The following is the third in a weekly series of articles about a “day in the life” of companies at the MakeOffices coworking space in Clarendon. The mini-series, which will run this fall, is sponsored by MakeOffices.
Move over Willy Wonka, the employees at SharpSeat are now the ones offering golden tickets. Whether for concerts or sporting events or theater performances, SharpSeat hooks up secondary market buyers with their dream tickets. The service essentially “is like StubHub, but cheaper,” say co-founder Andrew McCulloch.
He and the other two co-founders, Mike Williams and Brad Kurtzman, met while attending James Madison University and moved to Northern Virginia to take jobs after graduating. They attended a lot of ticketed events upon moving to the area and found themselves giving advice to friends looking to buy good tickets, too. But there was one major problem.
“There’s a ton of fees that we got sick of paying when shopping around on other sites,” McCulloch says. “We saw an opening in the secondary ticket market.” That’s when they decided they could do it better.
The three did a lot of research on secondary market ticket sales and ended up using their industry knowledge to start SharpSeat as a side project. “We found the average person didn’t know to look any further than Stubhub for secondary [tickets]. We saw an opportunity there to give them a better alternative,” Williams says.
They all eventually left their jobs to work full-time on SharpSeat. “We basically wanted to find a way to make tickets cheaper for the end customer,” McCulloch says. “We knew if we could find a way to keep costs down and still get access to the same tickets the big guys were getting, we could pass the savings on to customers.”
Their average day is a lot different now. The employees live in Virginia Square — two live together and the other lives down the street — so the MakeOffices Clarendon location where they work makes for an easy commute.
“One of the best parts is not having the commute around D.C.,” McCulloch says. He also found it important to stop working from home every day. “Keeping work and life separate was big for me because working in my kitchen all the time I’m [distracted]… Plus, here we’re surrounded by a bunch of other entrepreneurs that are getting things done.”
Being among other entrepreneurs has helped the employees stay motivated when doing their daily tasks, which include maintaining the website, coordinating with site developers, researching what events are coming up and fielding calls from the customer service team. And according to Williams, one of the big challenges they constantly face is marketing.
“For every business, [marketing] is probably 90 percent of the battle,” he says. “Just getting the word out there and getting people to visit the site, more than just your family and friends.”
Thanks to the business’ growth since launching two years ago — there is currently about $2 billion worth of tickets listed on the site, although it fluctuates seasonally — the team recently has been able to hire out for help with that marketing burden.
“Now we’ve hired a marketing firm to help us and we’re really looking to expand,” Kurtzman says. “This is our first business so we kind of learn as we go. We had to teach ourselves everything.”
They also outsource much of the customer service to a team in Chicago, but not all of it. The co-founders all use their venue expertise to give advice to customers who contact them looking for tips on purchasing the best tickets.
“So often people ask what’s the best value and where’s the best place to sit,” says McCulloch. “We know where you’re going to get a better value… Just little intricacies like that help out when we’re talking to clients.” Williams agrees, adding, “We have good knowledge of all the D.C. venues so we help people out” with getting the best ticket for their money.
To remain experts in the industry, the three often do offsite work — attending different types of events locally as well as traveling to other cities to check out their venues. “Obviously, it’s really fun to do that, but it is a part of what we have to do [for research],” Williams says.
Kurtzman explains that traveling to sites is how they gain knowledge of the best seats so they can offer direct customer support. “StubHub doesn’t really do that kind of thing,” he says.
When the SharpSeat employees aren’t traveling, they take advantage of the amenities in the MakeOffices Clarendon coworking space.
“Getting dedicated office space around here… is pretty unrealistic, especially for a small company like us,” says Williams. “Even for something half as nice as this, if you want a dedicated space the rents around here are so much that it just never really made sense to us. When this space opened up we couldn’t believe how cheap it was for what you get.”
One of the perks included in that price is a set of rotating taps of regionally-brewed beers. The SharpSeat co-founders say they like to head to the kitchen to try out new brews, relax and meet employees from the other businesses in the coworking space.
