The best thing about travelling is getting to know more about different cultures through galleries, museums, and musical events. The problem is that finding reasonably priced, legitimate tickets to entertainment events at the last minute can be difficult, particularly when there’s a language barrier. Enter Fiestafy, a Sydney startup created by Kevin Jochelson.
Fiestafy is a search platform partnering with entertainment companies like ticket vendors and theatres to provide travellers and expats with reliable information about, and tickets to, big events around the world in their own language. Though operating only in English and Chinese at the moment, Fiestafy aims to be multilingual by translating event listings into a number of languages and then promoting them on social media.
The idea came to 25-year-old Jochelson, a former investment banker, when he was working in Hong Kong and struggling to find events to attend. “Hong Kong didn’t use the same event guides I used in Sydney and didn’t use any of the same ticket selling sites…I had to contact friends to find out what was on because I didn’t speak Chinese,” he says.
Event guides are a dime a dozen, whether you’re looking online or going old school with print; travellers still swear by Lonely Planet books and Time Out guides because finding reliable wifi on the road isn’t always a breeze. So what convinced Jochelson to leave a corporate career for the uncertain world of startups? He was confident Fiestafy could come out on top by tailoring event listings to travellers in their own language, listing cheap tickets, and providing up to date ticketing information so users were never advertised a sold out show.
However, given that most travellers don’t often lug around laptops or have access to computers in hotels or hostels, wouldn’t a mobile app have been handier than a web platform? Jochelson explains that while optimising for mobile and an app are on the horizon, he chose to launch Fiestafy as a web platform in order to make the service easier for entertainment companies – the clients paying for the service – to use.
“A lot of companies have gone and really pushed for great traction from users and then tried to work out their revenue stream. I wanted to work out who would be paying us first. A lot of our clients are actually sitting behind a desk, so what we did was build a solution for them, building a whole back end with analytics. We decided to build and validate web first and wait to see whether companies would be willing to pay for it before validating the consumer end,” Jochelson says.
Whilst this is understandable, the lack of a mobile-first strategy in a startup targeting the Australian / Asian market, where mobile penetration is higher than any other technology would present some challenges in the early stages of customer acquisition there.
Focusing on Sydney in its beta phase, Fiestafy originally launched to a dozen companies, working with names like the Capitol Theatre and Opera Australia to hone the service. It’s now making its first forays into the UK entertainment scene, with TicketMaster signing on to use the platform in London.
While big exhibitions, sports games, and popular musicals are all well and good, what about those smaller events that truly let you experience a city and learn about a culture but can be harder to find, like a good flamenco show in Barcelona? Jochelson says that while the platform does allow for a few such events to be posted under the ‘Specials’ heading, the focus is on bigger events.
“The main thing I’ve learned in two years in the startup space is that you’ve got to have focus. Ours has been on things like theatre and art exhibitions because they typically extend a long time into the future,” Jochelson says.
Though Fiestafy’s making inroads in Europe, Jochelson says cracking Asia is the goal for 2015. “As an Australian startup, I have to say our focus is on Australia and Asia. We’ve got these neighbours so close by, we’re in the best position in the world to target Asia,” he says.
“There’s more people travelling in and out of Asia than ever before, so for me, our major focus is growth in Australasia before worrying about somewhere like the US.”