Live, in-person activity is back in force after years of living with Covid-19, and a London-based startup that built an event technology business is announcing funding today to capitalize on it.
Dice, an event discovery and ticketing platform, has raised $65 million, funding it will use to grow in the US and Europe.
The funding comes at the end of a year in which Dice served “millions” of fans (no specific numbers were released), 55,000 artists and more than 10,000 venues, festivals and promoters in roughly 30 cities across the two regions, with the production of dice. money based on the fees it charges event organizers.
That investment and Dice’s growth goals are focused on live events — not live streaming, Dice CEO and co-founder Phil Hutcheon told TechCrunch.
The latter was an area where the company definitely (and predictably) doubled down during the pandemic, but that activity has largely ceased recently.
“Nothing beats live and live streaming made sense during the pandemic, but once it was over we quickly went back to live events,” he said.
One acquisition, Boiler Room, which Hutcheon describes as “the biggest operator of electronic music in the world”, has lived on as a “huge success”, he said, but that’s because it’s also one of the biggest producers. IRL events. He notes that there has been a “steady increase” in live events, with the only exception being festivals, which right now remain “successful.
Although Dice provides discovery and ticketing services for other types of live events such as comedy and cabaret, its mainstay has been music. Fittingly, it’s led by MUSIC (capitalized, much like DICE itself) — a VC led by musician and music executive Matt Pincus, who last year raised $200 million to back music tech startups.
Others in the round include Structural Capital and Ahdritz Holding LLC, led by Willard Ahdritz, founder and chairman of IP license tracking technology startup Kobalt Music; Previous backers Exor Ventures and Mirabaud Lifestyle Fund also participated.
The company’s previous notable backers include SoftBank, Tony Fadell, Xavier Niel and the co-founders of DeepMind. “They’re all still very supportive of DICE, they remain shareholders and I’m in regular contact with them all,” said Phil Hutcheon.
Hutcheon isn’t disclosing the company’s valuation except that it’s now higher than the $400 million valuation the startup had in 2021 when we last covered its funding, a $122 million injection.
“DICE is the opposite company. People didn’t go to concerts during the pandemic,” he said. “From summer 2021, every month is bigger than the last month at DICE. As a ‘contrarian company’, our valuation has increased since last round, which is great given the macro conditions.”
He also declined to say how much Dice has raised to date, though figures in PitchBook seem to indicate it’s just under $200 million. In that last $65 million, the “majority” is equity with some debt, even if the company doesn’t break true proportions.
Discovery has been the name of the game for years in areas such as e-commerce, social and media platforms. It’s the key to figuring out how users can have any hope of browsing (and ultimately engaging/buying/watching/clicking/tapping) their way through the vast amount of choice and content presented to them. One of the main dichotomies in this discovery game was in the area of graphs: whether the platforms built their algorithms on their own data, or whether they somehow used input from other platforms to do so.
Hutcheon told me in the past that he built his own datasets from scratch himself — without using Facebook or other social platforms to understand what a user might like. That meant the startup took years to build its platform and finally launch, but it’s an approach it’s stuck with for the most part.
“We largely use our own data set to make recommendations,” he said. “We use Spotify and Apple Music scans to give us a little edge, but the correlation between listening data and live traffic data is not as strong as you might think. You can listen to techno all day but you want to watch the band. Or vice versa.”
He added that nearly half of all dice ticket sales come from personalized referrals.
“It took us much longer to make the Discovery algorithms effective because we didn’t use these additional data sources, but the investment paid off. We are very happy to have taken this path,” he said.
Interestingly, while many startups and investors are chasing AI right now — specifically newer developments like generative AI — Hutcheon declined to comment on whether it’s something Dice might eventually incorporate into its own platform. You can see how something like a conversation could drive more interaction between a prospect and convert that person into a ticket buyer, but that’s not something Dice is building, at least not something it discusses.
Rather, its AI is focused on how it could be used for its business customers—that is, venues, producers, and musicians hoping to connect with fans.
In addition to discovery recommendations, “Another advantage of the data we generate with fan recommendations is that we have amazing predictive tools,” he said, adding that Dice is working on tools for artists, venues and promoters to use this data next year.
There are a number of hugely dominant event and ticketing platforms in the market today, and the story has been one of consolidation over the years, with the more innovative startups bringing something new (or a new audience) to the table. bigger players. And there is also a lot of hate for these platforms because of the fees they charge on top of already expensive tickets. That speaks to some opportunity, but also to a lack of it in a market where the economics never seem to favor smaller players or consumers themselves.