Celtics CEO joins $35 million funding round for ticket search engine SeatGeek

Wyc Grousbeck, Bob Higgins, and Mark Wan of Causeway Media Partners. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Wyc Grousbeck, Bob Higgins, and Mark Wan of Causeway Media Partners. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Silicon Valley’s Accel Partners and Cambridge-based Causeway Media Partners are among the investors pumping $35 million into SeatGeek, a search engine for tickets to sporting events, concerts, and other live events. Similar to the way Kayak.com scours the web for airfares and hotel rates, SeatGeek does the same across multiple ticketing sites like StubHub and Broadway.com.

Also putting money into the Manhattan-based startup are the rapper Nas, NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony, and NFL quarterbacks Eli and Peyton Manning.

“Everything is going to mobile, and we think ticketing is next,” says Wyc Grousbeck, a co-founder of Causeway and CEO of the Boston Celtics. “I see these guys as being in the lead. They’ve shown they can be profitable, and we think they can become a dominant player.”

According to SeatGeek, its mobile apps have been downloaded two million times, and more than 70 percent of the startup’s customers access it on a phone. SeatGeek expects to drive about $160 million in ticket sales in 2014 — though the site pockets only a portion of that revenue as a referral fee. SeatGeek also sells advertising.

But Grousbeck says there wasn’t a milestone or data point that spurred him to invest. “It’s beyond numbers,” he says. “This is not a data-driven investment. It’s a people-driven investment. [Co-founders Jack Groetzinger and Russ D’Souza] are top-shelf, truly phenomenal guys.”

Causeway Media Partners invests only in sports-related businesses, from a fund of about $130 million. So far, the firm has invested in five companies to date, including Formula E electric racing circuit and SportNGIN, which makes web-based software to help run amateur sporting leagues.

SeatGeek’s initial backing, in 2010, came from Founder Collective, a Cambridge and New York-based venture capital firm.

Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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