought, okay, you know what, I'm going to do things my way and if I fail, it'll be my way. And that's how I got into becoming an entrepreneur, where it really kind of the foundation was set. I mean, I started doing events when I was 16 in Paris. I took my American passport. I scanned it, changed the date of birth, printed it out and plastified it like a French ID card. And so I started very young to kind of hack the system. Then my parents were like, okay, you're going to London and I went to London and I'm quite lazy. I work a lot, but I like to be efficient. And I got accepted at Imperial, but I thought Kings would be better because it'll be easier to get a first. And so I went to Kings and then kind of differentiate myself from everyone else. I thought, what can I do? Why don't I set up the Entrepreneurial Society of Kings? And that's where it all started. I set up this Entrepreneurial Society, got Karen de la Maria to come, Charles Dunstan, Carphone Warehouse. We created this thing called EPOC that I think is still going on, where we brought people from all of Europe to have these kind of entrepreneurial challenges. So you're dragons then for students. It was a really big success. And Kings Entrepreneurial Society ended up being the biggest entrepreneurial society
03:20 Charles Brecque in the UK. It's a nice thing.
03:22 Carl Pihl And what was your first venture beyond selling the cards? Well, the events in Paris was very successful and I did really well with that, but I didn't think it was where I wanted my life to lead me. And I'd say the first real venture was Drinkies. I started with 2K with one of my best friends and we're still best friends and he's still running the business. And we just decided to create these branded bottles of water. So we had clients like AODF, Energy, Shiseido, Converse, Mercedes, AMG. So we had all these clients that needed a way to present their brand to their customers during events, in their shop, anything like that. So we were just really an intermediary. We had 60% ROI. So once the customer paid a deposit, we were already profitable and then we would get the rest once it was delivered. And that became quite successful and we wanted to branch out, find new markets or new products. And we found Neil Thomason that had Aquapax. And it's just a bottle of water package by Tetra Pak. And we were like, cool, this is really cool. It will be nice for the French market. So we launched it on the French market and it was successful. And then little by little, I got out of the business, but Edixie is still doing Be Kind. Well, he had Be Kind until Mars spotted out. And now he's launching his own. He has like soups and brands and things like that all created by him and loads of distribution
04:52 Charles Brecque points with a team of I think 40 people now. Yeah, I wish I had that entrepreneurial bug earlier. So like you learn so much as a founder and I am a founder, but yeah, I can't imagine where I'd be at. I started sooner.
05:09 Carl Pihl I think, yeah, I mean, I was always hacking things like even in school and being able not to go to class. And I mean, I did really bad things. My aunt had a bit of an Alzheimer. And so whenever I didn't want to go to school, I'd call her up saying I was sick and I'd go out for lunch with her. And then she would sign me a note saying, you know, you don't have to go to school. And then at the end of the lunch, she'd be like, what are you doing now? I need to go back to school. And so I always managed to kind of like shuttle my way through things.
05:37 Charles Brecque And I think that's helped me a lot in my entrepreneurial career. And what's been your favourite moment since being an entrepreneur?
05:44 Carl Pihl I think these is like Sarah Pendis meetings or these encounters that you couldn't expect. I met Vernon Hill when I was at Lost in London. So Lost in London was a company I founded and we organized the social program for language schools. And one day I take my team. We're out for lunch. We always have a Friday lunch with the whole team. And I'm a smoker, very bad, don't smoke. But I'm a smoker and I go out for a cigarette and I see this older man, super well dressed with a driver and the younger guy with a Metro bank bag. I think to myself, you know, any like high net worth individual have a private banker. They don't go to Metro bank to open a bank account. So I run to this like young kid and I'm like, excuse me, like, do you have anything to do with Metro bank? And just looks at me like, who's this stranger? I remember the t-shirt, you know, like, ripped jeans, all that. And I say, listen, I work with half a million international students in London and they all need bank accounts. If you have any relationship with them, you know, it might be worth exploring. And so he actually went to stop the driver, asked Vernon Hill to come out of the car and this guy introduces himself and it was Vernon Hill. He sold his old business to the bank he had in the US for like eight billion and started Metro bank in the UK. And did anything lead from that encounter? Unfortunately not that one. But there are others that did. This encounter, they were focused more on enterprise and businesses rather than international students with low budget. So it wasn't really the right market, but I still have a good relation with them and
07:14 Charles Brecque I'm sure he'll always remember who I am. Well, yeah, I guess the lesson here is don't be afraid to reach out to people if you recognise them.
