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The man who brought Ticketmaster to Ireland started off selling tickets in a record shop

Tommy Higgins sold Ticketshop to the US ticketing company in 2002.

Garth Brooks fans queue outside St Stephens Green Shopping Centre in Dublin.
Garth Brooks fans queue outside St Stephens Green Shopping Centre in Dublin.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

THERE’S ONE THING Ireland’s budding business people need to work on – their patience.

That’s according to Tommy Higgins, the entertainment-industry entrepreneur who brought computerised ticketing to Ireland with Ticketshop and also helped bring the HMV franchise to the country.

Higgins was later charged with overseeing Ticketmaster’s European business after the booking giant took over his startup – leading the operation through its formative years as the internet became users’ primary means for buying tickets.

He stepped away from the firm in 2013 to start a new company, and to mentor young entrepreneurs – although he thinks today’s startup founders sometimes lack the patience needed to succeed.

“I find that some people give up too easily. You have to stick at it,” Higgins told Fora.

“Sometimes a business takes longer to make it than you might think. When you’re starting off it can take some time to get to break even.

“It was like that with the ticketing business with Ticketshop. It took seven years from when we launched as a startup to get to a break-even point and then to go profitable. But I had the belief in it.”

Stumbling

Higgins got into the ticketing business almost by accident. By his own account, he “stumbled” into the industry when he was managing Star Records in Sligo.

Promoters would regularly drop tickets for concerts in to his store, and he would sell them on. However, he realised quickly that the whole industry was moving online.

“The world was getting computerised 20 years ago, and I felt that whoever was first in would make a success of it.

“We were first in and that’s how we got a dominant position in the market.”

The resulting company, Ticketshop, was set up in 1992 and five years later Higgins sold a major stake in the business to Ticketmaster as the US firm began its European expansion.

11/2/2009 Ticketmaster mergers with Live Nation Source: RollingNews.ie

Giving advice

Aside from his job mentoring startups, Higgins is also working on a new venture, Accent Media, with another ex-Ticketmaster executive.

The company sells internet domain names and is the exclusive owner and distributor of the .tickets domain. Artists such as U2 and Adele, and sports clubs such as Arsenal and Real Madrid, have already registered their own .tickets domains with Accent Media.

Higgins, who will be mentoring startups at The Exchange business event next month in Sligo, said he still enjoys setting up and building new businesses, but he also feels a responsibility to pass on knowledge to upcoming startups.

He added that when mentoring founders of early-stage companies, the lessons don’t just go one way.

“I find that I learn a lot from all the new stuff that is coming on stream when I mentor at events like The Exchange – especially in the technology end of business.

“This is the fourth year I’ve done it and I find it refreshing – you never stop learning what’s new.”

Tommy-Higgins Higgins says not playing it straight will get you caught out.

Tricky acquisitions

While Higgins successfully sold his entire Ticketshop stake to Ticketmaster – the deal was completed in 2002 – he said startup founders needed to be cautious if they found themselves courted by a much-larger player.

“As a business owner, you can get swallowed up by an acquirer, but you have to be brave and hold your ground and believe in the value that your company is worth.”

He added that his main piece of advice to any small company going through an acquisition is not to hide your dirty laundry.

“I always tell businesses to be plain and straight because if you’re not you will get caught out in due diligence.

“Some people try and hide things here and there, but I’m always plain and straight, because if you’re not, you will be found out at some stage and that will cost you more in the long run.

“If you have problems or there are some wrinkles in the business, be upfront with it because you are better off.”

The Exchange startup mentoring event will be taking place in Sligo on 1 and 2 December.

Written by Killian Woods and posted on Fora.ie

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