“Plus, I love the massage chairs,” Brad says, as the others laugh. “I usually use them once a day.”
Between the MakeOffices benefits and the satisfaction of doing a job they love, the SharpSeat team experiences something many typical employees don’t: They actually enjoy going to work.
“At my old job, I hated going to work. Now I love coming to this office,” Kurtzman says. Williams agrees, saying with a smile, “It’s kind of crazy that we’re voluntarily coming into an office after we wanted so badly to get out of one.”
Marine Corps Marathon Wrap-up — Despite a soggy start, spirits were high for the 40th annual Marine Corps Marathon, which wound through Rosslyn, D.C. and Crystal City Sunday morning. The winners were a 22-year-old recent West Point grad, representing the Army team and, on the women’s side, a Costa Rica native who only started running seven years ago. [Run Washington, Stars & Stripes]
Orange Line Delays — Orange Line riders are experiencing delays of up to 25 minutes this morning due to a broken rail in Maryland. [Twitter]
School Bus Camera Tickets May Be Refunded — Arlington County is considering refunding tickets issued by stop arm cameras on public school buses, following a determination by the state Attorney General that the county doesn’t have the legal authority to issue such citations via mail. [Washington Post]
I Like This Park Because — Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation has erected two new chalkboard in Rosslyn Highlands Park, asking park users why they like the park. [Twitter]
Top Bus Lines in Arlington — The county-run transit organization Arlington Transportation Partners has a list of the top five most important bus lines in Arlington. They are: ART 43, ART 45, ART 42, Metrobus 16 series and Metrobus 38B. [Arlington Transportation Partners]
New Little Free Library in Arlington — There’s a new Little Free Library in Arlington. The resident-created library is located at 1723 N. Veitch Street, three blocks north of the Courthouse Metro station. Affordable housing developer AHC, which helped with the library’s creation, is planning a celebratory launch party tomorrow at 4 p.m.
Photo by Jennifer Currier
Apartment Tower Proposed for Carpool Site — A 22-story, 330-unit luxury residential tower has been proposed for the site at 4000 Fairfax Drive in Ballston currently occupied by Carpool. It’s unclear if the bar would move to a new location during construction or whether it would move back after. [Washington Business Journal]
Buses to Use Shoulders on I-66 — Monday, March 23 has been set as the launch date for a pilot program that will allow buses to use the shoulder lanes on I-66 inside the Beltway. The speed limit for buses using the shoulders will be 25 mph. [Washington Post]
Equalizing Treatment of Ticketed Cars — This weekend, County Board members are expected to approve a measure that would treat tickets issued by police officers the same as tickets issued by so-called public-service aides. The change would specifically apply to tickets for expired registration tags, personal-property decals and state safety inspections. Currently, tickets for such violations issued by officers can be dismissed administratively by the commonwealth’s attorney’s office, while tickets issued by PSAs require a more lengthy appearance before a judge. [InsideNova]
Wardian Sets Another Crazy Record — Superhuman ultramarathoner and Arlington resident Michael Wardian has set another record. This time, he set the record for fastest 50K on a treadmill. And he set the record after attempting it, unsuccessfully, 30 hours prior to his record-setting run. What’s more, Wardian accomplished the feat on a cruise ship in the Caribbean while sweating profusely. [Runners World]
Sondheim Revue Coming to Signature — In honor of composer Stephen Sondheim’s 85th birthday, Signature Theatre in Shirlington is planning a “Simply Sondheim” revue, to run from April 2-19. [Playbill]
Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber
The Arlington County Police Department has recorded a decrease in red light violations, and therefore ticket revenue, since fiscal year 2012.
The county currently has four working cameras, at N. Lynn Street and Lee Highway, Ft. Myer Drive at Lee Highway, N. Glebe Road at Fairfax Drive and Washington Blvd at Lee Highway. Each violation carries a fine of $50.