07:23 Carl Pihl Yeah, just look for the moon and land in the stars. And what do you wish you'd known? I think how hard it is and how lonely it is. Because you always think, oh, you know, once I get to this, it's going to become easier. Once I have a bigger team, it's going to be easier. And it's actually not. The problems that you are having just change and transfer into managing your team, managing everyone's expectation. So it's always a lot of hard work. And you're very lonely when you're there. I moved to Italy just because that's the only way I can focus on what we're doing. And I have to go if I'm having now.
08:02 Charles Brecque If I were in London, it would be very different. And I guess that's a bit of a counterfeits just to, you know, what most investors have found is you've got to be in London because that's where all the networking is. So, you know, why going to Italy then? You know, is it just benefits of the phone?
08:21 Carl Pihl For me, it was just it was just very personal. And it was just so I can just stay somewhere and stay focused and not go out and not see people. And I have calls at 3 a.m., 4 a.m. I don't differentiate. And I think, yeah, if you're looking to raise capital, then London is a great place to be because you have the investors that are there. If you're doing door to door sales or you need to have meetings in person, that's also very important. But we live in a digital world. I have so many clients that I've never met in person. And we do some calls and we can set everything up. We're a SaaS platform in the cloud. So, yes, it's great to meet people. And I go to conferences just to show my face and say hi and just say that, you know, I'm not an AI character that was created. But generally, you can run most of your business. At Ticketing Hub, we don't do any cold calls. We don't do any advertising. It's all inbound through recommendation and finding us online. Therefore, you know, wherever I am, as long as I have a good internet connection, that
09:19 Charles Brecque works for me. I think that's right. We're definitely in a world of, you know, Zoom and remote. And so you mentioned growing Ticketing Hub without outbound, all inbound. So, you know, to a founder considering, for example, SEO or inbound, what would you sort of suggest to get started and what was worked for you guys?
09:44 Carl Pihl So I think we're a bit different because I like we had the pandemic. We've been around for a long time. So our domain has a bit of a history and being able like I went for very low hanging keywords. So I didn't try to compete with, you know, the hundreds of competitors I have for tour booking software, but I went for all the niches. So I created 138 industry pages. So, you know, karaoke booking software, food tour booking software. And, you know, often just having that page reassures people and they're like, oh my God, you're the first website I've seen to have like a karaoke page. That's great. That means you guys know what you're talking about. I was like, yes. So I think I went for all of the low hanging fruits that were easy for us to rank. And that helped us a lot in our strategy. And that's how a lot of people find us. Then, you know, again, there's other little hacks that we've done and we've used. We've been using AI for a very long time. But there are other hacks like, you know, alternative tool. I was like, oh, this is cool. One of I found ticketing hub actually on the first page of Google. We had one of our competitors that had like alternative to ticketing. How well like, oh, that's smart. And he only had 10 of them. I was like, well, let's see if I can create like 100 of them. So I have 100 alternative tools. And now people are finding me against, you know, big competition that either sold for 250 million to big corporations or that raised 120 million.
11:08 Charles Brecque So we're able to compete on that front very well. You know, I do feel like SEO is a great way to sort of commoditise visibility and access. But there's if you've got a great website, great content, then there's no reason why you shouldn't rank better than
11:24 Carl Pihl other websites that have bigger marketing budgets. Yeah, I agree with that, even though I think it might slightly change in the coming years. AI is giving everyone the tools to be able to rank well with SEO. So some are catching up, catching onto it earlier rather than later. And I think now you're going to have to kind of find new ways to attract people by really giving them something. It's what everyone says in SaaS is, you know, make videos, give them free content, like let them learn from you. You're doing these podcasts to help people and try to educate them and pass on your knowledge and other people's knowledge and then for them to discover what you do. And I think that's going to be really key to the future of marketing. It's going to be how do you create this brand that people want to follow? And then how can you actually instigate them, you know, get them as a free customer, for example. And that's why all the product-led softwares are like, you know, don't pay us. You know, don't even put a credit card, use our system. You're going to love it.
