Big news today. We announced a major new feature, Columbus. In a lot of ways, building this has felt like doing a new startup. Columbus is an event discovery engine. We humbly believe it’s the best way online to discover live events.

The value proposition: Enter 4-5 of your favorite teams and bands, and Columbus creates a calendar of games and concerts near you that you’ll love. It’s engineered to constantly collect feedback, so almost every action you take further enhances recommendation quality. You can tell Columbus it’s wrong about a particular event, and it will avoid showing such events in the future. For more detail, check out this video that Will made or go here to try it.

This is a substantial expansion of our company’s scope. As diligent devotees of Paul Graham, we founded SeatGeek wanting to do only one thing really well. We chose vertical search for tickets. I remember pontificating to dev interviewees about how I wanted to have only 3-4 non-static templates in our app so that we could focus on optimizing the hell out of those pages from every possible standpoint. We weren’t a full stack company. We had no intention of helping a user decide what events he might want to attend. We could care less about helping him coordinate plans with others. We were specialists.

We have long known that event discovery is a major source of aggravation for users. Besides ticket search, event discovery is the other major part of the ticket purchasing process, and existing options are lacking. I deal with this personally–there are 100+ concerts in NYC every night, and I frequently miss bands I love due to ignorance. And I run a freaking ticket company.

Thus, a decision: do we continue to focus exclusively on doing one thing really well, or do we introduce a potential distracting force by becoming a full stack event site, i.e. a site that offers everything a user needs to uncover events and buy tickets?1

We chose breadth. We made that choice because we think the experience of discovering events is better when you can buy tickets in the same place (and vice versa). But, more importantly, we’re doing this because it seems fun. The minimum viable product, focus-on-one-thing-and-do-it-well approach is ideal for launching a startup. But if you want to touch millions of lives, at some point it helps to change.2

We have a big poster that is front-and-center when you walk into our office. It proclaims our aim to “Become America’s gateway to live entertainment.” Columbus points us in that direction.

1 Here I’m talking about event discovery as the thing that makes us a one-stop solution, but there are other elements in the works too, e.g. a new way of tracking events, an innovative social integration, etc. That perhaps makes the analogy seem a little less silly.
2 One can no doubt think of counterexamples. Dropbox comes to mind. But I think they are the exception rather than the rule.