ACPD reports the red light cameras have brought in the following revenue for the last four fiscal years:
- FY 2014 — $236,792 (as of July 30)
- FY 2013 — $322,682
- FY 2012 — $444,427
- FY 2011 — $327,292
The police departments points to safety education campaigns as contributing to the drop in red light violations.
“We believe it’s a combination of people understanding and knowing locations of the cameras, along with being better and more aware drivers as the result of educational campaigns put on by our officers regarding traffic safety,” said police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. “Safety is our biggest concern.”
Although they’ve been delayed for more than a year, seven new red light cameras are still in the works for Arlington. They will go in at five intersections shown to have high rates of red light running: two cameras at Columbia Pike and Glebe Road, two at Jefferson Davis Highway and S. 23rd Street, one at Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive, one at Lee Highway and George Mason Drive, and one at Washington Blvd and Glebe Road.
ACPD says the delay has been, in part, due to a Virginia Department of Transportation approval process. The county recently re-submitted information VDOT requires for the approval and hopes to hear back soon. However, VDOT spokeswoman Joan Morris told ARLnow.com the agency submitted its comments to ACPD July 1, and it is “not opposing any of the proposed sites since the signals are maintained and operated by the County.”
Once construction begins at the camera sites, ACPD plans to begin another educational campaign. The department typically offers a one month grace period when drivers will merely get a warning for running red lights at the intersections with newly installed cameras. Violations after the grace period will result in tickets.
Arlington County Police Department Chief Doug Scott and Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos agreed earlier this year that parking tickets that were issued correctly could no longer be reviewed by the police department, and all appeals would have to be taken to court. The policy took effect Oct. 1.
Tickets issued erroneously — for example, a ticket written at 6:05 p.m. for a meter that expired at 6:00 p.m. — can still be resolved administratively, according to Stamos.
When the ticket “was erroneously issued, in that case… the motorist will come to the police department and they’ll take care of that,” Stamos told ARLnow.com. “They’re going to continue to get rid of tickets that were erroneously issued.”
Before Oct. 1, a driver who was issued a ticket could walk into the police station and request a dismissal, and it would be up to the attending officer whether to enforce or dismiss the ticket. For instance, sometimes tickets for compliance violations like an expired state inspection sticker would be dismissed if the recipient could prove they worked quickly to get their vehicle inspected.
“[Chief Scott] didn’t like the idea of officers saying ‘you know what, we issued it, but we’re going to recall it, even though it was legitimately issued for a violation of some kind,’” Stamos said, noting the previously policy was also a drain on police resources. “If the recipient feels that it’s an injustice, they can go to court and deal with it in court.”
If a ticket recipient wishes to meet with a prosecutor to discuss a ticket, they will need to fill out the form on the back of the ticket and receive a court summons first. Then, Stamos said, they can bring the summons to meet with a prosecutor and try to get the ticket dismissed.
The process still involves showing up in person on a work day, something many ticket recipients decide is not worth the time and aggravation. Occasionally, for out-of-state visitors, prosecutors will conduct a dismissal discussion via phone or letter. Stamos estimated that 90 percent of ticket recipients are local.
The Arlington County Police Department teamed up with 7-Eleven for “Operation Chill” to reward good behavior. The program allows police to “ticket” Arlington youth spotted doing good deeds — with a coupon for a free small Slurpee good at 7-Eleven stores across the county.
Some of the “offenses” officers might give out a coupon for could be a kid helping another person, wearing a bicycle helmet, picking up trash or participating in other positive community activities.
“We look forward to participating in Operation Chill each year, as these coupons provide an excellent tool for our officers to encourage responsible behavior within our community,” said Chief M. Douglas Scott.
Since the program began in 1995, Arlington County officers have distributed tens of thousands of Slurpee coupons to children.
