Two tech entrepreneurs who turned down three investment offers in BBC’s Dragons’ Den have launched the world’s first event search engine chatbot.
Steve Pearce and Sam Coley are the founders of Manchester-based TickX, which offers a price comparison site for event tickets.
Three of the Dragons pledged to invest cash in the business, including an impressed Peter Jones, who said TickX could be the “Uber for events”.
However, in a surprise move, the duo turned down the offers and instead went elsewhere to raise £750,000 in funding – 10 times’ more than they were offered on Dragons’ Den.
Pearce and Coley say their business has gone from strength to strength since the TV appearance and believe the launch of the artificial intelligence-powered chatbot will enable people to find the tickets they want faster and buy them cheaper.
The development of the bot for the site, which lets users search and compare the cheapest deals on events tickets, has been led by 18-year-old hotshot developer Aayush Chadha.
Chadha approached the company shortly after arriving in the UK from Mumbai and now heads up the chat bot project alongside studying Artificial Intelligence at The University of Manchester.
“Aayush is a multi-hackathon winning developer and before joining TickX had already developed a chat bot so it made complete sense from our perspective for him to lead the project,” says Pearce.
Getting talent like Chadha on board has been vital for the company to achieve its aims of increasing both audience and ease of use.
“At TickX we want to lead innovation in the event market and we see massive potential in integrating directly into messaging platforms where there are already millions of users,” says Pearce.
“Creating a Facebook chatbot was our first step towards this goal by combining our powerful event data with artificial intelligence.
“The benefit to users are two-fold. Firstly chatbots make it quicker and easier to get answers to complex questions.”
This means users are able to ask TickX questions like ‘When is the cheapest ticket to see The Lion King in July?’ or ‘What’s on near me this weekend?’. The bot provides the answer almost instantly along with a link to compare and buy tickets.
“The second benefit is millions of people spend hours on Facebook messenger each day so now they can click straight into TickX in one click,” says Pearce. “No apps to download, no need to open a website.”
The data behind the bot’s responses comes from TickX’s own unique event and ticket database.
“This messenger bot really is just the first step for us in making it easier to search events and compare tickets,” says Pearce.
“Over the next few months, alongside continuing to improve our Facebook application, we’ll also be rolling out to voice-based assistances such as Amazon Alexa.”
TickX’s Facebook messenger chatbot launched on June 1 and hooks directly into the site’s event search engine, allowing users to search over 70,000 events from more than 35 ticket sellers.
Since the TickX’s appearance on Dragons’ Den the company has grown revenues five-fold month-on-month and reached 150,000 monthly active users.
High profile investors include former chairman of BskyB Nick Ferguson and Stan Boland, who led and built four technology companies, creating businesses acquired for over $1.5 billion.