Name: Oliver Hinton
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Reading his resume, you might not guess Oliver Hinton is the entrepreneur behind an 18-month old tech startup.
With high-profile stints as head of sales at Australia Post, an executive role at realestate.com.au, and the chief executive gig at media sales company First Digital Media, Hinton was well-placed to continue to climb the corporate ladder when he launched his own business in 2013.
But like any budding entrepreneur, Hinton had his eye on the bigger picture. Having begun his career as a door-to-door wine salesman and then moving into a role selling classifieds at Yellow Pages, Hinton had been closely watching the internet change the idea of sales for years.
“I became really interested in how an online startup can change an industry and just do things in a completely different way to disrupt that marketplace,” Hinton told SmartCompany.
“I asked, what’s another classified-type sector that hasn’t been dominated and brought online yet? A sector that I could dream up something for?”
Casting his eye to the ticketing industry, where major players like Ticketmaster and Ticketek had reigned supreme for years, Hinton noticed ticket sales were in the same place classified ads had been just years before.
“The more I looked at it, it was like, they charge how much? It was the exact same conversation we’d had at realestate.com.au – the newspapers are charging how much?”
Handing in his resignation to Australia Post, Hinton launched the self-funded Ticketebo (pronounced ‘ticket-e-boo’ – one of the British-born entrepreneur’s favourite sayings) with a business partner in August 2013.
In 18 months, the online ticketing and event registration business has now turned over more than $3 million in ticket sales, targeting the small to medium size concerts and festivals often looked over by Australia’s big ticket duopoly and dropping its booking fee to nearly a third of that charged by the big players.
Hinton sits down with SmartCompany to chat about why sales are still a big part of his life as an entrepreneur and his plans to take Ticketebo global.
Hinton says he is less of early riser, and more of a late worker.
“I’m not one of those crazy entrepreneurs that gets up at 5am and does a solid four hours of work uninterrupted. My day is really more the other way around,” he says, admitting he has been known to work to 3am in the morning.
But with three young children at home, Hinton says it’s important to dedicate some quiet time for meditating on his thoughts each morning.
“One of the things I’ll consciously do is get the train to work, because there is an hour there of clear space. Clear space to put the music on and just think about what to do next,” he says.
After a cup of tea, Hinton is onto his emails, resolving any customer service issues, getting all events live on the site and checking in with his developers.
“I like to get the hard stuff out the way early and think about proactive stuff for moving forward in the afternoon,” he says.
The Ticketebo staff are a small team of just four at the moment, so Hinton still wears many hats himself, including his lifelong passion: sales.
“Probably the most expensive part of hiring a good startup team is having a good, solid sales team that can really run out there and get the work you want,” says Hinton.
“Now as a startup, if you are the salesperson, if you can basically pay yourself zero, then you probably just saved yourself $150,00 to $200,000 a year. You’ve then got that money free to go and get some kickass development,” he says.
But Hinton admits he will have to take a step back from sales and focus more time on strategy as Ticketebo grows and looks to expand its sales team this year.
Hinton says his work-life balance is something he’s gotten a little better at over time, but thanks his “very tolerant” family for helping him along the way.
“Once you move through ‘is this thing going to work?’ then you do get to another stage. At the start it was crazy and that passion drives you though,” he says.
“But I think if you’ve been working in large cooperate environment they can be quite demanding too. The wonderful part about owning your own business is you can be flexible. It’s actually easier for me now to go to watch the kids play in the school athletics, I couldn’t do that [in a corporate job],” he says.
When he does have time to himself, Hinton says his favourite way to switch off is windsurfing.
“Out on the water, it’s just you out there. It’s like hitting a refresh button,” he says.
Hinton also loves to head out to a concert or a festival of course, or you may find the classically trained musician being roped into putting on his own piano performance for the kids at home.
Hinton says one of the big appeals of the name ‘Ticketebo’ was the domain and IP availability in other countries, hinting at his plans to take the startup beyond Australian shores.
“Rolling into different countries is defiantly one goal, “ he says. “But it’s all about penetration now, really cementing our place in the market here.”
Hinton also says he will be courting offers from private investors this year.
“At some point you really need the external investors coming in. By getting that on board we can aggressively develop the site, aggressively go overseas and push further into Australian marketplace,” he says.
Oliver Hinton has a minority shareholding in SmartCompany owner, Private Media.