Startup Plans To Take On Ticketmaster With Facial Recognition

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A new startup is looking to use facial recognition to disrupt the ticketing business and take on Ticketmaster.

According to The Wall Street JournalRival has raised $33 million from investors, including Silicon Valley venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and Upfront Ventures. Teams from every major sports league in the U.S. and the English Premier League have signed on as clients, as well as their home arenas and stadiums.

Leading Rival is Nathan Hubbard, who was in charge of Ticketmaster for four years after it merged with Live Nation Entertainment. He wants his new company to be the first serious competitor Ticketmaster—which holds an estimated 80 percent of the market—has faced in decades.

“No one has materially made a big run at Ticketmaster in the past generation,” said Upfront Ventures partner Greg Bettinelli.

The ticketing industry is a precarious one for consumers. Venues enter long-term contracts with a ticketing provider, giving it the exclusive right to sell tickets to all events at that location. Prices are set by concert promoters or sports teams, with the ticket providers generating revenue from additional service and delivery fees.

But event promoters often struggle to price and distribute tickets, leaving venues either half-empty or enabling scalpers to make billions of dollars through sites like eBay Inc.’s StubHub. In fact, many consumers don’t always know whether the tickets they find online are coming from a scalper at a steep markup.

Hubbard believes that fully digitizing tickets could address these issues, as well as make them safer by connecting identity, payment and location data.

He even envisions cutting out tickets altogether, including digital ones, and instead using facial-recognition technology to get into an event. Rival will be capable of generating paper or mobile tickets, if clients prefer.

It’s important to note that Rival won’t sell tickets to the public directly. Instead, it will distribute them through different outlets, possibly including StubHub, AmazonExpediaTwitter, Ticketmaster and even an artist’s or team’s own site. Artists and teams would set the prices and terms for resale, and would monitor and adjust those factors in real time.

Ticketmaster declined to comment.