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Viagogo Raises $15 million Round And Signs Tennis Stars To Battle Seatwave

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So Viagogo has raised another $15 million and hooked in former tennis champions Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf both as board members / investors as well as advisors to help it push its secondary ticketing market into Europe. The funding now gives it $70 million of external investment. That’s some war-chest.

Agassi and Graf invested in the common-stock round alongside existing shareholders Index Ventures, Bernard Arnault, the chairman of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA; German media mogul Herbert Kloiber; and international financier Jacob Rothschild, via his family’s interests. The new funding values Viagogo at more than $300 million, although I hear from sources that they were aiming for a $30 million round.

The company currently serves ticket seekers in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and the Netherlands. Founder Eric Baker says Viagogo has annual sales close to a $100 million annually and expects those figures to double or triple this year. Viagogo, which charges buyers a 10% fee and sellers a 15% fee on each confirmed transaction, handled $100 million in transactions in 2008.

The London-based secondary ticketing site has deals with UK soccer clubs Manchester United, Chelsea and Germany’s Bayern Munich as well as music companies Warner Music International, Live Nation and Madonna. It is looking to push into more European markets such as Spain and Italy, and the US, but Germany is key to this.

Graf and Agassi are going to open their contact book for partnerships in tennis, and Graf is clearly a draw in the key German market – but one wonders if signing up a celebrity is really going to give Viagogo the extra juice it needs.

Because it’s not just about having deals with clubs and live music promoters. A growing proportion of resold tickets are sold by fans to other fans. To that end Viagogo competitor Seatwave has a 3-year exclusive deal with StudiVZ, the “German Facebook”, for instance.

Seatwave is Viagogo’s headache in Europe. According to a Hitwise spokesman I spoke to today, Viagogo is the third largest secondary ticketing site in the UK. As of January this year Seatwave is on 35% market share, GetMeIn (a UK startup founded by US guy James Gray and acquired by TicketMaster) is on 25%, and Viagogo is on 14%.

Seatwave also has deals with European soccer and rugby clubs and saw a 50% increase in transaction volume in the fourth quarter last year. Seatwave is also London-based and backed by a phalanx of investors including Adinvest, Atlas Venture, Fidelity Ventures and Mangrove Capital Partners to the tune of $36 million. Seatwave was founded in 2006 by Joe Cohen, formerly with Ticketmaster and Match.com, and is widely tipped on the London scene as a smart entrepreneur.

One of those backers, Fred Destin of Atlas Ventures, has blogged vociferously against Viagogo, at one point last year calling out Viagogo as being poised to deadpool.

Clearly he was wrong, but third party observers Hitwise reported last October that Viagogo’s traffic numbers had fallen from 3.8% in April to 1.7%. We know traffic leads to sales but Baker denied it was of significance and preferred to talk about transactions. Nevertheless, perhaps that’s why they signed some high-profie celebs to push the site? Agassi is liked in the UK, Graf in Germany. Queue advertising blitz maybe?

Then again both Viagogo and Seatwave stand to benefit in the recession, which is driving down prices for live events. That’s good for secondary ticket markets of course, because people start to sell their tickets more often. Viagogo said ticket prices for this year’s Super Bowl dropped 40% – a $5,000 ticket last year sold for $3,100. People are now bargain hunting which puts more power in the hands of secondary markets. The trouble is, these markets have to get volume.

In the US it Viagogo faces StubHub, which in 2007 signed a five-year contract with Major League Baseball to be its official ticket reseller and TicketsNow, was acquired by TicketMaster Inc. in 2008. Forrester estimates U.S. online secondary ticket sales reached almost $3 billion last year, up from about $2.6 billion in 2007.

Last year TechCrunch named both Viagogo and Seatwave a well placed to weather a downturn.

Viagogo was launched by Baker in August 2006 after reportedly fell out with Stubhub CEO Jeff Fluhr, hence Viagogo. StubHub was sold to eBay in 2007 for $307 million.

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