If you’ve ever tried to buy a ticket to Fenway Park you know how expensive and hard to find these gems are.The current World Champions have sold out 400 consecutive games with seats averaging a $50 price tag and re-selling for more than $300 during the regular season. And yet the Red Sox are one of three New England teams to join the vast client base of StratBridge, Inc., which includes over 100 organizations, including the entire NBA and NHL, along with dozens of other profession sports franchises. StratBridge, founded in 1999 by Matt Marolda ’96, helps teams sell tickets more effectively using its StratTix analysis platform that tracks ticket sales and provides the front office with live updates on how tickets are selling and at what prices.The concept behind StratTix, known as yield management, has been used by airlines for decades and allows teams to adjust ticket prices to ensure that no seats are wasted.
Marolda, who admits that prior to his first job he “didn’t know anything about technology,” first recognized the need for a data visualization tool while working for Braxton Associates, a consulting firm where he helped clients understand complicated data. At the time, charts were largely drawn by hand, a ridiculous concept only a decade later. Still a novice when it came to programming, Marolda bought a simple how-to book and began trying things out; writing the code for what would eventually become StratBridge’s first product, a Microsoft Office plug used to create sophisticated charts.
When he was far enough along, Marolda quit his job at Braxton to continue creating new data technology for consulting firms and large corporations like Hewlett Packard. As a young college grad with little experience in the field, Marolda lacked outside funding and had to rely on his own resources to keep his fledgling company afloat. “I sold [software] during the day, and wrote it at night,” he says of his first few months as an entrepreneur which saw his bank account balance dip to $70. Luckily, Braxton saw promise in Marolda and left his position open for him should he choose to return. Marolda never took them up on the offer but he admits “it made my mom feel a lot better.” StratBridge built a thriving business around this software, growing to over 20,000 users world-wide.
Marolda’s next big break came in 2003 when the Boston Celtics approached him to create a visual tool that would help them analyze ticket sales at weekly meetings. A native New Englander, Marolda’s first thought was “that’s cool; at least I’ll get some tickets out of it.”Two and a half years later StratTix was finished and the Celtics were able to sell out the final 14 games of their unsuccessful 2006 season by effectively packaging tickets according to data collected by the new technology. Only a few weeks after StratTix was unveiled, the NBA licensed the system for all teams in the league.
Today, StratBridge employs twenty people, including Bowdoin grads Mike Daoust ’92 and John Regan ’07, and earns “well into the seven figures” in annual revenues, according to Marolda. StratTix recently expanded its clientele to include non-sport organizations such as the Atlanta Symphony through its deals with all of the major ticketing systems.“Anyone who sells tickets can potentially benefit from [our product],” says Marolda, who has appeared in the media countless times since StratTix caught fire in 2006. StratEdge, a tool similar to StratTix that allows a team to analyze player stats and scouting reports easily and effectively, represents the newest addition to StratBridge’s technology menu and presumably the next wave of high-tech sports management. However, Marolda insists that his products are not trying to turn organizations into fantasy sports teams. “It’s true you can’t ignore the quantitative information but you also can’t ignore the stuff you see with your eyes,” he says.
In the next few years, Marolda plans to continue to grow his company, located in Harvard, MA, and will look to hire college grads with liberal arts backgrounds like his own. An economics and math double major at Bowdoin, Marolda describes his senior year honors project,“Valuing Pro-Sports Teams,” as an “unbelievable opportunity” to get a business perspective. Marolda went on to attend the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth but recalls this project as a crucial part of his eventual success.“The whole liberal arts thing, it works,” says Marolda, “you learn to be versatile and well-rounded.”The skills he acquired at Bowdoin were put to the test during the early days of StratBridge’s existence, when Marolda was the only employee. “Building something from one [person] to twenty – that’s a liberal arts experience.”
Posted February 01, 2007