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Meet Emma Peterson, Tikly’s 22 Year Old CEO Taking on Ticketmaster

July 15, 2012

12:00 pm

It all started with a conversation with Dwolla‘s Ben Milne at the local Des Moines Irish Pub.

“Ben basically said, ‘You have access to this community and a group of people who are eager for a better solution.  So create a better solution.’  He was daring me to start a company,” says Emma Peterson.

So that’s exactly what the then 21-year-old band manager did.  Tikly, an online ticket service for bands and venues, was born from the frustration Peterson faced during her experiences running the show for The Nadas, an Ames, Iowa based indie-rock outfit.

“The ticketing companies we worked with completely screwed up the experience of supporting their bands,” says Peterson. “We couldn’t get any of our fans to buy tickets in advance.  Why would they buy their tickets in advance when it’s $5 to $10 more expensive than buying it at the door?  That’s really problematic for small touring bands – many of whom are entrepreneurs in their own right.”

Tikly gives bands and venues an alternative to these traditional ticketing agencies through providing a simplified process of distributing e-tickets.  The fees are straight forward: 10% for all tickets between $10 and $75, a $1 fee for tickets $10 or less, and a cap of $7.50 for tickets over $75.  She’s not reinventing the wheel, just improving upon it.  “With Tikly, bands and venues can sell tickets at their poster price.  There are no hidden fees waiting for the user on the checkout page,” adds Peterson.

Early to Entrepreneurship

Tikly co-founder and CEO Emma Peterson

Peterson admits that running a startup at the age of 22 is no easy task.  “The biggest challenge is my lack of experience.  Even trying to get a job out of school proved to be difficult.  Three of the companies I interviewed with all really liked me, but said I didn’t meet their experience requirements. One of those employers recently reached out saying that she knew she’d eat her words,” adds Peterson with a laugh.

“Where I do excel, however, is I’m able to admit when I don’t know.”

And because of this, Peterson has surrounded herself with a community of entrepreneurs who do know.  In addition to Milne’s mentorship, Tikly’s other co-founder and CTO is Brian Hemesath, the current CEO at VolunteerLocal, a volunteer management SaaS, and former chief executive at Catchwind, a mobile marketing firm. Another of Tikly’s top advisors is Dwolla’s COO, Charise Flynn.

But barely being of legal drinking age while running a company can have its advantages.  “It’s opened a lot of doors.  I mean, my story is a large part of the reason we’re having this conversation.”  Touché.

Starting Up vs. Higher Education

Graduating at the ripe age of 20 years, I couldn’t help but wonder why Peterson chose the route of starting up as opposed to pursuing higher education.  What drove her to entrepreneurship?

“I did get accepted to grad school at UNI [University of Northern Iowa].  I had the opportunity of being a 23 year old with my masters.  I quickly realized however, this was a time in my life where there’s next to no risk.  I spent a year traveling the country with my favorite band.”

Additionally, Peterson admitted she was unsure of which track to pursue.  Now she serves on UNI’s advisory board for the interactive digital studies curriculum, saying, “that’s probably the route I would have ended up going.”  In other words, instead of being a student of the curriculum, she’s actively shaping it.

The Des Moines Startup Scene

“Des Moines has a pretty incredible startup scene. There’s definitely a feeling that we’re all in this together.”  Her point instantly hit home when I realized that Tikly’s story was tipped to me by a fellow Des Moines startup CEO.   “There’s no better example of this than the support we’ve received through our incubator StartupCity Des Moines,” where both Flynn and Hemesath act as mentors.

“Whenever I talk to people from outside of the area, they always ask if I’m going to move my company to LA or New York.  My response is always the same: ‘I’m going to build this company in the land of No Coast.’  There are so many opportunities for us here.  It can be done.”

Are you managing a band or running a music venue?  Head on over to Tikly and let us know what you think. 

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When Zach Davis isn't getting lost in the mountains, he is hustling from Boulder, CO as Tech Cocktail's Director of Marketing. He is the author of Appalachian Trials, a book chronicling the mindset necessary for thru-hiking all 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail, a feat he accomplished in 2011. Zach is a green tea enthusiast, die-hard Chicago sports fan, and avid concert-goer. Follow Zach on Twitter: @zrdavis.

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