This Dutch startup is growing by focusing on the problem of mobile ticketing and solving it with a product that requires almost no technical savvy from museums and other attraction operators. But it may need to be acquired to scale up quickly.
Tiqets, an Amsterdam-based travel tech startup, has landed a $17 million investment round.
HPE Growth Capital led the funding round. The company previously raised about $5.45 million from Capital Mills, Investion, and non-institutional investors, and its total funding now stands at more than $22 million.
Tiqets makes last-minute tickets for museums, tours, and activities bookable online via smartphones. It sells the tickets and provides the scannable barcode for reservations via a website and app that are available in seven languages.
The 75-employee company claims to be the fastest-growing tech company in the Netherlands and one of the fastest in Europe, according to data reviewed this spring by TNW and Adyen.
Tiqets doesn’t publicize its revenue or its transaction volume, and we’re skeptical about its boasts that it is now among the world’s top three or four tours and activities players by transaction volume. (For a look at the competitive landscape, see Skift Research’s State of Tours and Activities Tech 2017.)
A knock against Tiqets is that it may face heavy headwinds as it attempts to accelerate, similar to what HotelTonight, the mobile-first booking platform, has faced as a consumer-facing business competing with global giants with expensive marketing to attract consumer demand.
One route around the user acquisition challenge might be to do what online booking platforms like Eviivo have done for hotels and offer its tools to airlines like Ryanair that have access to customers confirmed to be traveling to destinations. Those suppliers can try to upsell those travelers at optimal times.
However, then Tiqets wouldn’t be building its own brand and would have to share revenue with the partner.
Without taking a contrarian course like that, though, Tiqets may run into a digital marketing buzzsaw — or else struggle to defend itself against copycat competitors that may pop up.
The pivot worked
Chief executive Luuc Elzinga tells Skift that simplifying his business to providing mobile ticketing to venues at popular locales was a key moment for the company.
When Tiqets started, it aimed to offer tours and activities content to online travel agencies, airlines, and other companies. It would offer to help a hotel to upsell guests on local activities and earn a commission along the way.
Yet as many other tours and activities tech companies have discovered, the fragmented and slow-to-adapt industry can be a headache-and-a-half.
Playing middlemen between the data feeds of tour operators and suppliers meant giving consumers inconsistent user experiences. Some companies weren’t able to offer instant tickets while others were. Some companies weren’t ready (technically or labor-wise) to handle the integrations necessary, leaving gaps in content that frustrated consumers.
“It took a while to learn we needed to focus on building a great core product or otherwise be overwhelmed by the better-funded guys,” Elzinga says.
Tiqets stopped acting as a ticket aggregator and started working with the activity providers themselves. It narrowed down its pitch to helping the operators sell instantly available, last-minute tickets to in-destination travelers.
In other words, it tried to move paper-based operators, such as museums, to tools that let the operators use mobile tickets, such as a free scan app that works with all types of phones that companies may already own or that they could get from Tiqets.
Alternatively, activity operators and event organizers enabled data connections to integrate their existing ticketing equipment with Tiqets’ systems.
Choosing what not to do may have been as important as choosing what to do. Tiqets avoided providing customer relationship and business management tools in the way that Peek and FareHarbor do.
Tiqets also focused on the most popular tourism markets in Europe and North America, though it sells tickets to consumers in 150 countries.
The company says that today it not only brings together a large group of new and difficult-to-target visitors who have arrived at a destination, but it also helps attractions by sharing marketing information.
Tiqets has so far avoided competing against software services companies — a sector plagued with misfires and infighting. Even so, it may need the help of a large company, like its cross-town neighbor Booking.com, to scale globally.
Of note, there’s a report (that the company would not confirm) that Booking.com has integrated Tiqets’ services, though that wouldn’t be a game-changer, either.
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Photo credit: Consumers use Tiqets app to book tickets to popular museums, attractions, tours, and events. Tiqets