MissionTix, the tiny ticketing company of seven full-timers based in downtown Baltimore, was founded 13 years ago, but it has only been in the last four that the company started contracting with bigger clients and larger events en route to its biggest year so far in 2013.
Last year MissionTix handled ticketing operations for the annual summer All Good Festival. And in its third year working the now-defunct Grand Prix of Baltimore, the company rolled out 40 point-of-sale systems and managed nine box offices with 80 contracted staff.
“It sucks it’s not coming back, because we learned so much,” said Greg Cangialosi. Oh, yes, that too — MissionTix brought on Cangialosi, the founder of e-mail marketing startup Blue Sky Factory that he sold in 2011, as its CEO in July 2013. Cangialosi is a prominent tech leader in Baltimore, where he also cofounded Federal Hill incubator Betamore.
Enlisting Cangialosi was the first piece in a new MissionTix strategy to transition from being a service company that offers a ticketing product, to a product company that offers services in addition to its ticketing tool, as COO Joe Loverde said.
The principal component of this master plan is a new online ticketing platform that was 11 months in the making and is close to being released. No more is MissionTix simply trying to resell tickets, Loverde said. The goal now is to “package experiences outside of just the ticket purchase,” the one way a small company with no venture funding can compete with the likes of Ticketmaster and Eventbrite.
And with Cangialosi’s hiring and the new platform release, the overarching objective of MissionTix is now clear: triple sales from $12 million to between $30 and $36 million in the next two to three years.
While 2014 will be something of a rebuilding year — the Baltimore Grand Prix was the company’s biggest event, and the All Good Festival is on hiatus this summer — Cangialosi is confident the contracts are in place for MissionTix to hit that $30 million revenue mark. A five-year contract with Howard County makes the company the exclusive ticket seller for the annual Wine in the Woods event.
Another five-year deal the company is working on with the U.S. Army will make MissionTix the seller of tickets at the several venues located at Aberdeen Proving Ground. MissionTix recently sealed a three-year deal with the nonprofit Visit Baltimore organization, and it handles ticketing at the Maryland State Fair every year.
But the real change will come with the new platform, an online ticketing component coupled with marketing tools, a responsive website redesign to make the platform mobile-friendly, and, come June, the option for “cashless commerce,” which will be the MissionTix way for event attendees to buy food, drink and souvenirs at events, in addition to tickets, wholly through the mobile interface.
“In order for us to make a concerted effort to grow, we needed a better platform,” said Loverde, who has been with MissionTix since the company’s founding in 2001.
Loverde cofounded digital and design agency Mission Media in 2000 with Todd Harvey. MissionTix, now a sister company to Mission Media, was initially something of an afterthought. A client of Mission Media’s in its earliest days needed a ticketing platform, Loverde said, but didn’t want to use Ticketmaster. After MissionTix was born, Loverde took the helm, steering the company as it slowly acquired clients, thanks to word-of-mouth advertising, and won over event promoters and venue owners.
For many years, MissionTix embodied a sort of independent ethos — being the ticket-selling platform for small venues and events — predictable for those familiar with Loverde’s background: before jumping into IT work, the Towson University graduate ran an indie record label called Kwality for three years.
That model fit MissionTix for many of its 13 years in existence. But building a bigger company, one that employs more than seven people full-time, would require a different tack. (Not to mention a new office, which MissionTix will be moving into in the next few months, on a different floor inside the building it currently occupies.)
“To get to that next level, we needed to change the way we were doing things,” Loverde said. “We needed to break out of the indie, DIY environment.”
What that means, generally, is that MissionTix will now be more focused on marketing, a move that was the impetus for recruiting Cangialosi to be CEO. Instead of just building an online interface through which potential event-goers can buy tickets, the company is now working with event organizers and groups more to offer them better tools to market events and generate follow-on sales.
The new platform allows for easier group buying. Event organizers can now e-mail attendees. Social sharing — Facebook, Twitter — is now integrated. And the new mobile dashboard emphasizes engagement over sales by allowing event promoters to interact directly with ticket holders through polls and surveys.
In some ways, then, it’s a ground-up relaunch for a decade-plus-old ticketing company that has managed to grow a sustainable business with no venture capital. Loverde calls it the “third version” of MissionTix.
Cangialosi explains the new approach in slightly different terms: “We’re going back to being a startup.”