'Think TripAdvisor for festivals.' Investment banker turned festival guru, Zack Sabban tells Pulse of his new project, Festicket, and his quest to become THE festi-reference.

Introduce yourself and give us a bit of background. Sure! I am Zack Sabban, 27, born and raised in Paris. I studied in the US (Boston) before working in an investment Bank in New York and later in London. In my spare time, I used to travel a lot and of course attend to tons of festival around the globe. I have now quit my banker job to be 100% dedicated to Festicket! No regrets!

How did the idea for this come to you? Everything started in April 2011, when Jonathan and Jerome and myself, wanted to organize our festivals summer plans. We asked ourselves very simple but essential questions such as: “Which festival should we go for?” “Should we camp, or stay in a hotel? Is this hostel convenient? Does it provide the best value for money? Which is the closest airport? Should we book local transportation?” We quickly realized that the planning and booking process was painful, time consuming and very expensive! Especially when you are a group of friends!

We attend countless festivals around the world, and since we never found a real turnkey solution to this problem, we have decided to create Festicket.com. Our mission is to gather the growing festival & live music-loving community around a central booking platform that will make them more aware and connected to each other!

How long did it take from being an idea into something you seriously started work on? We created the company in January 2012. We are based in London and have recently opened an office in Paris. We launch the site at the end of May 2012 so it took us literally 5 months to set up everything! Going from the legal, technical, to the commercial matters for which we got more than 15 festivals on board! The launch has generated a pretty good buzz, and we have received pretty good feedbacks from our customers, the festivals and the press. The site is really user-friendly and has already attracted a thousand active members! Of course, we know the harder part is yet to come!

Tell us about the team behind it, who does what and how you met? The core Festicket team is composed of: Jonathan Younes, our product guy and my long time friend from Paris, Gianluca Trombata, an Italian dude – our dear developer – and my best mate from New York, Jerome Elfassy, our investor and special advisor, and myself! We are all friends and have known each other for years!

What are the basic goals and values of the site? I would define Festicket as the fastest and easiest way to book your next festival trip, especially when you are a group! Thanks to discounts negotiated well in advance with our suppliers, our packages also offer great discounts in price compared to regular merchants: so Festicket is also the cheapest way to book your festival travel package! But it does not stop there. Festicket is also the perfect guide to upcoming festivals, with descriptions, line-ups, tips, reviews, and social integrations via Soundcloud, Facebook and Twitter.

Explain how it works if you will, how you have put it together? We have decided to promote our deals in the form of Flash Sales deals, a little bit on the Groupon style! I explain: basically every week we launch offers for new European festivals. Each offer will have limited-time sales period and a discounted price that will digitize impulse buyers! Before putting it LIVE, we start generating interests about our offers by putting it as “upcoming” – our members can follow it and thus get notified when it available for booking!

For the booking process, it’s really simple: when you arrived on the festival page, you will see “our recommended package includes” (typically it’s a package for 2 persons with 2 festivals tickets, a cool hotel and a transportation). But we also allow users to personalize their packages by changing the number of persons travelling, the hotel category (camping, mid-class hotel or more luxury one), the check-in / checkout date. Basically you do what ever you want, what ever you can afford!

What do you think it offers users? Why should they come to you? We are trying to create a future where our community has a single hub to find out about cool festivals, book a bundle for their next trip, and share their excitements and experiences before, during and after the event! The fact that we are offering a hassle-free / one click solution to organize their entire festival trips is inevitably attracting the users! But above all, the great discount in price on every single package makes our product unique!

How have you decided which festivals to pick? Are they all ones you have been to? We made the strategic choice to focus our initial commercial development to European festivals. We are trying to curate travel experiences, and only pick festivals that we know, or our that trusted community have been to and would love to go to again. Everything else we leave out! Before working with a festival, we usually go visit the site, do some crowdsourcing, meet the faces behind the event and thus start a long-term relationship! You have no idea how many cool European festivals there are with either amazing close location ideal for a weekend trip or more exotic location that should be part of a longer trip. For those ones, traveling is (or should become) a natural part of the experience!

 

What have been the biggest challenges in getting to this stage? Has it been harder what with the global financial situation etc? The biggest challenges have definitely been all the insurances and passenger protections we had to put in place!! But no, it hasn’t been harder and here is why:

In the last few years, the music industry has faced lots of big challenges and LIVE performances are becoming a “safe haven”. Concerts, tours and festivals are always gathering gigantic and growing crowds of music fans! Secondly, I think that music festivals are more and more considered as “holiday hubs”. Nowadays people view festivals in a different way than just “gigs”. I mean, of course, they are still music fan attendees who avidly lap up as many acts as they can, but now there are also many people who go for the experience, meaning festivals fall into both the “music event” and “holiday” parts of their budgets! In this context, it became inevitable that an online travel site specialised in music festivals would eventually pop up! This is now wrapped-up with Festicket.com.

Which festivals are your favourites around the world and why? In Europe, definitely Sonar and Benicassim because it’s in Spain – the perfect country for festivaling. By the way, I am going to Monegros Festival (next to Barcelona) in July and I am very excited! I also went and love Time Warp in Germany, Solidays in Paris, and of course Glastonbury in the UK …

In the US, I would definitely say Electric Zoo in New York! The Festival happens in Randall Island – a small island next to Manhattan; the landscape is literally breath-taking! Finally, how could I not mention Coachella… I guess I don’t need to present it!

How do you hope Festicket will grow in the future? The goal is to gather a community of millions of “Festickers”! We want to become the world champion of Festival-package bookings, and propose our one-click solution for every single festival around the globe. But we won’t stop there. We also want to be THE reference for festival advices and reviews made by our trusted community! Think Tripadvisor but for festivals! Last but not least, we also want to develop the unavoidable tablet and mobile application to connect all the festival community around the world. In 5 years and using technology, Festicket will have created a universe dedicated to the festival community on which we will build endlessly. These are incredibly exciting times ahead!

Anything else you’d like to add? I would like to really thank Pulse Radio for this opportunity to speak and present Festicket!

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