Covid-19 actually put the kibosh on reside occasions within the final 18 months, however on the earth of tech, it additionally meant that reside event startups that discovered a technique to survive and develop all through the interval bought a lot of consideration. In the most recent improvement, Dice — a London firm that has constructed a platform to assist individuals uncover and attend reside occasions that may be of curiosity to them — has raised $122 million, a funding spherical that sources inform us values the corporate at $400 million.
SoftBank Vision Fund 2 is main the spherical, a Series C, with iPod “father” and Nest co-founder Tony Fadell (by means of Future Shape), Blisce, French entrepreneur Xavier Niel, Mirabaud, Cassius and Evolution — all earlier backers — additionally collaborating. (Previous traders within the firm additionally embody DeepMind co-founders Mustafa Suleyman and Demis Hassabis, notable given the corporate’s early give attention to knowledge science and advice algorithms.)
Dice focuses as of late totally on reside music, and within the peak of the pandemic, as everybody was locked down, it rejigged its enterprise mannequin to give attention to reside streaming: now with some 6,400 reside streamed occasions and hundreds extra in-person occasions beneath its belt, to attraction to a wider viewers with a wider vary of wants, it’s increasing round a multi-modal technique, offering choices to find and attend/purchase tickets to each streamed and in-person reside occasions.
The new funds will likely be going in the direction of increasing Dice’s geographic footprint with a particular give attention to the U.S. since that is the place Dice’s enterprise appears to be rising the quickest at the second, as cities and shoppers step by step come out of pandemic hibernation to spend time collectively once more, in some circumstances at a frenetic tempo. Phil Hutcheon, Dice’s CEO and co-founder, mentioned that in New York alone, over 1 million individuals used Dice to seek out and attend occasions within the single month of August.
(Sidenote on traders and founders: Hutcheon co-founded Dice in 2014 with Ustwo, the company that additionally spawned Monument Valley, helped incubate Tray.io and has labored on variety of different inventive tasks alongside its digital company enterprise: I’ve confirmed that Ustwo, which hadn’t had an operational function in Dice in years, has additionally offered its shares within the startup on this spherical.)
Giants like Ticketmaster, Live Nation, StubHub and Eventbrite dominate the panorama for ticketing for occasions, however Hutcheon contends that these and different legacy platforms are too static and not match for the trendy age, and particularly fashionable calls for.
They are costly each for event organizers and attendees to make use of, and they’ve been sluggish to handle each among the extra damaging elements of the event trade, similar to ticket touting and counterfeiting; and among the extra promising facets of it, similar to offering higher insights to event organizers based mostly on all the info that may been gleaned from the common event browser and shopper.
“The world has been opaque around live performance, but it’s now 2021,” Hutcheon mentioned in an interview. “The answer to shift it all is transparency. [Legacy ticket companies] make it all much more complicated than it should be.”
Dice’s reply has been to give attention to three areas, Hutcheon mentioned. First is making ticketing straightforward and safe for customers and venues. Second is discovery: ensuring people who find themselves fascinated about a specific efficiency are given dependable suggestions of different occasions they may like, in places which can be reasonable for them to go to. And third is neighborhood. In Dice’s case, this initially (and nonetheless) means discovering like-minded individuals on the positioning, in addition to visiting Dice and figuring out what your pals or individuals such as you may be to see. Now, on high of this, is a wider mandate for neighborhood, Hutcheon mentioned.
“We didn’t think about in beginning, but loneliness has been a big issue,” he mentioned, noting that one-third of 17-21 year-olds, a candy shopper spot for the corporate, have reported loneliness throughout the pandemic. “Getting out to see culture brings people together.”
Dice took a very tech method to addressing all of this. First, it centered on constructing a community of venues and promoters with which it really works very carefully on ticketing — at the moment there are over 3,600 of them, overlaying not simply music venues and promoters but additionally theaters and their ecosystems. Alongside this, it has a constructed knowledge set of its personal, created round those that go to the positioning and store for occasions, which in flip is used to assist construct and suggest occasions to “lookalike” guests to Dice.
