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News

Interview with Joe Kustelski - CEO of Etix

Andrew Bouldin

Give us a brief recap of your entrepreneurial career since you graduated from Owen.

After I graduated in 2008, two partners and I started Rockhouse Partners (www.rockhousepartners.com), a digital marketing agency.

 

Around the same time, I worked with the Nashville Chamber of Commerce and Nashville Technology Council to launch the Nashville Entrepreneur Center and helped build it until the first Executive Director (Michael Burcham) was hired. 

In 2011, Rockhouse Partners was acquired by Etix (www.etix.com) based in Raleigh, NC, and the largest independent ticketing company in North America. I became CEO in Oct 2012 after serving as the company's Chief Product Officer.

How did you have the idea for Rockhouse and what does the company do?

Rockhouse Partners provides venues with a platform and services to make their events more profitable. 

Previously, I worked for a Nashville-based company, Echomusic, which focused on the artist side of the entertainment space. Everyone, it seems, wants to work with artists, yet my partners and I  knew that venues were an under-served market. So, we took everything we knew about how to market to fans and sell tickets, and we started working with venues and entertainment properties. Churchill Downs was our first major client.

When you were running Rockhouse what were the challenges and what were the big wins?

Challenges:

* Standard entrepreneur stuff: figuring out the model before the cash ran out, building a scalable business, proving your concept with paying customers, etc. 

Wins:

* Little things: standing at the top of Churchill Downs at sunset, watching a full crowd digging the Dave Matthews Band, knowing that we were a key part of making that experience happen.

* Big things: finding an acquirer that proved to be a perfect fit.

Tell us about the opportunity to sell the company to Etix and then how you transitioned into the role of CEO?

The Rockhouse model had limits as a stand-alone company. That said, we were a great fit for a ticketing company that wanted to differentiate itself in a highly competitive market. My business partner and one of the co-founders, Tawn Albright, saw the opportunity and we made it happen. (Fun Vandy fact: Tawn is now a professor at Vanderbilt: http://as.vanderbilt.edu/managerialstudies/faculty/tawn-albright/

Regarding the transition to CEO, I had worked pretty closely with Travis Janovich, who founded Etix and been CEO for 13 years. I was familiar with the board, and with the team. By the time I took over, there was a comfort level all around, and Travis made the transition simple.  

Half of life is finding good fits, and the role has been a terrific fit and a huge learning opportunity for me. I'm honored to work with such a great group of people. 

What are your goals for Etix in the future?

Aggressive growth. We plan to double revenues again within four years.

Knowing what you know now, what advice do you have for current Owen students that want to start a company?

Just do it.  

Here are some links to help you learn more about Joe and Etix: 

We just launched our new client-facing site hello.etix.com

Read up about us on LinkedIn and follow us on twitter at @etixworld

Reach out to Joe on his LinkedIn and his twitter at @joekustelski