show me anybody who located

Featured on Jan 25, 2011

Jack Groetzinger

"I have fun making web apps for markets that have no data. Hence, SeatGeek."


Started building web apps at Dartmouth College. While there, co-founded Evolving Vox, a furniture rental platform for college students, which grew into the largest student-run business in Hanover. We franchised it out a few other schools before selling it upon graduation in 2007. Went on to co-found Scribnia, a recommendation engine for finding bloggers. Sold Scribnia in 2009 while at DreamIt Ventures and started SeatGeek the next day. Since then, have been hyper-focused on trying to use analytics and exceptional UX to make buying event tickets a wholly better experience.

Today you have a number of partnerships setup with companies like Yahoo! and Yardbarker that help drive traffic to your site. What was your initial strategy when you launched to draw traffic to the site and get users to find tickets through SeatGeek?

We decided early on that SeatGeek didn't lend itself to Zynga-esque mechanics that would double our traffic overnight.  But we thought we could still get step function growth by powering ticketing for sports and music content sites.  The pitch to them was simple: we can give your users a way to buy tickets and simultaneously make you money.  Thus far users on our partner sites have given great feedback about SeatGeek, and content sites tend to be amenable to additional income, so it's been one those ever-popular win-wins.

You use Quora, the recent Best New Startup or Product of 2010 Crunchie winner, a good amount.  What’s your current favorite question or topic that you’re following on there?

"Why is Dropbox more popular than other tools with similar functionality?"  Isaac Hall, who founded a Dropbox competitor called Syncplicity, wrote a beautiful answer about how Dropbox won because of everything they decided to omit.  The parsimonious app won; the feature-rich app lost.  We have a similar challenge at SeatGeek--we're sitting on a mountain of data but have to be careful that we only give users what they need, nothing more.

You mentioned on twitter back in November that Weezer was the concert that you were most looking forward to in 2010.  Favorite Weezer album and song?

Pinkerton (hands down) and "Pink Triangle".  I think most of Weezer's recent work is disposable at best, but am obsessed with their earlier stuff, so I was pumped when they announced the Memories Tour after years of ignoring Pinkerton at their shows.

You started SeatGeek the day after you sold Scribnia.  How did you know when it was the right time to sell Scribnia?  

When we started Scribnia we were devotees of the "build something people want and worry about monetization later" ethos.  But after almost a year of working on Scribnia we'd built the site into a bustling community yet still had no idea how we were going to make money.  No clue.  And in June of 2009 we had the sort of hockey-stick traffic growth that's attractive to buyers.  So we knew that if we were going to sell in the near term, the time was ripe. We were faced with a choice: should we move on to something new or slug it out for a few more years and try to grow the sort of massive traffic that might make monetization possible?  I guess we were eager to build something new because we received a fair offer and made the decision to sell.

Back in October you setup a challenge for anyone who wanted to submit an application to work at SeatGeek where the applicant had to hack into SeatGeek’s backend. Did you end up finding someone to hire after setting up this challenge? What kind of feedback did you get from applicants and do you plan on doing it everytime you’re hiring a developer?

We did!  Adam Cohen (@acslater00) joined our engineering team in December; he successfully solved the challenge.  

The feedback was outstanding.  We launched the challenge as a tool to better screen applicants but it turned out to also be great for drumming up applicant interest, as we received hundreds of applications within the first week.  Over two thirds of those who submitted their resume weren't actually applying and just wanted to crack the puzzle, but those who were applying were of far higher quality than the barrage of .NET devs one gets from a typical Craigslist job listing.  
Yup, I think we'll do something similar next time we hire a developer. Someone wrote a blog post with the solution to our challenge (with the closing line "Bingo! We can open the beers and wait to be showered with job applications", according to Google Translator) so we'll have to come up with a new puzzle.