Tussle and Triumph in conversation with Sandy Khaund, founder and CEO of UPGRADED Inc, a platform for event tickets using blockchain technologies. UPGRADED converts traditional event tickets into secure interactive digital assets protected by the Blockchain (similar to Bitcoin), enabling buyers and sellers to interact with complete trust. This technology makes tickets easy to transfer and impossible to duplicate. It also allows event owners (teams, artists, etc) greater control over the ticket after initial sale, including who is allowed to own the ticket or how much the tickets can be resold for. These tickets work with existing entry systems (no hardware upgrades necessary), while delivering encryption, sales restrictions, stored value (gift cards, coupons, etc.), loyalty data, and other dynamic elements that turn a ticket into a “smart ticket”.
What is the problem you are trying to solve? Can you share with us any insights that led you to believe that this is a big enough problem?
Tickets, particularly PDF tickets or printed tickets, are static, they are inflexible, they can’t be tracked, and they can be counterfeited easily. One study suggested that there are over 5 million fake tickets in the US alone. With hundred of billions of dollars invested in live events, this is a serious problem and a solution would benefit consumers and event promoters alike.
How did you get the idea for your company?
From talking to customers at my previous company, I was alerted to some of the issues. I investigated, learned more, and then spotted a way to apply the Blockchain to solve this problem.
Who are your target consumers?
We want to partner with existing ticket sellers, being like the “Intel Inside” for ticketing to make the existing systems better for fans, for event owners, and for primary ticketing companies.
How did you get your first customer?
My network connected me to some prominent executives who are reward for bringing in innovative ideas. After talking to several, one potential customer stood out so I focused on him and we were able to get a deal.
How did you finance your startup costs?
Bootstrapped in the first year. Angel investing in the second.
What is the revenue model?
We charge per ticket/Smart Contract. We also believe that there is revenue to be generated after the ticket is in the hands of the fans, through fan-to-fan resale as well as data analytics around audience analysis.
What is the big picture of your startup?
We think we can change ticketing, reduce fraud, open new doors to how people attend live events, and become a critical company to any team/artist/individual who holds an event. Given the millions of events and billions of dollars spent at those events, if we can do that, our potential is unlimited.
What is the success story of your startup in your own words?
“It’s no secret that ambition bites the nails of success.” I don’t like to feel that we are successful yet. We stay hungry because we aren’t satisfied by simply providing a solution. We constantly strive to make the interface easier, make onboarding customers faster, giving more power to the event owners, creating new experiences, etc.
What is your advice to upcoming start up founders?
1. Select your first employees wisely. They will not only be your closest allies through some very difficult times, but they will also establish company values that will define your company for years to come.
2. Know your customers. Understand how they make decisions, what gets them a raise/promotion/fired, who they listen to, and why they do what they do. Don’t build what you want. Build what THEY want and make sure they can see easily why it is that they want it.
3. Network! Meet people. Reach out to people you know, learn from them, find mentors, ask for help, don’t be too proud. Especially young entrepreneurs, you need to build a network of people. It’s take a village to make a startup.