CVCA Awards

Real Ventures Wins 2024 VC Global Dealmaker Award for atVenu

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With offices in California and Calgary, atVenu is the world’s leading live event commerce platform, providing point of sale, inventory management, and real-time data and reporting capabilities to enable the sale of merchandise, food, and beverages at more than 125,000 shows a year. While the company’s initial focus was exclusively on partnering with touring artists, it has grown dramatically over the years. Today, atVenu not only works with virtually every major touring artist from The Rolling Stones to Ed Sheeran, it also has relationships with all three of the major record labels as well as the best known music venues and festivals around the world.

Not long after launching atVenu in 2012 with co-founders James Seigel and​Ben Brannen, serial entrepreneur and CEO Derek Ball was approached by Real Ventures. An early-stage VC known for nurturing entrepreneurs, Ball had gotten to know the Real Ventures team earlier in his career. They are fantastic people, so we were excited when they offered to become our first institutional investor,” says Ball. 

For Real Ventures, backing atVenu was an easy decision. We knew Derek was an experienced tech entrepreneur,” recalls Real Ventures Managing Partner John Stokes. He already knew how to navigate the trials and tribulations of building a great tech business, which is a big advantage. Plus, he and his co-founders clearly understood the music industry, recognized that the transition to digital happening at the time would lead to a major shift in the way that artists get compensated, and had the insight to take advantage of that shift to build a very promising business.” 

After making its initial investment in 2013, Real Ventures worked closely with Ball and the atVenu team. They use a pull, rather than a push, model,” says Ball, describing the VC’s approach. Instead of telling us what to do as some investors might, they always asked how they could help.” While that help took numerous forms over the years, it played a particularly critical role when the global pandemic hit and every show and festival in the world suddenly got put on hold. Our revenue declined by almost 100 percent in 2020,” he says. Real Ventures never faltered in their support of the business and instead helped us navigate that difficult time and figure out what to do next.”

While they gave serious consideration to taking the business in a new direction, the founders, Real Ventures, and the other key stakeholders decided that the best path forward was to stay the course and use the shutdown as an opportunity to build out atVenu’s platform. Ultimately, atVenu not only survived, by 2021 it had begun to stage an impressive comeback. 

With revenue steadily ticking back upward, atVenu soon caught the attention of multiple investors looking to buy a stake in the business. In 2022, nearly a decade after its initial investment, atVenu concluded that it was time to take one of those investors up on its offer. We had ridden the VC wave with atVenu and began to realize that the business had effectively evolved into a private equity play,” says Stokes. Eventually we decided that a PE firm or strategic investor would be in the best position to help drive the company’s next phase of growth.” Real Ventures wound up selling down a third of its stake in the business that year to Frontier Growth, a private equity fund out of Charlotte, North Carolina, but continued to work closely with Ball and his team. 

The following year Real Ventures sold the rest of its stake in atVenu. It was a really emotional moment for us,” Stokes admits. After so many years, it was hard to say goodbye, but we felt good knowing that we were leaving the company in a very strong position and with an excellent new partner.” The exit generated an impressive 8.87x MOIC and an IRR of 26.67%. Real Ventures ultimately earned the CVCA’s VC Global Dealmaker award for its work with atVenu. The 2024 VC Global Dealmaker Awards were sponsored by Losange Fund Services.

Both Stokes and Ball were delighted with the outcome of the sale. It was a good deal all around and we felt very grateful for everything the Real Ventures team did for us,” says Ball. He’s also excited about the next stage of growth for the business. More than a billion dollars of merchandise and food and beverage payments flow through its platform each year — a number that promises to keep going up in the years ahead. The company has also expanded into sports and achieved a major milestone earlier this year when its platform was used at the Super Bowl. 

We have a lot to be thankful for and a lot still to look forward to,” says Ball.