Older ‘Quota’ Memos Released — Arlington County Police Chief M. Douglas Scott continues to insist that the police department does not and never did have a quota system, despite new memos being unearthed which set “goals,” “expectations,” or “levels of production” for arrests and tickets. [WUSA 9, Washington Post]
Documentary About Arlington Freedom Rider — A documentary is being made about Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, an long-time Arlington resident and one of the original Freedom Riders who fought against racial segregation in the South. [YouTube]
Contest Sends APS Teacher to Volcano — Gunston Middle School teacher John Stewart will be taking an all-expenses-paid educational trip to Mt. Kilauea in Hawaii after winning a contest sponsored by Wonder bread. While in Hawaii, at the country’s most active volcano, Stewart will “provide an interactive educational experience to his 8th grade students at Gunston Middle School, which will also receive 25 free tablet computers for the remote lesson,” according to a press release. [7Wonders of the USA Teacher Tour]
Flickr pool photo by Alex
An upcoming show at Synetic Theater has been canceled because of a snag with obtaining visas for the performers.
Light in the Darkness, which was supposed to run from today through March 26, has been canceled. Three performances of The Voice of Anne Frank scheduled for March 14 and 19 have also been canceled.
The performers are part of Tantehorse Theatre Company from Prague. Four of the six artists have experienced delays in receiving travel visas, and therefore can’t make it into the United States.
Due to Tantehorse Theatre Company’s other commitments and engagements at Synetic Theater, the shows will not be rescheduled. Staff members hope to be able to bring the show to the area sometime in the future.
Synetic Theater is working to contact patrons with tickets for the canceled show to offer refunds or the option to attend a different performance at Synetic.
A reader, Christine, wrote in to ask about a parking ticket she recently received in Courthouse. Here’s her story:
I’m writing because I’d like to find out if any of your other readers have had the same issue I ran into last week. I received a $50 parking ticket for pulling front-end first into an angled parking space in Courthouse. These are the spots right next to the big AMC lot (cannot remember what street). Apparently the parking spaces were “Back-in Only”, which I failed to notice (admittedly this is my own fault). What I don’t understand is why Arlington is charging me $50 for pulling into a spot facing the wrong direction?! It’s not as if I was parking in a zone I didn’t have a permit for, or parked over a line taking up two spaces. It also seems like a pretty easy mistake to make, considering the street is 2-way and there is only parking on one side.
I’m not saying I don’t deserve a ticket (though I believe a warning would have been more appropriate considering this whole “back-in only” idea is not exactly prevalent), but $50 just seems insane.
We reached out to Arlington County Department of Environmental Services spokesperson Shannon Whalen McDaniel for the answer to why the spaces are back-in only. Here’s her response:
It is a safety issue. Back-in spaces are generally safer because of improved visibility when leaving the space. On 14th Street, which has a slope to it, safety is further enhanced because the cars would roll into the curb if the brakes failed.
Is a $50 fine too much, or does safety take precedence?
Update on 1/13/11 — WUSA 9 did a follow-up story to this article. Check it out here.
Everybody knows that parking enforcement is strict in Arlington. So strict, apparently, that even this Crown Vic with an Arlington Police vest inside got ticketed on Clarendon Boulevard, near the Whole Foods.
We’ve also heard of federal government vehicles getting ticketed.
Unanswered question: If it was indeed a police vehicle, will Arlington use tax dollars to pay the fine to themselves?
If you run the wrong red light after midnight tonight, you’ll be getting a $50 ticket in the mail.
Arlington’s new red light cameras, which have been issuing warnings for the past month, will now be issuing fines. The infraction will be treated as a civil offense, meaning it won’t go on your driving record.
The cameras are located at the following intersections:
- Eastbound Lee Highway at North Lynn Street
- Southbound Ft. Myer Drive at westbound Lee Highway
- Westbound Lee Highway at Washington Boulevard
- Northbound North Glebe Road at Fairfax Drive
If successful, the county has indicated that it may opt to install additional cameras. Under state law, the county is permitted to install up to 20 red light cameras.
A ticket for parking at an expired meter is going up to $35. It was previously $25.
The fine for most other parking violations will increase from $40 to $50.
The county issued more than 225,000 parking tickets last year, bringing in $7.4 million, according to the Sun Gazette. The new fines are expected to generate an additional $1.5 million per year.
Also Thursday, ART bus fares and STAR transit fares will increase.