London’s Dice is raising $ 122 million on a $ 400 million valuation for its intelligent event discovery and booking platform – TechCrunch

Covid-19 has really dwarfed live events in the past 18 months, but in the world of technology it also meant that live event startups that found a way to survive and grow throughout the period attracted a lot of attention. In the latest development, Dice – a London-based company that built a platform to help people discover and attend live events that may be of interest to them – has raised $ 122 million, a round of funding, the sources tell us they valued the company at $ 400 million.

SoftBank Vision Fund 2 leads the round, a Series C, with iPod “father” and Nest co-founder Tony Fadell (via Future Shape), Blisce, French entrepreneur Xavier Niel, Mirabaud, Cassius and Evolution – all previous supporters. also participate. (The company’s previous investors also include DeepMind co-founders Mustafa Suleyman and Demis Hassabis, which is noteworthy given the company’s early focus on data science and recommendation algorithms.)

Dice is mostly focused on live music these days, and at the height of the pandemic when everyone was banned, it changed its business model to focus on live streaming: now with around 6,400 live streaming events and thousands more in-person events under its belt, to appeal to a wider audience with a wider range of needs, it is being expanded to include a multimodal strategy that offers options to discover and visit / buy tickets for live streamed and in-person events.

The new funds will be used to expand Dice’s geographic footprint with a particular focus on the United States, where Dice’s business appears to be the fastest growing right now as cities and consumers gradually emerge from pandemic hibernation to spend time together again . in some cases at breakneck speed. Phil Hutcheon, CEO and co-founder of Dice, said that in New York alone in August, over 1 million people used Dice to find and attend events.

(Sidenote to investors and founders: Hutcheon founded Dice in 2014 together with Ustwo, the agency that also spawned Monument Valley, helped incubate and worked on a number of other creative projects alongside its digital agency business: That did I confirm Ustwo, which has not had an operational role at Dice for years, also sold its shares in the startup in this round.)

Giants like Ticketmaster, Live Nation, StubHub, and Eventbrite dominate the landscape for event ticketing, but Hutcheon claims that these and other legacy platforms are too static and not suited to the modern age and especially modern demands.

They are expensive to use for both hosts and attendees, and they have been slow to grapple with some of the more damaging parts of the events industry, such as: B. Ticket advertising and counterfeiting; and some of the more promising aspects of it, such as providing better insights to event organizers based on all of the data that can be accessed by the average event browser and consumer.

“The world was opaque when it came to performing live, but now is 2021,” Hutcheon said in an interview. “The answer to postponing everything is transparency. [Legacy ticket companies] make everything much more complicated than it should be. “

Dice’s response was to focus on three areas, Hutcheon said. First, it makes ticketing easy and secure for users and venues. Second is the discovery: ensuring people interested in a particular performance get reliable recommendations for other events they might like, in locations that are realistic to them. And third is the community. In the case of Dice, this originally (and still) means finding like-minded people on the website, visiting Dice and knowing what your friends or people like you might be interested in. In addition, there is now a broader mandate for the community, Hutcheon said.

“We didn’t think about it in the beginning, but loneliness was a big issue,” he said, noting that a third of 17-21 year olds, a cute consumer spot for the company, reported loneliness during the pandemic. “Going out to see culture brings people together.”

Dice took a very technical approach to addressing all of this. First, it focused on building a network of venues and promoters that it works very closely with on ticketing – currently there are over 3,600 of them covering not only musical events and promoters, but also theaters and their ecosystems. In addition, it has its own built-in dataset built around those who visit the site and shop for events. This, in turn, is used to create events and recommend “similar” visitors to Dice.

Then the tech stack that this is based on focuses on digital, mobile-based ticketing to prevent resale and counterfeiting, and provide a legal way to resell tickets where the venue will refund a purchase and itself through Dice can resell. And it provides continuous analysis of venues, artists, and promoters so they can better understand how and where they see demand for specific gigs and artists, when to consider larger or smaller venues, and more.

All of this helps Dice stand out in an otherwise rather crowded market that has struggled through tough times on top of that. And just like Hopin and its huge boost from virtual events, it has helped Dice attract investors.

“The concert business is a jumble of archaic tools and demanding ‘industry standards’ where artists are paid last. The venues shell out for marketing and are obliged to ticket conglomerates. Fans have to look for shows and regularly buy overpriced tickets at secondary markets or scalpers. That doesn’t make sense! “Fadell said in a statement.” DICE is redesigning the entire live industry, not just part of it: venues are connected to fans and artists. Artists get transparency, access and control. Fans can easily discover local shows and global live streams and buy scalable tickets with a single click. ”Fadell is

All of this was neither quick nor easy to build and scale. Dice, now active in dozens of cities, has planned these city openings carefully: it chooses a location to build relationships with multiple venues so that, as Hutcheon described it, a comprehensive picture of a city’s music (and other) events can be sketched out and filled in – and then feed the recommendations for further events. The referrals are a lucrative part of the business as the discovery accounts for more than 40% of the tickets sold on Dice.

Hutcheon considers Dice’s recommendation algorithms to be “a great advantage”, but also for its selectivity. “We’re pretty careful about what comes up on Dice. The big question for us was how do you scale curation? Our solution was to work with the best organizations and venues as well as great bookers or artists. “

Dice does not use social graph data from other platforms, which in part meant that it took Dice about 3.5 years to get his own platform off the ground.

Building your own data set, Hutcheon said, “was initially seen as stupid. “You could get there so much faster with Facebook’s Open Graph,” people told us. But now it’s considered smart for a couple of reasons: It gives us more control, but it’s privacy friendly too. If a website visitor doesn’t want recommendations and just wants to see what’s popular, that’s fine too. “

Dice does not access social data from other platforms, but uses it to win more audiences for its service: Spotify is one of its partners in this regard.

The next steps for Dice will not only be about expanding into more cities and networking more live events on site – provided the R numbers of the pandemic are controllable – but also about further innovation on the live Streaming page. There is a lot of room for improvement.

“We saw artists on Instagram doing pretty amateurish, lame performances, so we just appealed to the artists by saying, get paid and do it right,” said Hutcheon. The focus so far has not been on a performance, but rather on trying to create iconic and distinctive ones: think of Nick Cave, who plays in London’s Alexandra Palace.

“The fact that people were buying live stream tickets in advance made me realize that people need things to look forward to,” he added. And he still believes this will continue even after the venue doors open again. Dice’s live event data shows that for in-person events where tickets are purchased on its platform, around 80-85% of all tickets were sold to people living in major cities near the event. But when it came to virtual live streams, only 39% were from big cities: “Older consumers or younger children who couldn’t have seen Nick Cave in Ally Pally.”

Now they can, and that kind of “special” stream that isn’t a replica of anything a ticket buyer might see in person will focus on Dice. “That’s why we built the live streaming stack. The future is hybrid broadcasting, ”said Hutcheon.

“We believe that DICE technology has the potential to change the future of live entertainment,” said Yanni Pipilis, managing partner of SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a statement. “In addition to the flexibility and security of seamless ticketing, the platform connects fans, artists and venues in a whole new way … We are excited to work with DICE to create remarkable event experiences for fans around the world.”

Dice says it is currently on track to have 49,000 artists and creators on its platform by the end of 2022.

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