Josh Dziabiak and Lynsie Camuso: Showclix
Pittsburgh startup ShowClix is housed in a beautiful office above a coffee house in the hip restaurant and shopping district called Shadyside. The ShowClix conference room sports seal blue walls and white leather conference room chairs with a super funky bent metal light above the table. A bottle of Clique vodka, one of their clients, is available on the side. There are balloons and other toys to play with throughout the office. Clearly, this company is focused on creativity!
Josh Dziabiak is quite the young entrepreneur. He grew up in Freedom, PA, on 20 acres of farmland. Freedom, as Josh describes it, “is in the middle of nowhere.” On one side of his parents’ house were a dozen horses. On the other side was the family septic tank cleaning business. His whole family worked for the family business: “my mother, my aunt, my father, brother, everybody.” To Josh, it was normal that owning a business was something possible and realistic. “Entrepreneurship was a natural for me,” he states.
Josh’s mom bought a family computer when he was 12, around 2000. This was a big deal for the family and the cash outlay meant no vacation for two years. The computer was a “klunky thing and sat in the foyer where nobody touched it,” Josh declares. But that all changed when Josh was in junior high. “A friend of mine asked me if I had a website. No, I replied. I don’t even have internet access.” But Josh went home and begged his mom. Once they got internet access, Josh turned on the computer and started building a website. He quickly became obsessed with the concept of being able to reach anyone in the world. “I was 13; it was incredible.” Josh became pretty good at building websites, and, like many other young entrepreneurs, got his start building them for other people, older people.
His business snowballed as Josh started flipping out websites for businesses and individuals in his community. He called himself MediaCatch. Pretty soon, Josh noticed that for every website that he was designing he was sending the hosting business somewhere else. He realized that “I could really scale if I could host. And that could provide recurring revenue, not that I knew what that was.” So he figured out how to host websites and that side of the business grew very quickly. Over the next year, Josh opened up an office and started to exploit the opportunity until he had 14 full-time people. “And that was before I even had a driver’s license,” Josh exclaims! “My employees had to drive me to lunch!”
By now, Josh was in 9th grade, and in order to focus on his business, he started home schooling. Except that he did it himself, and he did it on the computer with CD ROMs. However, the pace took its toll: “By the time I was 17, a year and a half after starting my business, I was stressed out, with no social life; the business consumed me.” His break came during tax season that year: “I was with my CPA, and he was starting a business brokerage firm and asked if I would be interested in selling my business. I didn’t know what that meant really. But I looked at that number he thought he could get, and thought wow. He sold the business in two months for $1 million! It was very cool to have that in my pocket.”
With his proceeds from the sale, Josh moved out of his parents’ house, bought a car, and goofed off. He had a lot of different ideas. College was never one of them. Josh was more interested in learning by experiencing. Josh eventually got to the point where he was bored: “I was doing a lot of shopping; basically, I was retired at age 18.” He started investing time and money into his ideas: “I wanted to do a web-based record label. I tried to do all the promotion and leverage the internet as the only source of revenue.” But, it was too early for Josh and he made some mistakes. He lost money and learned some tough lessons. One of them was about people: “I went through a lot of grief because of some wrong partners; I learned how important it is to surround yourself with great people.” But as a young entrepreneur, Josh wanted to wake up to a challenge each day. So he kept searching for the next big idea.
During this time Josh became aware of the need for a ticketing solution: “So many bands were going to small capacity bars and VFW facilities and there was only Ticketmaster. I saw an opportunity there, particularly for small- to medium-sized events.” He started by building a 650-seat ticketing solution. As he describes the origins of ShowClix, “I was sitting on my couch with my roommate and we were talking about things to do in Pittsburgh, and we realized that there was no destination site for event goers. That’s where I got the idea. What if I created a website that was a destination site to find events? Then I realized that ticketing could be the revenue model for the business.” ShowClix was born.
At the same time, Josh wanted to experience what it was like to work for someone else. He got a couple of job offers including one with Spreadshirt, a German company offering an online platform for private individuals and commercial organizations to design, buy and sell creative and personalized apparel. It was there that Josh met Lynsie Camuso, his partner in ShowClix. “We clixed from moment one,” Josh chuckles. A strong friendship was formed from their first coffee together. Spreadshirt let the two work together and come up with their own creative initiatives. “We were basically running the US operations for the whole company,” Lynsie chimes in, having joined us in the conference room. She adds, “We could brainstorm and execute really quickly, and we realized that we knew how to do this, we had the same views, the same work ethic, etc.”
Lynsie Camuso, who is ten years older than Josh, has a background in music and entertainment. She went to Penn State to study journalism. The summer after her sophomore year, she applied for an internship with the Rosie O’Donnell show in NYC. She landed it. Taking the risk on this fabulous opportunity, Lynsie withdrew from school. She was the youngest staff member ever at the show: “We were on the same floor as Saturday Night Live; I would run into Will Farrell. And I always loved entertainment, music and news. Working there was a dream job and it was my first job. I was 20!”
When the show came to an end, Lynsie had a choice to make: “What do I do? Pursue a career in TV or finish my degree?” Lynsie returned to Pittsburgh, her home town and finished her degree in journalism at Duquesne University. She went through a number of jobs upon graduating, including with the Pittsburgh Pirates and a stint in Los Angeles. But, she came back to Pittsburgh and landed a job at Spreadshirt, where she met Josh and her life changed: “I just loved the internet and then I met Josh who was the same.” This was towards the end of 2006.
ShowClix. Josh and Lynsie entered a regional business plan contest and that process forced them to “think through every detail of the business,” Lynsie relates. That was important because they ended up with the same goals, very much on the same page. ShowClix officially launched with a beta version in March, 2007. They got some press and they landed two customers. Lynsie laughs as she describes the early days, “We are all about e-tickets, about not printing them out. But I had to go home and stuff envelopes with tickets because we had to mail out the actual tickets! Even though we started with electronic tickets we had to do all this other stuff because that’s what the customers wanted!”
The next version of ShowClix launched in July, 2008. Josh remembers, “We put no titles in our email signatures because we didn’t want our clients to know that the company was really just us.” Because ticket sales were their main source of revenues they needed to be very professional. They decided, “Let’s operate the company for how we want it to be a year from now,” Josh describes.
ShowClix made their first full-time hire in March, 2009, and now are at 30 including Josh and Lynsie. In 2008 they did $500,000 in revenues/ticket sales; in 2009 ticket sales were $4.9 million; in 2010 ShowClix reaped over $30M in ticket sales. ShowClix’s business model is a cut of the overall ticket sales.
The company received seed funding from Innovation Works, a state-funded economic development organization, and other investors. ShowClix recently closed a B round of financing of $1.65 million, led by Swallow Point Ventures and included Pittsburgh Equity Partners, Woodland Partners, Innovation Works, and Smithfield Trust.
Today, ShowClix is a full-service, primary ticketing company that provides venues, promoters and event organizers with innovative solutions to manage every aspect of their ticketing operations, including online and telephone ticket sales, box office management, admissions control, and event promotion. The company currently works with over 1,800 live music venues, performing arts groups, museums, festivals, nightclubs, artist management companies, nonprofit organizations and colleges and universities around the world. Their mantra is simply fair ticketing. They continue to make inroads into Ticketmaster’s space, and while they face competition, they have focused on the niche of making ticketing affordable for smaller organizations.
The two are clearly great partners and good friends. While they are not a couple in life, they are a great couple in business!