When Derek Shewmon and Federico Campbell were studying together at the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business two years ago, they thought they had a revolutionary idea. This should hardly come as a surprise: Most students at the Dingman School Center for Entrepreneurship think they have the next great business plan. It’s part of the program’s fabric, breeding confidence and products, preparing graduate students for the real world.
But this one really stuck, and Shewmon and Campbell will unveil it in full throughout the Maryland basketball season at Comcast Center, in partnership with the athletics department. It’s called “LetsMoveDown,” a mobile application that allows fans to upgrade their seats in-game, taking advantage of empty chairs in lower bowls.
The alternative, of course, is sneaking down and hoping either an usher doesn’t catch you or the seat’s rightful buyer doesn’t show up, ticket in hand, telling you to get out.
“Kind of how iTunes legitimized downloading music, we thought there would be an innovative way to upgrade your seats,” said Shewmon, a Cincinnati native who grew up a Reds fan. “I used to go to Reds game in the summer. The no-show rate is ridiculous, so after the fifth inning you scout out where a better location is. Sometimes the guy would come with real tickets, sometimes the ushers would come and kick you out. As a fan you obviously want to sit as close as possible.
“I’ve never gotten kicked out, but the guy will come and say, ‘Hey, these are my seats,’ so you move over one. It’s always the back of your mind. So we figured, there’s a legitimate way to do this, to bring money back to the school so everyone wins.”
In February 2010, Shewmon and Campbell won the Pitch Dingman competition, the same competition that Terps tight end Matt Furstenburg won this year for his GripBoost spray-on product for receivers’ gloves. Afterward, Shewmon and Campbell cold-called the Comcast Center ticket offices and met with Matt Monroe, the school’s assistant director of ticket services, who loved the idea and told them about a problem the Terrapins were having with no-show seats. They pitched their formal proposal in May 2010, but the timing didn’t work out.
“It was a little complex. Maryland didn’t have electronic ticketing at the time,” Shewmon said. “Plus, smartphones weren’t as prevalent then.”
So Shewmon, a Miami (Ohio) undergraduate and Campbell, a Villanova alum, continued to tinker with their concept, enduring an “excruciating” wait as they worried someone else might implement this idea elsewhere. This past summer, the duo approached Maryland again with a streamlined prototype, armed with the knowledge that the technology has finally caught up with the idea.
The application is available only to fans who have already purchased tickets so as not to “cannibalize” the ticket sales process, with fans simply waiting outside until prices drop on the application. Users see the prices listed and can buy upgraded tickets outright, or they can enter what Shewmon called an “auto-pilot bid,” an eBay-style auction system.
And as the game progresses, ticket prices fall even further. Shewmon told a story about one season ticket holder who upgraded from the nosebleeds to the first row for $15.
Ticket holders who put their unused tickets up for sale get 90 percent of the purchase cost, Maryland gets the remaining 10 percent and the Let’s Move Down gets the 10 percent fee paid by the buyer.
After receiving positive reviews from fans, the LetMoveDown crew has reached out to other Washington area universities and professional teams.
“These new technologies provide our fans with the convenience to receive, transfer, and resell tickets digitally,” said Monroe in a press release. “Fans no longer have to worry about mailing in unused tickets or waiting to meet someone to deliver hard tickets. This allows us to continue to develop future marketing initiatives to better service our fans.”