Five years ago, baseball aficionado and Gametime founder Brad Griffith came up with his mobile-first ticketing business as he watched the San Francisco Giants defeat the St. Louis Cardinals 7 to 1. Of course, it might never have happened if he had managed to print out his tickets before getting to the stadium.
It was October 2012, and Griffith had snagged last-minute tickets to game two of the National League Championship Series on his phone. There was one small hitch: He still needed to print them. It took him half an hour to persuade a local bar owner to let him print out his tickets. So when he finally made it to AT&T Park, he had missed Tony Bennett's national anthem performance and the Giants' first run.
"Maybe 30 percent of the value of the tickets had expired in that half hour," says Griffith. Then it hit him, a Eureka moment. "What if we could create a product that could return that value to the fans?"
That's the key premise imbued in the San Francisco-based Gametime, maker of a mobile-only ticketing app that claims to have the best last-minute ticket deals to live sporting, music, and theatrical events. In exchange for a cut of each transaction, which varies depending on the venue, the company's ticket prices dynamically drop as an event nears.
Griffith also credits his business's rising popularity to an improved user experience and a quicker transaction speed than competitors', partly through eliminating the need to print.
In the past three years, Gametime's revenue has skyrocketed 34,000 percent, from $148,000 in 2013 to more than $48 million last year. Now pitching tickets to events in 53 major U.S. cities and seven in Canada, its meteoric rise has also landed it in third place on the 2017 Inc. 5000 list of America's fastest-growing private companies.
Putting last minute first
It took a while before Gametime found its stride. By the time the app launched in May 2013, the ticketing industry was already a crowded space. Ticketmaster, SeatGeek, StubHub, and many other alternatives were light years ahead of Gametime, which for a time catered almost exclusively to San Francisco Giants fans.
Of course, it did have an ace in the hole. It pioneered listings with actual photos from the seat itself, taken by professional photographers and sometimes even Gametime employees. It also helped that stadiums shifted to mobile instead of paper tickets, which was a personal pain point for Griffith.
And as the company expanded from San Francisco to other major cities, including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, it narrowed its focus to the last-minute market. That's when demand exploded--particularly among Millennial fans, who tend to be last-minute shoppers. Today, about 71 percent of all Gametime users are 18- to 34-year-olds, according to company data.
A fact that did not go unnoticed by Ticketmaster, which earlier this year struck a deal with Gametime to extend its distribution network to reach a younger audience. Ticketmaster has similar ticket distribution partnerships with Facebook and Walmart.
Giving fans a friend
Meanwhile, competitors have stepped up the stakes. In addition to offering e-tickets, some rivals have one-upped Gametime by including 360-degree views from available listings.
Even so, Griffith continues to refine the model to increase Gametime's appeal. Last April, the company released a new feature called Fan Views that lets users provide immediate feedback on seat quality and overall experience, including uploading their own photos of the event. It's like Yelp but for seating locations, sports teams, and performers.
"One of the insights that we're working on is that people are getting more interested in what their friends are up to, rather than what's next tonight or next weekend," says Griffith. Accordingly, Gametime now lets you connect with Facebook and share your seating arrangements with your contacts or suggest these events to them, in case they want to join you.
Additionally, unlike other services like SeatGeek that show all available seats, Gametime has chosen to curate (and thus limit) its selection. Its goal is to achieve an experience-focused service that offers not only the best last-minute tickets but also superior seat quality.
So far it appears to be working. To date, the company has more than four million downloads, with 67 percent of that coming in the past 18 months. It has also raised $33 million in funding from prominent firms, including Palo Alto's Accel Partners, and Box's CEO and co-founder, Aaron Levie.
Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the number of cities in which Gametime has a presence. It has users in 53 major U.S. cities and seven in Canada.