UC Experience Inspires NY Entrepreneur’s Ticket Business

Customers of innovative New York start-up Seatslink enjoy the full experience associated with attending a game or show largely because the entrepreneur behind it sought out a UC education more than two decades ago.

The brainchild of Brooklyn native Charles Kaufman, A&S ’00, Seatslink provides good deals on tickets to a wide variety of events, then helps the buyer augment that purchase with other aspects of a great day/night out. Kaufman calls it “the complete ticket experience,” and he traces its beginnings to Clifton.

As a high schooler looking at potential colleges in the mid-1990s, Kaufman ran into a slightly older acquaintance who happened to mention that he was back in the city on break from the University of Cincinnati. For some reason, that resonated with Kaufman, who says he’s always been fascinated with cities and the essence of their cultural identities.

“I told my father I was putting a trip to Cincinnati on my list, and since he was a big Oscar Robertson fan, he was definitely in favor of that!” he recalls. “So I took the plane on my own, found someone there who would host me, and really enjoyed the campus and the people. I visited the News Record offices in the lower level of TUC, met the editor, and could see myself writing for the paper.”

Kaufman applied and enrolled as an English Literature major and quickly felt at home in a city where there was clearly a lot to do. Coming to UC started to shape a career that would eventually leverage Cincinnati’s intersection of culture, sports and entertainment. Notably, he became a News Record editor and interned at WXIX-TV (Channel 19) several nights a week.

“The station wasn’t paying me, but I loved it,” he remembers. “I was editing the news, learning television and hanging out with guys like Dan Hoard and Greg Hoard, which prepared me for some TV jobs back in New York after I graduated. My first one was with the NBA as a general production assistant — logging tape, keeping track of highlights and timecodes, and helping produce some shows that were broadcast internationally.”

Charting a Career Path

Kaufman later earned a master’s degree from City College of New York and taught school, then did some day trading work with his father. Meanwhile, the self-described “avid event-goer” began to develop a concept for a ticketing platform that was inspired by the user-friendliness surrounding his UC experience. It became his career about five years ago.

“In Cincinnati, I always enjoyed how easy it was to access all of the culture, entertainment and excitement that live events generated locally. In New York, the entertainment can get so spread out and literally swallowed up by everything else going on — you might not even know when a particular event is happening.”

As a UC student, Kaufman loved heading downtown on a Sunday — just 10 minutes from where he lived — and see the whole place decked out in orange and black for a Bengals game. Or he could look out onto campus from his apartment window, see the fans filing into Nippert Stadium or Shoemaker Center, and know it was time to do the same.

“That kind of experience makes an event unique to a locale — the way people embrace whatever there is to do,” he says. “How they spend their time before and after an event makes it a true Cincinnati event. As I develop and expand Seatslink, I’d be delighted to help folks get better acquainted with Cincinnati for all it has to offer, and to replicate that in a lot more cities, too.”

While Seatslink offers tickets for prominent events throughout the world, its “hometown concierge service,” which provides access to a range of event-relevant ancillary services, is currently exclusive to the New York area. The goal, however, is to expand that model to other markets as well, including Cincinnati.

Design the Outing You Want

“We’re not just selling tickets — we’re giving customers an easy way to be acquainted with what various locales offer,” says Kaufman. “To some extent, ticketed venues are similar wherever you go, but the total experience consists of the other aspects as well — where you eat, how you travel there, where you park.”

Kaufman cites the example in his own family, where his wife likes basketball and baseball, but she’s not crazy about football or hockey. So if they go to a Rangers hockey game at Madison Square Garden, it may be more important to find a place to have a nicer dinner beforehand; conversely, if they go to Yankees Stadium, a sports bar atmosphere hits the mark. It all depends.

“Seatslink goes beyond what a StubHub does, for example, by providing event tickets at a good price but also helping with the ancillary options — with meaningful discounts — to plan and enhance the entire experience. Through Seatslink, you can sort of become your own concierge service.”

In nurturing his business, Kaufman has consciously cultivated relationships within the UC Alumni Association’s New York Alumni Network. The combination of New Yorkers who went to UC and then returned home as he did, plus alumni whose careers took them to New York, means his alma mater has a strong presence throughout the city and surrounding region. So Kaufman is helping with tickets to UC-related events in the area while growing his referral base. The combination of his UC connections and his natural efforts to grow the business make him bullish on Seatslink’s future.

“UC had helped me develop my innate desire to go out and do things I enjoyed doing, and that’s what I’m trying to do now for others. A lot of my personal UC experience, day by day and night by night, is baked into Seatslink.”

Visit Seatslink.com to learn more about Kaufman’s company.


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