Then, the tech stack that this sits on is targeted round digital, mobile-based ticketing to forestall reselling and counterfeiting and present a authorized technique to resell tickets the place the venue can refund a buy and resell itself over Dice. And it regularly supplies analytics to venues, artists and promoters in order that they’ll higher perceive how and the place they’re seeing demand for particular gigs and artists, when to contemplate bigger or smaller venues, and extra.
All of this helps Dice stand out in what’s in any other case a fairly crowded market that has on high of that been toiling by dicey occasions. And identical to Hopin and its enormous enhance resulting from digital occasions, it’s helped Dice appeal to traders.
“The concert business is a tangled mess of archaic tools and taxing ‘industry standards’ where artists are paid last. Venues shell out for marketing and are beholden to ticket conglomerates. Fans have to hunt for shows and regularly buy overpriced tickets from secondary markets or scalpers. This doesn’t make sense!” mentioned Fadell in a assertion. “DICE re-engineers the entire live industry, not just a part of it: Venues are connected to fans and artists. Artists get transparency, access and control. Fans easily discover local shows and global live streams, and buy scalper-safe tickets with a single click.” Fadell is
All this was neither fast nor straightforward to construct and scale. Dice, now energetic in dozens of cities, has been deliberate about these metropolis launches: it chooses a place to construct relationships with a number of venues in order that, as Hutcheon described it, a wealthy image of a metropolis’s music (and different) occasions could be sketched out and crammed in — and subsequently feed the suggestions for extra occasions. The suggestions are a profitable a part of its enterprise, with discovery driving greater than 40% of tickets offered on Dice.
Hutcheon believes that Dice’s advice algorithms “are a huge advantage” however so is its selectivity. “We’re pretty careful about what gets onto Dice. The big question for us was, how do you scale curation? Our solution has been to partner with the best organizations and venues, and great bookers or artists.”
Pointedly, Dice doesn’t faucet social graph knowledge from different platforms, which partly meant that Dice took some 3.5 years to get its personal platform off the bottom.
Building its personal dataset, Hutcheon mentioned, “was seen as stupid at the beginning. ‘You could get there so much faster if you used Facebook’s Open Graph,’ people told us. But now it’s seen as smart for a couple of reasons: it gives us more control, but it’s also pro-privacy. If a site visitor doesn’t want recommendations, and only wants to see what is popular, then that’s fine, too.”
Dice doesn’t faucet social knowledge from different platforms, nevertheless it does leverage them to convey extra viewers to its service: it counts Spotify amongst its companions in that regard.
The subsequent levels for Dice will likely be about not simply increasing to extra cities and netting in additional reside, in-person occasions — offered pandemic R-numbers being controllable — but additionally to proceed innovating on the reside streaming facet. There is a lot of room for enchancment there.
“We were seeing artists on Instagram doing pretty amateurish, lame performances, so we simply appealed to artists by saying: get paid and do this properly,” Hutcheon mentioned. The focus to date has been not simply on any efficiency, however making an attempt to create iconic and distinctive ones: suppose Nick Cave playing in London’s Alexandra Palace.
“The fact that people were buying tickets in advance for livestreams made me realize that people needing things to look forward to,” he added. And he nonetheless thinks that can proceed whilst venue doorways reopen. Dice’s reside occasions knowledge exhibits that for in-person occasions the place tickets are bought on its platform, about 80-85% of all tickets had been offered to individuals residing in main cities near the event. But when it got here to digital reside streams, solely 39% got here from main cities: “Older consumers, or younger kids, who couldn’t have gone to see Nick Cave in Ally Pally.”
Now they’ll, and that form of “special” stream that isn’t a replication of something a ticket purchaser might see in individual will likely be what Dice focuses on forward. “This why we built the live-streaming stack. The future is hybrid broadcasting,” mentioned Hutcheon.
“We believe DICE’s technology has the capacity to transform the future of live entertainment,” mentioned Yanni Pipilis, managing associate for SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a assertion. “Alongside the flexibility and security of seamless ticketing, the platform connects fans, artists and venues in a completely new way… We are excited to partner with DICE to help create remarkable event experiences for fans all over the world.”
Dice says that it’s at the moment on monitor to have 49,000 artists and creators utilizing its platform by the tip of 2022.