Trailblazers catches up with the team behind independent UK music festival Strawberries and Creem, who talk about the challenges and rewards of festival organising
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Trailblazers checks in with Aventus Protocol masterminds Alan Vey and Annika Monari, whose blockchain ticketing solution aims to disrupt an "age-old" industry
By IQ on 08 Nov 2018
Welcome to the latest edition of Trailblazers – IQ’s regular series of Q&As with the inspirational figures forging their own paths in the global concert business.
From people working in challenging conditions or markets to those simply bringing a fresh perspective to the music world, Trailblazers aims to spotlight unique individuals from all walks of life who are making a mark in one of the world’s most competitive industries. (Read the previous Trailblazers interview, with O Beach Ibiza’s Tony Truman, here.)
This week Trailblazers welcomes its first-ever joint interviewees: Alan Vey and Annika Monari, founders and co-CEOs of blockchain ticketing start-up Aventus Systems.
Aventus is the developer of the Aventus Protocol, an open-source Ethereum-based protocol that aims to create a “more fair, secure and transparent event ticketing industry” by eliminating counterfeiting and unauthorised ticket resale.
Since launching in 2106, the company has secured partnerships with new entertainment venture Kind Heaven, located at the Caesars Entertainment-owned LINQ Promenade in Las Vegas, as well as bringing on board the likes of Professor Mike Waterson, who recently released a follow-up to his 2016 secondary ticketing review, and former Eventim UK MD Rob Edwards.
Aventus raised US$20m in an initial coin offering (ICO) last September to fund its vision of a global standard for ticketing.
How did you get your starts in the industry?
Vey: I did my thesis on film rights distribution with Bafta and the BBC at Imperial College London with help from Professor Will Knottenbelt, the director of the Centre for Cryptocurrency Research and Engineering. Annika and I made a killer team so we started Aventus after researching what blockchain technology can bring to solve core challenges in the entertainment industry.
Monari: When it came to the ticketing industry, neither of us had any prior experience other than as consumers. We don’t see ourselves as a ticketing company – we’re a software company building IaaS [infrastructure as a service] and SaaS [software as a service] solutions into the ticketing and wider entertainment industry. We want to strengthen and support existing ticketing providers using cutting-edge solutions on the blockchain.
Tell us about your current roles.
Monari: We founded Aventus together and are now joint CEOs. Our day-to-day role includes the development, marketing and growth of the Aventus protocol and associated infrastructure, as well as the technology that allows ticketing companies and inventory rights-holders to get commercial benefits from the blockchain.
Who, or what, have been the biggest influences on your career so far?
Vey: For both of us, Professor Knottenbelt has had a huge influence after introducing us to the Ethereum blockchain. He also introduced us to Daniel Masters, CEO of Global Advisors and chair of Coinshares, who secured us funding just months after we finished university and helped make our token-sale launch a reality.
Monari: Mike Jones, the former CEO of Myspace and the founder of Science Inc., a venture-building studio and incubator, taught us some invaluable lessons on how to build relationships and get to market quickly. Also, Cary Granat, CEO of Immersive Artistry and former president at Miramax, has been a key mentor in the events industry world. We teamed up together for Kind Heaven, an immersive Las Vegas experience which will become one of our first proof of concepts for ticketing on the blockchain.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Monari: It’s cool being able to go to a traditional company and a huge player in the industry – someone who is very knowledgeable but quite set in their ways – and introduce them to something new. We lead them through the process, get them to understand and engage, and when you succeed it’s very rewarding.
“The music industry can be very traditional and resistant to change”
Vey: Getting a great team together and being able to build industry changing products is very rewarding. Going out to meet all these important people in the entertainment space and bring good news and exciting relationships back to our team always feels great.
And the most challenging?
Vey: We haven’t done this before, so people think we have no idea because we’re young, or try to take us for a ride. We’ve publicly raised a lot of money, so certain people look at us like a piggy bank. We’ve tried to address this by hiring a senior and experienced management team with a background in the entertainment industry who can bring that gravitas to the table.
Monari: It’s hard to hire the right people. Mike Jones gave us a lot of mentorship and advice around who and how to hire, and there are two types of people we look for. The first are really driven, vibrant, hungry people, who are perhaps less experienced but want to make a difference and to learn. Then there are the heavy hitting industry experts, who will bring that expertise and perform at a high level, bringing real ROI.
What achievements are you most proud of?
Monari: The token sale itself was an incredible moment. Having come up with an idea, standing in front of tens of thousands of people pitching it, and then having it validated to the degree where people crowdfund you in minutes is really an amazing feeling.
We worked so hard for six months and we were almost in tears one day. At that point we knew that even if we didn’t get there, we’d given it everything we could.
What, if anything, do you think the music industry could do better?
Monari: The music industry can be very traditional and resistant to change. The way they do things is entrenched, so coming in with new technology can be challenging.
The way we see it, events – and entry to those events – have existed since before the Colosseum in Roman times. It’s an age-old industry and we’re trying to introduce the tools to do things in a more efficient and technologically driven way.
If you’d like to take part in a future Trailblazers interview, or nominate someone else for inclusion, email IQ’s news editor, Jon Chapple, on firstname.lastname@example.org.