ComeTogether: The Startup that brings a new era to live events through blockchain and NFTs spoke with Lazaros Penteridis, co-founder and CEO of ComeTogether about the innovative Startup project, the event market and the Startup's plans for the future

As the need for digital transformation has become the number one priority for most, if not all businesses worldwide, more and more industries are exploiting the potential of new cutting-edge technologies to offer innovative services and products to consumers.The Greek Startup, ComeTogether, is also moving in this direction, having as a “weapon” the technologies of blockchain and NFTs has brought a “revolution” in the field of live events and ticketing services. spoke with Lazaros Penteridis, co-founder and CEO of ComeTogether about the innovative Startup project, the event market and the Startup’s plans for the future.

Startupper: How did ComeTogether start and who are the people behind the project?

L. Penteridis: The company was founded in 2018 by me, Stavros Antoniadis, Nikos Chatzivasileiadis and Stathis Mitska. All 4 co-founders with technological background (the first 3 electrical engineers, the fourth Computer Science).At the same time as lovers of live events, we had disappointing experiences with very high ticket prices from the secondary market for our favorite events, for which the primary sale had been sold out very soon since its inception, so this is a problem that we take personally. This combined with our enthusiasm and expertise for blockchain technology, which provides a solution to the above problem, led us to start ComeTogether.

Startupper: What needs did ComeTogether distinguish in the event industry and what kind of solutions is it developing?

L. Penteridis: ComeTogether provides e-ticketing solutions for events that unlock new turnovers from the secondary market and from NFTs, while improving the fan experience by leveraging blockchain technology.

In 2019, resales of event tickets reached 15.2 billion dollars, which remain unused by the organizers. The secondary market today is a black market with high rates of fraud and very inflated ticket prices compared to the original ones.Resellers are often professionals and use sophisticated methods, such as ticket-bots so as to buy tickets en masse, while they become available for sale, creating an artificial shortage and confusion about the price and availability of tickets.

At the same time, collecting tickets and other souvenirs from events of all kinds is a habit and need that has always existed, as long as there are events. Now we are also bringing this to the digital world, and in advanced form through NFTs and UniqTogether. UniqTogether is an application for collectible NFTs that we have developed, which works in synergy with ComeTogether ticketing, but also separately.

We offer tickets as collectible NFTs, which can also be dynamic, which means to contain information/results such as the score in the case of a match, or the setlist of a concert. At the same time, they can contain digital art and be combined with other collectible NFTs, such as highlights from the event or fan generated content.

Startupper: What is the main way of operating the ticketing platform developed by ComeTogether?

L. Penteridis: ComeTogether addresses the root of the problem of the black after-sales market, which is the form of tickets today as static qr codes.

The new form of e-ticket it introduces is an NFT (Non Fungible Token), with built-in business logic – rules set by the organizer and governing its entire life cycle. The delivery of the ticket is done through a dynamic qr code (changes every 30 seconds). This form of ticket offers checking and tracing of any resales and transfers of the ticket.

There are many advantages.First of all, the organizers and performers gain access to turnover in the secondary ticket market.Also, viewers have better experience, since fraud and high resale prices are combated.Finally,
better data for the public that can be used for targeted marketing: knowledge of who came to the event even if the ticket changes hands, or in cases of mass purchase of tickets for a group of people.

Startupper: How was the ComeTogether project funded and supported in the first place? Have you participated in an incubator/accelerator?

L. Penteridis: Initially we financed ComeTogether with equity and from consulting services we provided to other companies.

Along the way we received external funding, totaling 240,000 euros from the Accelerator Qatar Sports Tech (QST), European programs and grants and investment angels. We have taken part in several accelerators, that have been a very important source of support, in chronological order: OK! Thess, Block.IS, BlockStart, Qatar Sports Tech, DMS, while we are also in incubation in Orfium.

Startupper: Blockchain and NFTs are two terms that monopolize the interest of technology enthusiasts. How can they be exploited by the companies operating in the market of events and what are the advantages for organizers and fans?

