Hunter Abramson, who spent two years building a ticketing technology company in Lakeland and was recognized as Catapult’s Entrepreneur of the Year in January, has decided to move his company, Relic Tickets, to St. Petersburg.
Relic Tickets aims to disrupt the ticketing technology industry where Ticketmaster, a company recently under fire from consumer groups over November’s “Taylor Swift fiasco,” has held a dominant market position.
The company uses blockchain technology to track verifiable digital assets – in this case tickets – to address challenges in the sports and entertainment industries. Through a know-your-customer process and blockchain technology, the company can verify customers and prevent fraud and scalping by eliminating bots that buy tickets to sell them at higher prices on secondary markets, Relic claims.
“Our goal right now is to focus on fixing the pain points,” Abramson said. “I get a lot of questions: ‘Are you talking about an IPO, a merger deal?’ We are now focused on making our technology as flawless as possible while changing the market.”
Abramson says the emerging technology could be used not only for concert tickets, but also for music festivals and conferences, air travel, and “along every point there’s a pass.”
“Everyone talks about Ticketmaster, but there’s also Eventbrite. Both sides of the market we’re trying to innovate in,” Abramson said. “What does it look like for music festivals and conferences to have new technology that hasn’t been innovated in a long time?”
The company’s technology can also attach discounts to tickets and allow event partners and sponsors to track revenue data.
Abramson was named the 2022 Catapult Entrepreneurship Awards David Lyons Entrepreneur of the Year. Catapult is an entrepreneur incubator created by the Lakeland Economic Development Council.
“This award for me was not just a business award,” Abramson said. “This award for me earned the respect of my colleagues as a person who works in the city and makes it better.”
Although the company has hired locally, the threshold for tech experience is high, and the company needs a location that can better attract tech talent at the degree it’s looking for, Abrahamson said.
“Our tech talent has to be pretty experienced,” Abramson said. “This is one of the reasons we go to St. Stains. The talent level for us is there in that Tampa Bay area.”
Abramson said the greater variety of events taking place and better opportunities for collaboration influenced the company’s move to St. Petersburg. The sheer number and variety of events taking place in the coastal city allows them to push their technology “to the limit,” Abramson said.
The company’s move will take place over the next few months.
Abramson, 33, a self-described “technology evangelist,” grew up in Lakeland and attended Lakeland Christian School, then studied communications at Florida State University. Abramson moved back to Lakeland from Los Angeles in 2019 after his career in sports entertainment.
While Abramson said Lakeland was the “perfect fit” for his company’s founding, he commented on the difficulty of expanding an entertainment technology-based company in the area because of its smaller sports venues and limited live entertainment opportunities on a large scale. Lakeland’s population of sports fans and spectators pales in comparison to those in cities like St. Petersburg.
“It’s hard. I’ve never shied away from saying that out loud. It’s hard to grow a tech company here,” Abramson said. “I think Lakeland is ready for start-ups to expand and grow. blow up here in certain industries … food startups … tech-logistics companies. It could be huge. You look at sports and live entertainment; that’s pretty tough.”
During the development of his company, Abramson worked closely with the Lakeland Economic Development Council, a private non-profit organization whose primary role is to help create jobs and capital investment by attracting new businesses to the Lakeland area.
“While we certainly would have preferred Relic to remain in Lakeland, at the end of the day, there was more opportunity for his company to continue to grow and test its concept in the St. Louis market. Pete,” said Katie Worthington of Decker, senior vice president of LEDC. “There were just more sports and entertainment companies that could use his product than what we have in Lakeland.”
Relic is “seriously exploring staying and growing in Lakeland or moving to affluent cities like Austin, TX or Miami, FL,” said St. Petersburg Economic Development Corp. in a blog post. “They were familiar with St. Petersburg because their co-founder grew up in a nearby city. “When St. Pete came to them with a comprehensive approach, Relic was immediately interested.”
The blog post quotes Abramson as saying, “We’ve had a lot of cities to call home. St Pete’s EDC welcomed us with open arms and paved the way for what’s possible. All we had to do was follow him. And here we come.”
Abramson told LkldNow that he will miss Lakeland. “I do not want to go. There are just a few changes that need to happen,” he said. “I tried to bring everyone from St. Pete and Tampa come see Catapult.”
“My heart is in Lakeland,” Abramson said. “Lakeland was our first home.”