Getting to know you: Ben Sebborn

What do you currently do?

I am the technical director and co-founder of the UK’s largest ‘what’s on’ guide and leading ticket agent, Skiddle. In May 2015 we were voted the UK’s busiest ticketing website by independent analytics website, Alexa.

My role as technical director means I’m responsible for lots of the technology innovations at Skiddle. I’ve long been an advocate of using cutting edge technologies to make the buying process easier for customers, and the selling process easier for promoters. I’ve always championed the use of social media in the marketing and sales process – we were the first ticketing agent in the UK to have a Facebook ticket shop app, and later, the first Facebook Timeline integrated ticket shop.

What was your inspiration for the business?

Originally, we set up the site as purely an events guide to provide a hub where people could find out what was going on in Preston and Carlisle – we were filling a gap at the time, because no-one was promoting any events in the area. In fact, we ourselves were missing out on certain events because we just weren’t aware of them.

But after the website took off, we wanted to make promoting events, as well as buying tickets, even easier. And to do this we had to embrace and optimise new technologies, to which we attribute much of our growth – this is still a core focus of our business to this day. From creating our own app so event organisers can manage event entry easily, to introducing our Festival Finder so festival-goers can whittle down their options according to their interests to find the event perfect for them; promoting events has taken on a whole new meaning for us as a business since we started out.

Who do you admire?

I admire people that aren’t scared to push the boundaries of their industry and look to new avenues for growth. People that see opportunity in things that others might not, and find a way to bring it into their business – those are the kind of people I admire.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

Honestly, no. Lately we have seen a lot of competitors following our business model, which is flattering because it confirms what we already know – that it makes for a successful company. There are obviously growing pains as a business progresses, but this just pushed us to develop our ideas so it’s a great thing. We have changed a lot over the 15 years we have been a business and I’m very proud of that.

What defines your way of doing business?

Our fees are amongst the lowest in the industry, we don’t charge for free events and most of our income is generated from the booking fees on ticket sales, not the ‘handling’ charge that many of our competitors make money off. On our site, which we built from scratch to create a new and easy way for customers to buy tickets, you don’t have to register to buy tickets and there’s just a one page checkout. Why not make it as easy and cheap as possible for people to buy from you?

It’s important to us to keep our fees low, and maintain our loyal client and customer base. I’d say we’re defined by our ability to make our service user friendly and simple, whilst integrating new technologies along the way. Our introduction of ‘etickets’ is a prime example. We’ve reduced our costs further as no postage is required, making tickets around £2-£3 cheaper if you buy them from us – and you don’t have to hang around for the postman. 

What advice would you give to someone starting out?

Check out your market. You need to be filling a gap, there’s no point in building up an entire business if it’s already being done. I’m not saying you need to invent a new product or even make a unique business model; you just need to have something that makes you a bit shinier. Making your products cheaper than competitors’, taking a service to the next level by bringing in new technologies like apps, for example, or just doing something a bit quirky. It’s important that you bring something new to the table or people simply won’t engage.