More than 'another number'
In the oft-told modern technology tale, a rapidly growing company with a streamlined or innovative approach disrupts the established, sometimes smaller and less-organized systems.
Think Dunder Mifflin Inc., the small, fictitious paper company from the popular NBC series "The Office," which was constantly undermined by the well-resourced, cheaper big box chains.
But for Southwest Portland-based Ticket Tomato, tech success came by eyeing the faceless ticket distribution giants and seeing their faults — thereby disrupting the disruptors.
Amy Maxwell co-founded the online ticketing platform in May 2007 to use for her own events. Maxwell had worked for years as a producer, marketer and promoter for music events.
Soon after, however, a big player in the local industry approached her — and the company took off.
"We discovered that a lot of our other friends needed it, and then the Waterfront Blues Festival approached us," Maxwell said. "I was terrified because I didn't even know if the platform would work correctly."
The blues fest was in its 20th year when organizers approached Ticket Tomato. Maxwell said they appreciated details within the platform that allowed them to monitor sales and adjust things on the fly.
"They were wanting something that was easier to use, something that gave them more info in real time so they could monitor ticket sales, up their promotion, shift and change things," she said.
Ticketing for the festival went off that first year without a hitch, and 10 years later the festival and Ticket Tomato are still partners.
What's worked well, Maxwell said, is understanding her company's niche in the market.
"Those (larger) companies definitely have a place — they've been around forever and doing an arena show makes more sense for them," she said. "But when you look at a company like ours, being affordable, being a nice alternative and giving (to) a small blues festival that draws 3,000 people, it makes more sense."
The technology certainly worked for the clients Maxwell targeted, but it didn't hurt that she was also just a phone call away.
"She handles it, anything we need it's done," said another Ticket Tomato client, Vancouver Craft Beer and Wine Fest organizer Rusty Hoyle. "We have an odd request for how we want to sell tickets, she makes it happen."
Maxwell consistently uses one word to describe the client experience she strives for with her company: seamless. She aims to focus not only on the technology, but also the client relationship from start to finish.
Ticket Tomato prioritizes customer service and visibility. The company establishes an initial relationship with event organizers, works with them to meet their selling goals and then even runs the box office on the day of the event.
Maxwell also contends her site is more affordable than the big alternatives such as ETix, due mainly to those sites' sometimes expensive fees.
She says Ticket Tomato keeps costs down by striving for efficiency and seeking out alternative revenue streams, like selling advertising on its tickets. And as far as user experience goes, Maxwell can put herself in the shoes of not only the frugal customer, but also the client trying to produce a great show.
"Because I come from an event background, there's an understanding that we had in developing this that an average tech or programmer wouldn't necessarily have," Maxwell said.
When looking into the next decade for Ticket Tomato, Maxwell has thought about expanding, but she wants to maintain the company's "integrity" by making sure her clients get that individualized support.
"I believe in customer service, I believe in having long-term relationships with our clients," she said. "I don't want them to feel like they're just another number or they're just another ticket or that we're not there to support and work with them."