12:23 Charles Brecque If you don't, in three months or in a month time, you don't just leave us. Yeah, I think that's right. AI is definitely leveling the playing field and a lot of, you know, our role and one reason why I've got the podcast, aside from building a brand is to prove that we're real and not AI generated. But great. And so with Ticketing Hub, you've had all the success.
12:48 Carl Pihl What's sort of the vision plan for the next five years? The vision plan is to grow into more than just a ticketing platform. I think that the market in the tourism activity space is extremely fragmented and no one's really consolidated the market. We want to become the Google for tickets. But I think, you know, you've seen a lot of progression in e-commerce and all plugins and things that you can use to compete with the big players. And unfortunately, in the tourism activity space, no one's allowing you to do that. And online travel agents, which are distributions like buy a tour, get your guide and Expedia, Airbnb experience, all of that, they have all those tools. They're able to leverage those tools that smaller operators can. So I think to level the playing field and allow them to actually benefit from changing the landing page if they do an advertising and they're speaking to a mother or a kid or, you know, giving them the tools that those big players are using and that they don't really know about or not even how to start.
13:52 Charles Brecque Sounds like there's a lot of opportunity because, yeah, if the technology is dominated by the big players, then imagine what you can unlock by putting it in the hands of, you know, the smaller operators.
14:07 Carl Pihl Yeah, I do think that they need to get together and find solutions and have tools that enable them to do that without necessarily knowing technology. And that's where, you know, ticketing up comes in. We're a tool that anybody can use. My biggest test is my mom. It's like, if my mom can use my platform, then anyone else will be able to because they're not tech people. They're experienced people. They love what they do. They love food. They love their history, their culture, and educating people. And they don't know anything about technology. And you say SEO and they're like, what is that? This is too complicated for me. So again, we need to give them tools to be able to use it without necessarily understanding what they're doing. And that's what ticketing hub is, is really simple for everyone, but we're powerful enough to scale enterprise. And that's why we have enterprise customers. And so your mom is, why have you a client? My mom is a tester. She's my better tester. Not a client.
15:05 Charles Brecque Well, maybe one day. Just need to. Yeah, maybe an art tour, but I don't see her being a tour guide anytime soon. Great. And you're a busy founder. Maybe the key contracts or legal documents you sort of interact with the most.
15:22 Carl Pihl You mean like contracts, contracts, legal documents? Yeah, legal. Right now we use Seed Legal to do all of our contracts for external teams, the people we hire. So we only hire freelancers. We don't have any salaries, but they're full time. So we use that for partnerships agreements, things like that. And then, yeah, I had a shareholders agreement, but never used it because I have all the shares
15:48 Charles Brecque now, but maybe in the future. Okay. Congratulations on having all that ownership. Great. And so to all the perspectives or I guess current founders listening to the show, what
16:00 Carl Pihl one piece of advice would you share with them? Well, this was advice that was shared to me and I love it. And it's when someone says, yes, stop talking.
16:11 Charles Brecque Yes.
16:13 Carl Pihl You always want to oversell and I think overselling is always a problem or confusing. So once you made your point across, then just great. Talk about the weather, talk about anything.
16:24 Charles Brecque Just don't continue selling your product. That's a good point. I guess, yeah, if the prospective client wants the demo or wants the next step, then and I know from experience, if you booked a one hour slot and you're already at the yes after 30 minutes, you think, ah, you know, what am I going to do this 30 minutes? But the reality is, is if you can give that time back to the client or prospect, then they'll be very happy.
16:50 Carl Pihl It's even better. It's like, oh, your system is so easy to use. I don't need a whole hour to learn it. And that's really our sales point. You don't need to be an engineer. You can just go in and do it yourself.
17:01 Charles Brecque If you're a mom at home or, and you like to cook your meals and do classes. Yeah, that's absolutely right. Well, Carl, thank you very much for taking the time for being on the… We're better. Thanks for having me Charles. Best of luck growing Ticketing Hub. Thank you. We'll get to it. Speak soon. Take care.