Everyone is a little curious what ratings that movie you just watched—or are going to watch—deserve. But until now no one knows where to go for this information on theatre shows. Show-Score, effectively the Rotten Tomatoes for theatre, is filling this void and doing it with gusto! From information about the actors, the reception of the show and their famous Tony prediction games they are covering theatre with all the fun and none of the drama. The Harvard Business School Startup Studio stand out is proving its worth and its all for you.
AlleyWatch spoke with Show-Score team about disruption in the theatre industry as well as their most recent round of funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
This was a seed round that raised $1.5 million from a who’s-who in tech and media – people who are also huge theater fans. Those include Kevin Ryan, the founder of Business Insider and the CEO of Doubleclick; Sean Ryan, VP of platform partnerships at Facebook; Vikram Somaya, SVP global data officer at ESPN; Marty Schneider, board member of Consumer Reports and the founder of HealthPages, and Michael Fine, publisher of Barnes & Noble Classics.
Tell us about your product or service.
Show-Score is the ultimate guide for theater fans. It’s like a Rotten Tomatoes and Kayak for theater. In just 7 months, we already have more than 51,000 members. More amazing is that they have written more than 80,000 reviews of theater productions in New York – that’s six times more reviews than Facebook, TripAdvisor and Yelp combined in the same time period.
What inspired you to start the company?
Growing up doing Community Theater and programming minicomputers, I was always inspired by theater and technology. After years on the Internet startup scene – and on the senior management teams of several successful companies, including CNET and MongoDB – I thought my days of creating new businesses were behind me. But then I moved to New York 3 years ago, and started to see a LOT of shows (250 shows in the first year). I learned how hard it was to figure out which shows to see. At the same time, I was dismayed by all of the seats that weren’t filled, and by the artists who would never be recognized. That’s when I saw the opportunity — I could help audiences find shows they love, and help shows find enthusiastic audiences. Everyone wins. That type of opportunities is rare.
How is it different?
There are some great sites that cover theater news, but no other site really helps theater fans figure out what to see. And no other site gathers and compares all of the discounts, all in one place.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
We are targeting theater fans. In New York alone, there are more than 350,000 people who are the core supporters of theater. We also know that millions of tourists visit New York and want see a Broadway show. They need help too – they need to know what show to see, and how to get the price they want to pay. We want to help make it easy, simple and, most importantly, reliable for everyone to find a show he or she is going to love.
What’s your business model?
We’re a media company. We attract a highly-attractive audience, and then sell various forms of advertising to companies who want to reach them.
Other than Hamilton, what is the most popular show in NYC right now according to your data?
“Wicked” and “Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” have the highest scores after “Hamilton.” “Wicked” and “The Book of Mormon” have the most member reviews. For new shows, “”She Loves Me” is the strongest on Broadway, and “Dear Evan Hansen” is the strongest Beyond Broadway.
What was the funding process like?
Straightforward. Show-Score is my 10th Internet startup over 24 years, and we didn’t need to raise a lot of money.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
We were very lucky in that we didn’t have challenges.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
They love NYC theater and therefore already knew that there isn’t anything else like Show-Score. Our investors have a genuine passion for theater – exactly like our members. We think Show-Score is a classic example of seeing a problem and building a solution, which is why our investors have been so supportive of us.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
There are so many exciting things happening with Show-Score – first is our “Predict the Tonys” contest that we launched May 3 – the day the nominations were announced. It lets everyone participate in the conversation and feel connected to the theater. We’re also now starting to really help shows quickly find audiences who will love that production, which is a great thing for everyone.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
I’m afraid my advice isn’t original: find a great market opportunity, build a wonderful product experience that you iterate fast, and keep your burn rate extremely low.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We’d like to become the go-to site for anyone interested in theater. After that, we’ll expand to other cities with great theater.
What’s your favorite rooftop bar in NYC to unwind?
I don’t have one. I much prefer to go home and relax with my lovely wife and great kids.