I had the pleasure of interviewing Micah Hollingworth, CEO and Co-Founder of Broadw.ai. With two decades of experience in creating, operating and marketing live events, Micah Hollingworth is an innovator in the entertainment space. With Broadw.ai, Micah has recreated the audience experience, moving the customer conversation from the box office window to the web. Previously, Micah acted as the Vice President of Company Operations for Jujamcyn and General Manager of the Hilton Theatre in New York (now named the Lyric Theatre.)
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
From an early age, I’ve been an entrepreneur, which always dovetailed nicely with theatre and live events. Through college and my early years in New York City, I fulfilled this urge by “putting on a show!” As my professional experience grew, I found myself looking for new ways to connect and fill gaps throughout the business.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Working primarily in theatre, my professional life has been quite eventful. One gem comes from 2005, the week of the official Opening Night for the Broadway musical Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang. We were doing some testing of our fire system. Being a newer theatre, the Hilton Theatre has a deluge curtain, instead of a more traditional fire curtain. Unfortunately, the deluge curtain was accidentally tripped during testing and proceeded to dump several thousand gallons of water on stage and into the orchestra pit. It was chaos, and we had 25 hours to restore the theatre so we could hold our next performance. You learn the most about yourself and your team in moments of crisis. With tremendous effort, from a huge team, we did it. I learned a lot about myself and how to lead a team during that very long day.
Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
We’re building the infrastructure and necessary connections so that the ticket buying experience can be supported and improved using AI, Machine Learning and NLP. Our goal is to simplify and improve the experience of purchasing tickets on the devices we live with today (smartphones) as well as those we will come to rely on in the future (voice technology.)
How do you think this might change the world?
Ease of use generates adoption, which means more people attending live events. Attending and participating at live events is a fundamental human need.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
While our goal is ease of use, we need to refrain from using this technology to make assumptions about our audiences. We need to focus on providing discovery, rather than dictating outcomes for the sake of simplicity.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
Our tech partner Satis.fi came to my office to demo a couple of cool new tools they had built. One of the more interesting applications was an in-stadium concierge/customer service tool. In the middle of the demonstration, we ask them to stop. We realized that we could use that technology to sell tickets similar to how a fan experiences buying tickets at a box office window. We talked briefly and concluded the meeting. We immediately set upon putting together a plan to create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) working with Satis.fi.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
At this point, it’s just a matter of time. More and more conversations and transactions are being done with AI supported Chat Bots. As voice becomes more integrated into work environments, use of intelligent agents to help with any kind of task will explode and consumers will expect all businesses to provide this level of service.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
It’s early days still. We have two Broadway shows live on our service (Anastasia and Come From Away) with another three slated to launch shortly. You’ll hear and see more in 2019, especially in regards to voice.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am extremely fortunate as I have a great deal of support from the place I call home — Broadway. My mentors and investors are some of the industries most significant players and are people I have worked with for over 20 years. When I was fundraising I had several conversations where the investor stated they were unsure about the opportunity, but they were certain that they wanted to invest in me.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
First and foremost by focusing on my family and teaching my children that being kind and having empathy is important. I want them to engage with the world while being focused on these qualities. In my professional life, I attempt to do the same.
What are your top “ I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.
It takes time. Thinking through the opportunity and building a business plan, talking through and testing your idea with mentors, raising capital, building a team, executing the vision and then working tirelessly to improve it.
It all takes time. Be committed and find ways to enjoy the journey.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
All levels of education, public schools through graduate programs, should be free of charge. Additionally, participation in arts programs should be encouraged, if not mandatory, during one’s studies.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel.” In my earlier roles, leading teams, and now in my new role as a vendor, our clients must feel supported.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Imagine your very best box office or customer service representative, now scalable and able to be placed digitally anywhere — web, social media, voice, etc. We’ve done the heavy lift of integrating with ticketing systems and are now able to provide our service to live events across the globe. With every conversation, we get smarter. The data generated during these conversations will provide an opportunity for our clients to transform their businesses by providing personalization and customization to an ever more demanding consumer.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can find me on twitter @mhbroadway or at www.broadw.ai.
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.