Ben Ackerman, president, Experience
Anybody in the business of selling tickets understands the threat and appeal of at-home viewing for fans. Atlanta-based Experience has developed a way to provide fans with a better time at the game and help teams unload leftover ticket inventory. Ben Ackerman, 40, with an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management, is president of Experience, which launched 17 months ago and now claims more than 30 college and pro teams as clients.
We work with the teams to figure out what is available to deliver to the fans and put it in their hands to access. Do they want better seats, seats in the shade, seats in the sun, club level, amenities? We can leverage technology to make all of that available.”
Experience begins: I’ve been working on early stage technology for the last 15 years, and the last several years of that were focused on building consumer-facing mobile apps for sizable partners at a company called Firethorn. Tripp Rackley, the founder of Firethorn, sold that company and began ideating on what became Experience, which launched in January 2012.
The flagship product: We provide an app that fans can open or [they can] go to a specific URL. The teams use a handful of social channels — Facebook, Twitter, emails to ticket holders, in-venue signage, PA announcements — to let the fans know this is available. Through the app, fans can upgrade their ticket or choose from a variety of experiences to purchase at the game.
About the fan experience: The experience at home is so good, and the fan expects it to be as good or better at the game. Fans go to events to create memories and then share those memories in their social network. Access to batting practice or access to a shoot-around, or upgrading a ticket: That’s what we do.
Adoption in the college space: [There] is the challenge of getting students and young alumni to the games, even with some of the top universities that have incredible programs. Students aren’t always showing up. There are also implications from that, because that could indicate problems with the next generation of fans.
On improved in-venue technology: DAS [distributed antenna systems] are beginning to proliferate, and with that, the amount of content being delivered is proliferating. Now it’s not uncommon to see a fan bring an iPad to the game. Teams are leveraging that.
Why MIT?: I went to MIT to change what I was doing and focus more on entrepreneurship and technology. I had been in manufacturing, working in South and Central America, and Mexico. This is not really the job I was thinking about 15 years ago, but being involved in early stage technology, that’s why I went to school there. … To be able to work in sports and live events now is one of the highlights of what I do now. We’re just scratching the surface of what we can provide to customers.