L. Penteridis: These two terms, apart from buzzwords, have to “bring” great added value not only to the event industry but also to many other industries.Focusing on the events I will start talking about the solutions we provide and I think they will play a catalytic role in the future of the event industry. Ticketing on blockchain is a much-discussed use case, but what does Blockchain technology provide us with in this case? We, at ComeTogether, consider that it offers the following features.

Firstly, it promotes cooperation. Removing the need for trust between the cooperating parties enables many organizations unknown to each other to cooperate. For example, an organizer of a summer festival in Greece may entrust a ticketing company in England with the sale of part of its tickets to English tourists.Secondly, transparency. One can see the progress of the tickets and make sure that there was no irregularity, which strengthens the relationship of the fans with each organizer / artist.

As far as NFTs are concerned, this is the first time we have been able to prove ownership of a digital good and this is made possible through Blockchain and NFTs.As a result, we are given the opportunity to create many interesting concepts that combine the possession of an NFT collectible with commemorative content from the events, with various privileges (utility) such as access to an exclusive event or discount on products, etc. Such concepts increase and reward the loyalty of fans and improve user experience.

Startupper: In the midst of the ongoing pandemic crisis, ComeTogether turned to testing immunity certificates by developing BackTogether. Tell us a few words about this innovative solution.

L. Penteridis: At the beginning of the pandemic and with the events suspended until further notice, we decided to take advantage of the already existing know-how to create a solution that will help us overcome the situation faster and get out of the lockdowns. So we created BackTogether a solution for storing and validating COVID-19 tests, antibody tests and vaccination status. BackTogether was among the distinguished proposals in 3 hackathons.

Startupper: What challenges does a new company that wants to “enter” the field of cutting-edge technologies (blockchain, NFT, cloud, smart contracts, etc.) have to face? What difficulties has ComeTogether had to overcome?

L. Penteridis: The sport of Startups is definitely for strong nerves. The sacrifices that must be made and the hours and energy that must be available to be able to give flesh and bones to a project are enormous.The most important thing for a Startup is to find the right “first” people to staff this venture and decide that they will cross this path together. Then, the Startup faces the lack of capital and the difficulty of raising it, especially in a country like Greece, where until a few years ago the Startup ecosystem was almost non-existent. Finally, of course, it must find ways to become extrovert and communicate to prospective customers its offer, in such a way that it becomes attractive. The challenges are many, but step by step and one by one they can be faced and finally manage after patience, perseverance and possibly some pivots to find what we call product – market fit and start growing.

Specifically, for a deep tech Startup, one of the biggest challenges it has to overcome, is to find the talent – technological that can develop such solutions, but also business people who understand and can communicate their value.

As ComeTogether we faced and still face the aforementioned challenges, always combined with “the elephant in the room”, the Covid-19 pandemic, like most people, let alone in the live events industry.

Startupper: What stage is ComeTogether at the moment and what are the goals for the future?

L. Penteridis: We have just launched our new UniqTogether app in app stores. It is a marketplace for NFT collectibles, focused on the needs of the markets we address and ticketing, that is music, sports and culture. It operates autonomously from ticketing, although there are many synergies between the two products both ways.

On a commercial level, ticketing has been on the market since October 2019, having provided services to over 50 live events and we are currently closing new agreements of greater dynamics for both our products (ticketing and NFT collectibles) separately and in combination, inside and outside the Greek market.

In the long run, our goal is to become a market leader regarding Web 3.0 solutions for the 3 aforementioned music, sports and culture industries, both around live events and beyond.

Startupper: What role can Startups play in the event market in the post-covid era?

L. Penteridis: First of all, I think that after the post-covid era the event market will flourish rapidly and people will go to events more than they used to. Regarding the role that Startups will play, the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly accelerated the adoption of technological solutions everywhere. The events industry will certainly not be an exception, especially since there is enough room for innovation, since there has been a standstill for several years. I believe that the role of Startups will be catalytic and will “shake” on many fronts the way events take place and the experience of fans. Most of the existing processes will be digitized, but other completely new ones will be created that are only made possible by the use of technology – purely digital, or mixing the physical with the digital world.

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