Hunter Abramson, who has spent two years building a ticketing-based tech company in Lakeland and was recognized as Catapult’s entrepreneur of the year in January, has decided to move his company, Relic Tickets, to St. Petersburg.
Relic Tickets aims to disrupt the ticketing technology industry in which Ticketmaster, a company under recent scrutiny from consumer groups over its November “Taylor Swift fiasco,” has had a dominant market position.
The company uses blockchain technology to track verifiable digital assets — in this case tickets – to address challenges in the sports and entertainment industries. Through a “know your customer” process and blockchain tech, the company can verify customers and prevent fraud and scalping by eliminating the bots that purchase tickets to sell them at higher prices on secondary markets, Relic claims.
“Our goal right now is to focus on fixing the pain points,” Abramson said. “I get a lot of questions — ‘are you guys going for an IPO, a merger deal?’ We are focused right now on making our technology as flawless as possible while changing the market.”
Abramson says the emerging technology could be used not only for concert ticketing, but for music festivals and conferences, air travel, and “along every point there’s an access pass.”
“Everyone talks about Ticketmaster, but there’s Eventbrite, too. Both sides of the market we are trying to innovate in,” Abramson said. “What does it look like for music festivals and conferences to have new technology that has not been innovated in a long time?”
The company’s technology can also attach rebates to tickets and allow partners and sponsors of events to track revenue data.
Abramson was named the 2022 Catapult Entrepreneurship Awards David Lyons Entrepreneur of the Year. Catapult is an entrepreneur incubator created by the Lakeland Economic Development Council.
“That award to me was not just a business award,” Abramson said. “That award to me was gaining the respect of my peers as a human that is putting in work to the city and making it better.”
Although the company has hired locally, the threshold for experience in the tech field is high, and the company needs a location that better attracts tech talent at the degree they’re looking for, Abrhamson said.
“Our tech talent needs to be pretty experienced,” Abramson said. “That is one of the reasons we are going to St. Pete. The talent level for us is there, in that Tampa Bay area.”
Abramson said that the wider variety of events taking place and better opportunities for collaborations influenced the company’s move to St. Petersburg. The sheer number and variety of events taking place in the coastal city allows them to push their tech “to the limit,” Abramson said.
The company’s move will occur over the next few months.
Abramson, 33, a described “tech evangelist,” grew up in Lakeland and attended Lakeland Christian School, then studying communications at Florida State University. Abramson moved back to Lakeland from Los Angeles in 2019, following his career in sports entertainment.
While Abramson said Lakeland was the “perfect fit” for starting his company, he commented on the difficulty of scaling a tech-entertainment based company in the area, due to its smaller sports venues and limited opportunities for large-scale live entertainment. Lakeland’s population of sports fans and concertgoers pales in comparison to those in cities like St. Petersburg.
“It’s tough. I’ve never shied away from saying that out loud. It’s tough to scale a tech company here,” Abramson said. “I think Lakeland is ready for start-ups to scale and explode here in certain industries … food startups … tech-logistics companies. That could be huge. You look at live sports and entertainment; that’s pretty tough.”
Throughout the development of his company, Abramson has worked closely with the Lakeland Economic Development Council, a private non-profit whose primary role is to help create jobs and capital investment by attracting new companies to the Lakeland area.
“While we certainly would have preferred that Relic stayed in Lakeland, at the end of the day, there was more opportunity for his company to continue to grow and test its concept in the St. Pete market,” said Katie Worthington a Decker, the senior vice president of the LEDC. “There were just more sports and entertainment companies that could use his product than what we have in Lakeland.”
Relic was “seriously exploring staying and growing in Lakeland, or moving to start-up rich cities, like Austin, TX, or Miami, FL,” the St. Petersburg Economic Development Corp. said in a blog post. “They had some familiarity with St. Petersburg because their co-founder grew up in a nearby city. “When St. Pete came to them with a comprehensive approach, Relic was immediately interested.”
The blog post quotes Abramson saying: “We had a lot of choices of cities we could call home. St Pete’s EDC welcomed us with open arms and laid the path to what’s possible. All we had to do was follow it. And here we come.”
Abramson told LkldNow he’ll miss Lakeland. “I don’t want to leave. There’s just a couple of tweaks that need to happen,” he said. “I’ve been trying to bring everyone from St. Pete and Tampa to come see Catapult.”
“My heart is in Lakeland,” Abramson said. “Lakeland was our first home.”
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