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The BIZ was Just the Ticket for TIKLY

If necessity is the mother of invention, perhaps irritation is the origin of innovation. It was a growing disdain for the seemingly adversarial relationship that characterized the ticketing industry and the bands for which it sold tickets that led a communications major — only a year out of college — to leap with both feet into the world of business. 

Tikly's Start

Ankeny native, Emma Peterson, founder and CEO of Tikly, has seemingly always been on a fast track. Completing her degree from the University of Northern Iowa a year early, she began simultaneously working as a Marketing and Sales Communication Specialist for Cedar Falls-based Phantom EFX, as well as Communications Director for Greater Des Moines (DSM)-based Authentic Records. To fill whatever free time she might have had, she spent the weekends traveling with Authentic Records recording artists and Des Moines native band, The Nadas, serving as a jack-of-all-trades. "I was doing the roadie kind of thing, putting down deep roots in the music industry," she explained.

"'I'm Emma with the Nadas' put me in a great place to begin conversations with other artists and venues about issues around ticketing and control," she recalled. "It was becoming a do-it-yourself world for artists in many regards, but not with ticketing. The ticketing industry really works against the live events culture. There was just something fundamentally wrong about the whole experience. It was a broken industry, and for whatever reason I was in a position to hear from people inside the entertainment world about their many challenges and complaints."

A Conversation Leads to the Development of a Startup

Her innovative epiphany came during a conversation at A.K. O'Connor's with Dwolla CEO, Ben Milne. "I had a crash course in marketing with a video game company (Phantom EFX), then I worked with a band and learned the music industry and then I met Ben Milne," she said. While sharing with Milne all of the challenges she saw bands, events and venues having with the ticketing industry and lamenting the lack of an acceptable alternative; she shared, "He just said to me, 'Well Emma, you should just build it.'"

And Tikly was born. Launched in the spring of 2011, without outside investment and making a profit from day one, Tikly was recently cited by Business on Main as one of the "5 Startups to Watch." The MSN news source for small business observed, "Built from an artist and venue-owner perspective, Des Moines, Iowa-based Tikly is challenging the traditional ticket-selling model established by the likes of Ticketmaster."

Both Peterson and Milne knew she had the vision, the passion and the energy, but not the business acumen. This is where Mike Colwell and the Business Innovation Zone (BIZ) entered the picture. Meeting at the Big Omaha conference, Colwell offered to work with Peterson. At that time, he showed her Start-Up Models — a business financial planning tool Colwell developed for entrepreneurs — and discussed her vision. "I have a degree in Communications, I knew nothing of this whole business thing," she recalled. "Mike helped me bring it all together by teaching me anything and everything that I needed to know. He became my first official adviser in the world of Tikly."

"Mike showed me all these things that, as a Communications major, I was scared of and didn't want to look at, but he made the information and the business process a lot more accessible to me. When I had questions, I had this very successful businessman who was interested in my success available to me," she said.  

Connections in the Community

While Peterson brought a strong circle of associates, including Milne and Startup City Des Moines principals, Christian Renaud and Tej Dhawan, Colwell was instrumental in connecting her with others including Brian Hemesath — who would become her business partner and play a critical role in the tech-side of the business.

Colwell continues to work with the Tikly team on a regular basis and remains available for impromptu conversations as well to provide mentorship and focus when required. "Mike just knows the answer to everything," Peterson exclaimed, "and he's a good friend."

With investors taking notice and the money to fund growth becoming available, Peterson and Tikly are poised for substantial growth and are happy and grateful to be a member of the Des Moines startup community. "I just love being able to say I'm part of a ticketing company that owns its own technology and is very focused on empowering the artists and event organizers we work with, while also being their friend. We want to be a partner, not a necessary evil, and we want to make a positive impact on every community we touch" she said. "And the BIZ was key to making that happen."

Square One DSM, an initiative of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, is formerly known as Business Innovation Zone (BIZ).