May 3

Brady Forrest

Brady Forrest

Sell Your Place In Line

Recently, I got together with Matt Kowalczyk, the founder and CEO of Seattle-based They are building a merchant service that allows people to sell their spot in line. This sounds whacky until you hear him rattle off the markets where this is applicable: pro football tickets, high-end automobiles, condos, fashion accessories, and exclusive memberships. It also applies very nicely to hot, scarce products like the Xbox 360 or concert tickets.

Pro football, in particular, is ripe for this type of service. Half of the teams have waiting lists for season tickets. The wait on these lists vary from 2 - 40 (40!) years. There is no consistency in the way these are managed. Some require paper submissions, some are managed with Excel, some a simple database. Some of them allow you to sell your place in line, but most do not. They need someone to bring them onto the web.

They plan to offer list management services to merchants that will not only provide basic waiting list features but will create an online market where these list positions can be bought and sold. The companies can choose between a hosted version or a webservice. Superoyster charges the spot seller a transaction fee and gives some of this to the client. The client will really win in this scenario. They no longer have to handle maintenance on their waiting lists and they are able to develop a new revenue stream.

This is not a difficult technology. This is a business that is going to live and die by biz dev. Though no one else is currently in the market there are a couple of companies that are in a position to take advantage of this business plan. Both Razorgator and Stubhub have deals with various NFL teams and it may be easy for them to develop this in-house and leverage their existing relationships. If the market becomes lucrative enough bigger players such as Ticketmaster or eBay might consider similar services.

They are a small team, currently self-funded looking for additional funding. They plan on going Alpha this month, with a July Beta, and launch in September. You can track their progress on their blog.

tags: specialized services  | comments: 7   | Sphere It

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Comments: 7

  John Dowdell [05.03.06 02:17 PM]

Doesn't this violate the very principles of "Line Neutrality", the "waiting queue's first amendment", or something like that...? ;-)


  Matt Kowalczyk [05.03.06 02:41 PM]

We are not changing the social dynamics of a line, we are simply providing a tool for people to redeem some value from an extended wait in a line. No new positions are created -- exisiting positions are being resold to those willing to pay.

  Sencer [05.04.06 02:45 AM]

The service is claiming to "improve the market", which means getting the best possible price for the merchant - but avoiding the bad PR by avoiding charging ridiculously high prices from those people that would pay them, and by sharing the additional profit with some customers. Too bad, that the availability of the service will introduce it's own dynamics, by which more people will get into blackmarket-like behaviour of getting spots in lines just to profit and making it harder for the people who really just wish to visit the event; Well, actually not harder, just more expensive (i.e. in a perfect market as expensive as they would ever tolerate).

Having said that, the real problem is the scarcity anyway, and I don't have a better solution to offer. Moving from luck or personal sacrifice or ..., to money seems to be the inevitable way it goes. And better to do it this way and have some security as a buyer, than to run the risk of fraud and whatnot, with the current alternatives.

  Matt Kowalczyk [05.04.06 02:28 PM]

Hi Sencer, thanks for the great comments. This is Matt again, founder of SuperOyster. When we were researching this problem, we found that the best solution was to create a system that is as equitable as possible for all parties involved. We actually found a few places where position trading/buying is happening in the real world today. We felt that this adotpion would only increase over time, and that we are best positioned to provide a service that caters to those who are interesting in this market. We do believe that a pseudo-speculation market of postion trading will be created, but like any other speculation, a significant amount of risk will assumed by all parities in a transaction.
Great feedback. Thanks!

  adamsj [05.07.06 08:37 AM]

Thank you for reminding me why I have never, ever, even once promoted an event with reserved seating.

One of the few vaguely egalitarian experiences left in our increasingly commoditized world is standing in line and taking your turn. Imposing a market onto that experience forces an externality on those of us who are not in line to make money.

There are other solutions.

The last time I looked, Springsteen offered prime tickets to fans through a two-step process: Put in your application by the deadline, then take your chances in random selection. That's fair. (After some review, I think I have this sort of right--in any event, it was interesting cruising through the Springsteen ecosystem to find out.) The Grateful Dead did something similar with mail-order--it helped that they knew their listeners intimately.

What interests me most about the SuperOyster scheme is that it relies (insofar as music is concerned, at least) on distance between the artist and the audience. In this sense, it's very much old school, maybe even a step backward.

There are two significant ways in which Springsteen and the Dead resemble each other: Really long shows and something resembling actual regard for their listeners--listeners who are quite vocal in their hatred of scalpers. This tool does exactly what scalpers do (okay, one thing scalpers do)--pay people to stand in line to get good seats, which will then be remarketed. I suspect bands who find ways to keep schemes like this one from woking will be greatly beloved by their fans.

  Matt Kowalczyk [05.23.06 04:16 PM]

Hi all, Matt here again. I wanted to let you all know that we have opened up our alpha to everyone. It's very premliminary stuff, but you it should paint a picture of what we are doing.

Go check out
our latest blog entry
for more details.

  tj samuels [05.25.06 04:59 PM]

it sounds like the service ensures that your time spent waiting is rewarded, even if you don't actually purchase anything. and the service is not going to directly affect the product's price or availability. you'll be purchasing a closer chance to buy something, whatever it is. and the founder is right--stuff like this happens in the real world everyday. i've had my coffee paid for by strangers who couldn't/wouldn't wait in line and all i had to do was also order their drink. and who hasn't at least considered greasing the palm of the host/hostess or doorguy to avoid the line altogether?

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