It all started when Orland Park native Tim Alberts had some White Sox game tickets that, at the last minute, he couldn't use.
The Chicago attorney went through the usual channels of selling them through online resellers, but was frustrated that he had to go through one seller to get rid of the unneeded tickets quickly. After all, he reasoned, other industries have online portals that post goods and services through multiple sites, such as Kayak for hotels or Ziprecruiter for employers. Why wasn't there such a site for people selling event tickets?
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• VisTracks has procured a partnership with cellular communications and fleet solutions provider M2M Datasmart to resell a branded version of the Lisle-based company's FMCSA-certified software.
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Alberts discussed the dilemma with Orland Park high school friends Zac Buikema and Kevin Wolski, which led the trio to combine their efforts to create FanLyst.com. Like Kayak and Ziprecruiter, a person who posts tickets for sale on FanLyst will have their posting sent to more than 10 online brokers, including heavyweights like StubHub, Ticketmaster Verified Seats, Vivid Seats and NFL Exchange Network. FanLyst provides an avenue for any event ticket, whether it sports, concerts, theater or any other type of event.
Buikema admits that none of the three had any real experience with running ticket exchanges or even managing online businesses when they took on the challenge.
In addition to Alberts' background in law, Buikema is COO of a durable medical supply company based in Orland Park, while Wolski is a special needs physical educator in Schaumburg.
"We've all been sports fan for a long time and we're pretty familiar with the process of going to StubHub to sell tickets," he said, noting that traditionally "when you try to sell something, you just automatically go to one site, and we know who that one is."
FanLyst came together in September 2015 with a homemade website and some marketing through Google AdWorks. Even with the cobbled-together start, they began getting a noticeable number of clicks.
"We saw enough to prove to us that people are interested in the concept," he said.
After ironing out some details, they decided to upgrade the website with the help of a Chicago-based design firm. The upgraded site was launched last September and they've seen "a couple of thousand" new starts since then, Buikema said.
The site's revenue comes from a 15 percent charge on the total ticket sale price, according to Buikema.
"Typically the marketplace charges 7 to 10 percent on the sale, so our take is more or less 5 percent extra," he added.
While it may seem like they're doing the same work as the broker sites, Buikema notes they have not had a lot of pushback from the big players.
"To them, we're a ticket broker," he said. "As long as they're going to get an influx of tickets from us, they're happy."
And FanLyst is not looking at replacing those ticket brokerages, either.
"We use these marketplaces, too," Buikema said "We see it as an avenue for the average fan or season ticket holder to get access to a certain technology."
Buikema noted another mission of FanLyst is to reduce ticket fraud. The site already has a vetting process that involves requiring the seller to have a verified PayPal account, he said. From there, the seller must also provide a credit card as a backup.
"If somebody were to sell some bad tickets, we would of course be obligated to replace those tickets for the buyer -- which is what any good company would do -- and we would have a card on file for the bad seller," he said.
In addition, educating customers what to watch for when selling and buying tickets is another leg of its mission to reduce fraud, he said.
"We feel by educating people who are selling tickets and making them aware of these issues, that can be a good part of this," Buikema said. "And the return on that is a flow of people through the site and the status you get in the industry."
Buikema sees FanLyst expanding to other cities, but the focus will remain on maintaining its niche in the industry.
"We don't wish to become a marketplace like a StubHub," he said. "We want to keep our focus on selling tickets for people that have them to sell as fast as possible and for as much money as possible."