Thinking positive – John O’Neill, Tickets.ie

‘Doing things in life makes people happy not having things, so make sure that you do something that you love.’ ThinkBusiness talks to John O’Neill.

What’s your business model? 

Depending on the audience as we have two different software platforms. Our main platform is Tickets.ie – world class software to manage the sale and distribution of tickets for large scale events. We also use that software ourselves to sell tickets directly to the general public on behalf of event organisers.

How long have you been in business?

I’ve been doing business things since I was a kid. In college, I ran parties, gigs and events to make extra money. I left college in 1996 and went to work for Expert Edge Systems.  

Expert Edge was acquired by a US company in 1998, and at that stage, my boss and I left to set up a company called Quality Automation Limited.  

Quality Automation provided automated testing expertise and website monitoring services for many blue-chips, banks and telecos in Ireland and Europe.  

In 2004 I set up Tickets.ie as a hobby company while I was still involved in Quality Automation, working evenings and weekends.  

In 2009, Quality Automation was put into liquidation because of the recession and I lost my job. 

I was very fortunate to have Tickets.ie in the background to fall back on, and I’ve been working full time, growing the company since.

What did you want to be ‘when you grew up’?

An astronaut but needing glasses put an early end to that ambition. As a teenager, I loved music and greatly admired the likes of Richard Branson and Tony Wilson. So, I always wanted to have a career in the music industry or artist management. Tickets.ie brings me somewhat close now. 

What’s your ambition now?

I’m very fortunate that I have had the opportunities to always achieve my ambitions. Right now, it’s about being laser-focused on developing a new ticketing software platform which will make it much easier and fairer for consumers to buy tickets in the primary market and bringing this new platform to market.

What’s the most important thing you have learned so far in business?

Doing things in life makes people happy not having things, so make sure that you do something that you love and excel at it.

What has been your biggest ‘mistake’ in business so far?

My successes have been largely achieved by listening to my instincts.  My mistakes have tended to arise when I didn’t listen to my instincts.  

I had a very big “one that got away, ” and I use this experience to ensure that it never happens again.  

“Positive words lead to positive thoughts. Positive thoughts lead to positive actions. Positive actions get results.”

monument creameries

Who inspires you in the business world?

There are so many. I love to see people being successful, overcoming great difficulties and achieving the seemingly impossible. Their success breeds success in others, and this all creates a rising tide from which everyone benefits.

I’m from the Ryan family of the Monument Creameries. The Monument was founded by my great uncle and aunt in 1918 and was one of the most successful businesses in the first several decades of the new Irish State. 

I grew up listening to stories about the Monument, and it has been a tremendous influence on me in business. I know that if you put your mind to something you can achieve great results.

Right now, I think Jane Ni Dhulchaointigh’s journey with Sugru is amazing and inspirational. The Collison brothers with Stripe. A college classmate of mine, Dave O’Flanagan, and what he has done with Boxever.

“Social injustice holds so many people back and prevents people from achieving their best and this, in turn, holds the country, society and the economy back.”

What historical figure would you choose to have dinner with? 

Jesus.  

What would you change about the business and social climate in this country?

A positive words day, where everyone only uses positive words. Positive words lead to positive thoughts. Positive thoughts lead to positive actions. Positive actions get results. 

Tackle social injustice. Social injustice holds so many people back and prevents people from achieving their best and this, in turn, holds the country, society and the economy back. I think it’s important that everyone gets the opportunity, support and encouragement to fulfil their potential.

beyonce in ireland

Did you receive any supports to start your business and what do you need most at this stage of your business? 

I realised early on that most ticket companies fail as it’s a tough industry to break into and establish a track record. Once established it’s a different story, but it takes years and years to get established. So, for the first five years, the business was completely bootstrapped and every cent earned was reinvested in the company.  I had offers of funding from private investors, but I turned these down as I felt the industry was just too risky without having a solid ten years behind you.  

We’re well established now and have a proven record of providing ticketing at the highest possible level, so it’s a much different story for us.

We started working with Enterprise Ireland late last year, and they have been a fantastic support. We were recently approved for a research and development grant. So, it’s a very strong vote of confidence from Enterprise Ireland in both the company and our plans.

READ MORE: A guide to starting a business in Ireland.