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    Lea’s live event assistant for Messenger makes buying tickets easier

    Shopping for occasion tickets on-line isn’t an incredible expertise. Websites like Ticketmaster are the default, however are troublesome to make use of and costly. A startup referred to as Lea desires to supply a extra fashionable expertise by combining occasion search, discovery, seat choice and fee all in a single software that works proper in Fb Messenger.

    Sure, that’s proper — Lea is a chatbot.

    And whereas bots haven’t had the warmest reception as of but, they’re more and more changing into a typical manner for customers to work together with apps and types. However within the case of Lea, the chatbot-style interface may very well work higher than utilizing a ticketing web site or devoted cell app, like Ticketmaster’s.

    Based on Lea’s CEO Brian Canty, the unique thought — again when the corporate was often called Ticktate — was to supply a concierge-like software for getting occasion tickets. Just like Postmates, the corporate would ship individuals to the field workplace to purchase tickets on customers’ behalf. However this concept didn’t scale, Canty explains. It was costly and the field workplaces themselves pushed again due to their deep ties to Ticketmaster.

    When the corporate joined 500 Startups in 2016, it was nonetheless self-funded, and searching for a mannequin that labored. That’s, one that also made it simpler to seek out and purchase occasion tickets whereas providing customers the texture of the “high-touch, hand-holding” expertise they appeared to love from earlier than, says Canty.

    Initially, Lea tried constructing a bot that used pure language processing (NLP, which understands language) to assist with customers’ inquires about tickets. However after six months of testing, the crew discovered that the expertise by itself wasn’t matching as much as consumer expectations.

    “We determined to tug out all of the NLP and simply reap the benefits of the Fb platform to construct one thing that accompanies the fan all through the total journey of going to an occasion,” explains Canty. “Every thing from discovery — we pull of their Spotify data, recommend occasions primarily based on their location and what their buddies like — to a chat extension, Fb’s function for permitting individuals to talk in a gaggle with a bot and make purchases,” he says.

    The bot as we speak works solely with Spotify, however the firm goals to help Apple Music and SoundCloud in time.

    It gives customers the flexibility to seek for particular artists, bands and concert events, or they’ll leverage Lea’s discovery mechanisms to remain knowledgeable of occasions they could like. Each week, Lea pushes out an replace with round 5 urged occasions after which tracks these you click on to enhance its future suggestions.

    Once you discover an occasion you want, you can also make the acquisition proper from Messenger or your Messenger group chat, with out leaving the app.

    Each step the consumer takes in Lea is guided by the bot utilizing prompts, however Lea hopes so as to add NLP again in to enhance the expertise sooner or later.

    As for the ticket costs, they’re market-based. Lea — like StubHub, SeatGeek, GameTime and others — works with third-party ticket exchanges, which worth tickets primarily based on their present worth. That’s, if the occasion is offered out, they could be increased than the field workplace; if it’s not, they could be decrease. Like rivals, it gives a big database of round 20 million+ tickets.

    However Lea is hoping to promote customers on the comfort of the chatbot expertise, not essentially by providing absolutely the lowest ticket costs. That can rely on shopper adoption of chatbots typically, which continues to be a dangerous guess.

    It additionally hopes to entice customers by providing the total end-to-end expertise in a single place.

    “If you consider a typical ticketing firm, discovery is finished off-platform — like a Songkick or Bandsintown,” notes Canty. With Lea, the app begins with discovery, lets individuals plan in group chat as standard, then facilitates the acquisition. “However after the acquisition, there’s quite a bit that may nonetheless be achieved within the digital format — issues that may be value-adds,” he says.

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    Lea has lots of plans in that space. It goals to generate income with third-party integrations for issues like concessions, parking and merchandise gross sales in future variations, for instance. (At this time it solely takes a 20 p.c reduce of ticket gross sales, so it wants extra income streams.) It additionally desires to work with extra platforms, like Slack, Telegram, WhatsApp, iMessage and SMS, voice platforms and others.

    Although it’s nonetheless early, Lea is seeing some traction, notes Canty.

    As of the third week in December 2017, the corporate had offered $500,000 price of tickets and has grown to 23,000 customers. At one level, nearly half the customers had been repeat prospects. (However this isn’t at all times the case — not everybody goes to concert events on a regular basis, so repeat utilization must be measured over an extended time frame.)

    To assist with its improvement, Lea just lately closed on $600,000 in angel funding from a lot of notable buyers.

    The record consists of Danny Zhang, CTO of Want; Haroon Mirza, GP of Skyrocket Ventures, investor in SnapTravel; Vito Bialla, Bialla Ventures, investor in Freshly; Chun Han, director of Information Science at Yahoo!; Jeanne Lim, CMO of Hanson Robotics (creators of Sophia Bot); Hao Zheng, CEO of Plus.ai; and Seth Flowerman, investor in Ticketbis.

    The app is offered here for Fb Messenger.

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