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UCL Entrepreneurship Guest Lecture: Edward Parkinson, Viagogo

By news editor, on 26 January 2012

UCL Classics student Carolina Mostert summarises the talk held on 19 January below.

It is not the first time Edward Parkinson has engaged a UCL audience in an inspiring lecture. Having studied Chemistry at Oxford, Edward worked in consultancy in England and America. He joined Viagogo five years ago and is now Director of Viagogo’s UK offices.

The idea behind Viagogo is quite straightforward: it aims to make the experience of getting tickets for an event better and easier. Through technology and the internet, Viagogo promises to create a secure place to sell and buy tickets, guaranteeing transparency in the transaction.

In its early days, Viagogo was the official retail ticket holder for Chelsea FC. Football tickets, in fact, are the only tickets that, in order to be resold legally, need to be resold through an official website.

The first ‘Viagogo boom’ took place in Munich, Germany, in January 2007. The company then expanded to France, Italy, England, the Nordic countries and later on to Russia as well. At that moment, the main objective was to “make this market of tickets global”.

Each year since then the revenue has doubled and sales have multiplied. From a tiny office on top of Chip Chop in Hampstead, Viagogo now has offices in central London, and an increasing number of people are getting involved with the business.

The Viagogo website is vital to the company. It has to be simple, easy and quick to find and to use. Edward knows the kind of relationship customers want with Viagogo: “You want us to get you the ticket you want in time for the event”.

Indeed, listings of all available tickets are on the website, so it’s extremely clear what customers are buying. Edward stresses this clarity in the selling and buying of tickets as one of the main qualities of Viagogo, a feature which he believes distinguishes his business from other ones such as Ebay, the big competition.

Awareness of the company is achieved through marketing deals in the industry. In the past, Viagogo has been the official ticket seller for Madonna and Michael Jackson: they have been crucial to the company’s popularity. Viagogo also sold tickets for the Reading Festival, worked with big sport partners and for well-established theatre shows such as The Phantom of the Opera.

Customers have always been at the heart of the Viagogo business model. Since the very beginning, Viagogo had access to very targeted providers through its commercial relationships. Amongst these, O2 and lastminute.com stand out. As the business is very much online, the aim is to attract people in the most cost-effective way, which relies as little as possible on marketing and advertising.

How does Viagogo know that the tickets on its website are real when, rather than dealing with the actual tickets, it provides a safe platform for the seller and the buyer to interact?

Firstly, credit cards are registered. Secondly, the seller receives payment for his tickets only once the buyer has had physical access to the event. Thirdly, ticket packages are tracked regularly. Sellers of tickets are allowed to set their price for the tickets they sell, a measure taken to “clear up the fraud which goes on” in many online businesses. “Legitimacy is a big part of our market”, Edward concludes.

Where does Viagogo make a profit? It takes a 10% commission from the seller and a 15% commission from the buyer. All customer services are covered, such as the posting of tickets. In this, Viagogo is again different from Ebay, which charges sellers to put products online and does not cover all services.

All in all, what the team behind Viagogo wants is to have an impact and increase their company’s potential, an entrepreneurial view which is “high risk, but high reward”.

The UCL Entrepreneurship Guest Lectures are organised by UCL Advances which is affiliated to UCL Enterprise.

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