Ushers call them "seat pirates": people who buy cheap tickets to sporting events, then scavenge empty seats closer to the playing field once the game begins. For years these squatters have jumped around arenas and stadiums, driving sports franchises nuts as they undercut the value of the higher-price tickets. But a new app from Santa Monica, Calif.-based Pogoseat could enable those franchises to turn the pirates into upstanding ticket holders--and generate additional revenue along the way.
Co-founder Evan Owens explains that unlike third-party services that sell discounted tickets prior to tipoff, the Pogoseat app is designed for use by fans already at an event. "Inside the arena, people may want better seats for a multitude of reasons--to sit with friends, get away from a drunk, get out of the weather or be closer to the action," he says, admitting that the idea came to him a few years ago after he was caught pirating seats at a baseball game. "Once you switch, the last thing you want is to sit there and constantly worry, Are they going to kick me out?"
Here's how it works. A fan logs into the app, which determines through geolocation the user's exact position within the venue, then displays a map of available seats and prices. After selecting new seats, users can pay for the upgrade through their smartphones. (Depending on the score or amount of time left in a game, the fee may actually be lower than the difference in ticket price.) The app then generates a new e-ticket to show to ushers. Pogoseat takes an undisclosed cut of the transaction.
"In 60 seconds you can have a new seat," says Brandon Schneider, vice president of ticket sales and services for the NBA's Golden State Warriors, who have partnered with the app this season. "It's a win-win for everyone."
For Owens and co-founder Abel Cuskelly, Pogoseat is a natural extension of their lifelong love of sports. So far Pogoseat has $500,000 in funding--including $125,000 of Owens' money--and launched a second funding round at the end of 2012. Armed with the new dough, the duo aims to add 10 to 15 teams from the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS and NCAA to the service.
Owens envisions the app eventually being used at concerts and theatrical performances as well. "Anything with tickets and the potential for empty seats is fair game," he says.
Seat pirates, consider yourselves warned.
Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor in Healdsburg, Calif. He is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur, and has covered startups and entrepreneurship for The New York Times, TIME and CIO. He also covers a variety of other topics, including travel, parenting, education and -- seriously -- gambling. He can be found on his personal website, Whalehead.com.