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Ticketmaster acquires blockchain startup Upgraded


Today Ticketmaster announced the acquisition of blockchain smart ticketing app Upgraded. The start up was founded in 2016 in Walnut Creek California. When event owners adopt the mobile app, they get transparency about what’s happening with the tickets for their events, so in theory, it helps with ticket scalping.

Upgraded’s CEO Sandy Khaund outlined his ambitions to Forbes last year: “When you go to Ticketmaster, you get a drop-down that says PDF, postal service or will call. In the short term, I want to be the fourth option. In the long term, I want to be the only option. The other three options should not exist.”

“Ticketmaster is constantly exploring emerging technologies, and there aren’t many that have the unique possibilities of blockchain,” said Justin Burleigh, Chief Product Officer at Ticketmaster, North America. “We think blockchain and UPGRADED will continue our progress to improve ticketing and create a safer and more seamless experience.”

In terms of Ticketmaster innovation, two examples are their recent investment in Blink Identity, a facial recognition tool and TicketMaster Presence. The latter is now being used for ticketing and fan engagement across the NFL with more than 175 venues participating.

ICO doldrums, more acquisitions

Upgraded didn’t run an ICO though it appears they considered one. So far they raised $790,000 in convertible notes according to Crunchbase. Is this the start of an acquisition trend for companies that didn’t run ICOs? Just this week there was the failure of the high profile Civil ICO, a company with Consensys backing.

What is Upgraded?

Upgraded has a mobile app for Smart Tickets where the ownership of the tickets is logged on a blockchain. It can either run as a standalone app or be embedded into a branded app by an event or ticketing company. Friends can transfer tickets amongst each other, but the event owner can also place restrictions on ticket sales. There’s a facility to allow for resales, provided the seller is willing to pass back a portion of his profits to the event.

That feature could prove controversial for Ticketmaster. The company is facing a class action lawsuit that alleges they’ve been colluding with scalpers.

Upgraded was founded by CEO Sandy Khuand who was previously CTO at InStadium which is an ad network for pro and college sports venues. Before that, he was a Director of Turner Broadcasting focusing on emerging technologies.

Ethereum is the technology used, but the blockchain underpinning is hidden from app users.

Other ticketing blockchains

Netherlands-based GET Protocol uses many off-chain centralized workarounds to circumvent the scalability issues of public Ethereum.

Aventus is a fellow European startup based in London. More than a year ago they ran an ICO that raised more than $18m. But the current token market capitalization is just over $2.5m.

Secutix is a fast-growing ticketing company which isn’t purely blockchain based but has a blockchain app which UEFA is currently trialing.

But many of these companies are up against startups that aren’t blockchain-based. For example, Los Angeles based Rival Entertainment founded by ex Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard. It has funding of more than $30m from Andreessen Horowitz and some major sports teams.

Image Copyright: Upgraded