In some ways, Ticket Alternative’s Iain Bluett is like many co-founders we’ve covered at Hypepotamus. He bootstrapped his business out of his living room, his successful Atlanta-based company continues to thrive in a crowded industry, and, not surprisingly, he’s a technology enthusiast. However, having recently sat down and chatted with Iain, I feel safe in saying that he’s unlike any other startup co-founder in the city. I wanted to learn more about what makes this rock and roll executive, and his company, tick.
Born in Scotland, Iain grew up in Devon, South West England. While most kids his age spent their free time emulating the likes of Gary Lineker and Bryan Robson, Bluett was busy hustling. “At the age of ten, I got my first paper route,” he recalls. “I also used to work in a fruit market from 4:30 in the morning until 8:30, when I had to go to school. I’ve always enjoyed working hard and making money.” When he moved to America in the 90’s, Iain got a job at Polo Ralph Lauren selling clothes in Lenox Mall. A commission-based position, “I knew then that style of work really suited me. You could make as much as hard as you were willing to work.”
From there, Bluett got into the Internet early on in 1996. “I worked for a cold calling company and said, ‘Why are we doing all these cold calls when I can build a website and people looking for the golf packages we’re selling can easily find us?’ I quickly became the #1 sales guy there and got fired for making too much commission, apparently,” he jokes. But, it isn’t just money that motivates Bluett; he’s also a passionate musician.
A lifelong keyboardist, Iain has always been infatuated with music. As is the nature of the business, he has a collection of wild tales from his rock and roll days that sound straight from VH1 Storytellers. “I had a band called Film, which was pretty well known in Atlanta,” he remembers. “We showcased for Guy Oseary, who ran Maverick Records at the time and is now Madonna and U2’s manager. He offered us a record deal. We flew back to Atlanta to celebrate the deal, only to find out that the lead singer had been looking out for himself a little more than the band. He decided he was leaving Film and was going to take this record deal on his own. He told the label that he wrote all the songs himself, which wasn’t true. Once the lawyers found out, the record never got released.”
Due to his acquaintance with the Atlanta music scene, Iain and his lifelong friend, Jamie Dwyer, saw an opportunity in the ticketing industry. They founded Ticket Alternative in 2003 and started by working out of Bluett’s bedroom. “We then moved into my condo and added a few more people. At one point, we had 14 people working out of a 1000 square foot condo,” he says. Now, the company has over 50 employees and is continuing to expand and evolve. “Ever since we hired our first CTO four years ago, we’re starting to be known as a technology company,” he boasts. “Especially with the release of Freshtix, people are really starting to look at the technology we’re creating and that’s something we’re really proud of.”
Today, Bluett is a man with little openings in his schedule. When he’s not busy running Ticket Alternative and Freshtix, Iain divides his time between raising a pair of four year old twins and going to as many events and concerts as he can. He also works with the Georgia Music Partners, whose goal is to, “make Atlanta a music hub again,” explains Bluett. “We want to see records being recorded here.” Georgia Music Partners hopes to replicate the success of the Georgia Production Partnership, who played a vital role in revitalizing the city’s film industry.