Covid-19 really put the brakes on live events in the last 18 months, but in the tech world, it also meant that live event startups that found a way to survive and grow throughout the period received a lot of attention. In the latest development, Dice – a London company that has created a platform to help people discover and attend live events that might be of interest to them – has raised $ 122 million, a funding round that sources say values ​​the company at 400 millions of dollars.

SoftBank Vision Fund 2 leads the round, a Series C, with the “father” of the iPod and Nest co-founder Tony Fadell (via Future Shape), Blisce, French entrepreneur Xavier Niel, Mirabaud, Cassius and Evolution, all sponsors. previous. also participating. (Previous investors in the company also include DeepMind co-founders Mustafa Suleyman and Demis Hassabis, notable given the company’s initial focus on data science and recommendation algorithms.)

Dice focuses primarily on live music these days, and at the peak of the pandemic, when everyone was on lockdown, it readjusted its business model to focus on live streaming: now with some 6,400 events streamed live and thousands of events. in person lower his Belt, to appeal to a wider audience with a broader range of needs, is expanding around a multimodal strategy, providing options to discover and attend / buy tickets to streamed live events and in person .

The new funding will go towards expanding Dice’s geographic footprint with a special focus on the U.S. As this is where Dice’s business appears to be growing the fastest right now, as cities and consumers gradually move out of pandemic hibernation to spend time together again. in some cases at a frenetic pace. Phil Hutcheon, CEO and co-founder of Dice, said that in New York alone, more than 1 million people used Dice to find and attend events in the single month of August.

(Side note on investors and founders: Hutcheon co-founded Dice in 2014 with Ustwo, the agency that also spawned Monument Valley, helped incubate agency Tray.io, and has worked on several other creative projects alongside his digital business – I’ve confirmed that Ustwo, who hadn’t had an operating role at Dice in years, also sold his shares in the startup in this round.)

Giants like Ticketmaster, Live Nation, StubHub and Eventbrite dominate the event ticketing landscape, but Hutcheon argues that these and other legacy platforms are too static and not fit for the modern age, and specifically for modern demands.

They are costly for event organizers and attendees alike, and have been slow to address some of the most damaging parts of the event industry, such as promotion and ticket counterfeiting; and some of the most promising aspects of it, such as providing better insights to event organizers based on all the data that can be gleaned from the event browser and the average consumer.

“The world has been opaque around live performances, but now we are in 2021,” Hutcheon said in an interview. “The answer to change everything is transparency. [Legacy ticket companies] make it all much more complicated than it should be. “

Dice’s response has been to focus on three areas, Hutcheon said. First, make ticket sales easy and safe for users and venues. Second is discovery: making sure people interested in a particular performance receive reliable recommendations for other events they might like, in realistic places for them to visit. And third is the community. In Dice’s case, this originally (and still) means finding like-minded people on the site, as well as visiting Dice and finding out what your friends or people like you might be interested in seeing. Now, on top of this, there is a broader mandate for the community, Hutcheon said.

“We didn’t think about it at first, but loneliness has been a big problem,” he said, noting that a third of 17 to 21-year-olds, a sweet spot of consumption for the company, have reported loneliness during pandemic. “Going out to see culture brings people together.”

Dice took a very technological approach to tackling all of this. First, he focused on building a network of venues and promoters that he works closely with on ticket sales; there are currently more than 3,600 of them, covering not only music venues and promoters, but also theaters and their ecosystems. Alongside this, it has its own dataset, built around those who visit the site and purchase events, which in turn is used to help build and recommend events for Dice-like visitors.

Then the technology stack it sits on focuses on mobile-based digital ticketing to prevent resale and counterfeiting and provide a legal way to resell tickets where the venue can refund a purchase and resell it to himself about Dice. And it continually provides analytics to venues, artists, and promoters so they can better understand how and where they see demand for specific concerts and artists, when to consider larger or smaller venues, and more.

All of this helps Dice stand out in what would otherwise be a fairly busy market that has also been going through tough times. And like Hopin and his big push for virtual events, he has helped Dice attract investors.

“The concert business is a tangled mess of archaic tools and ‘industry standards’ tax where artists are paid last. Venues pay for marketing and are subject to conglomerate fees. Fans have to search for shows and regularly buy expensive tickets at secondary markets or resellers. This makes no sense! Fadell said in a statement. I live global, and buy secure reseller tickets with one click. ” Fadell is

All of this was neither quick nor easy to build and scale. Dice, now active in dozens of cities, has been deliberate about those city launches – pick a venue to build relationships with multiple venues so that, as Hutcheon described it, a rich picture of the musical (and other) events of a city. complete and complete, and later feed the recommendations for more events. Referrals are a lucrative part of your business, and discovery drives more than 40% of tickets sold on Dice.

Hutcheon believes that Dice’s recommendation algorithms “are a huge advantage,” but so is its selectivity. “We are very careful what happens to Dice. The big question for us was, how do you scale curatorship? Our solution has been to partner with the best organizations and venues, and with great artists and reservations. “

In a timely manner, Dice does not leverage social chart data from other platforms, which in part means that it took Dice about 3.5 years to get his own platform up and running.

Building your own dataset, Hutcheon said, “was seen as stupid at first. “You could get there a lot faster if you used Facebook’s Open Graph,” people told us. But now it looks smart for a couple of reasons: it gives us more control, but it’s also pro-privacy. If a site visitor doesn’t want recommendations and just wants to see what’s popular, that’s fine too. “

Dice does not take advantage of the social data of other platforms, but it takes advantage of it to attract more audience to its service: it counts Spotify among its partners in that regard.

The next stages for Dice will not only be about expanding to more cities and holding more events live and in person, as long as the pandemic R numbers are controllable, but also about continuing to innovate on the live streaming side. There is a lot of room for improvement there.

“We saw artists on Instagram doing quite amateurish and unconvincing performances, so we just appealed to the artists by saying get paid and do this right,” Hutcheon said. Until now, the focus has not been on just any single performance, but on trying to create iconic and distinctive performances – think Nick Cave Playing at Alexandra Palace in London.

“The fact that people were buying tickets in advance for the live broadcasts made me realize that people needed things to look forward to,” he added. And he still thinks that will continue even when the doors of the place are reopened. Dice’s live event data shows that for in-person events where tickets are purchased on their platform, around 80-85% of all tickets were sold to people living in major cities near the event. But when it came to live virtual broadcasts, only 39% came from major cities: “Older consumers or younger children, who couldn’t have gone to see Nick Cave in Ally Pally.”

Now they can, and that kind of “special” flow that isn’t a replica of anything a ticket buyer might see in person will be what Dice will focus on later. “That’s why we created the live streaming stack. The future is hybrid broadcasting, ”Hutcheon said.

“We believe that DICE’s technology has the ability to transform the future of live entertainment,” said Yanni Pipilis, managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a statement. “In addition to the flexibility and security of seamless ticketing, the platform connects fans, artists, and venues in a whole new way … We are excited to partner with DICE to help create remarkable event experiences for fans. fans from all over the world. “

Dice says it is currently on track to have 49,000 artists and creators using its platform by the end of 2022.

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