Rijswijk-based ICT entrepreneur Hassan Tagi (55) aims to make a national and international breakthrough with ShowBird, an online booking platform for live entertainment. Tagi, who came to the Netherlands from Turkey with his parents at the age of six, founded ShowBird in 2017. The idea behind it is similar to platforms like Booking.com and Airbnb. "It's a bit of a hobby that got out of hand," says the small business owner.
From clowns, music bands, DJs, and wedding officiants to stand-up comedians, stunt teams, and acrobats, the platform brings together artists who perform live entertainment with companies or individuals who want to book such acts for birthday parties, weddings, or corporate events. Recently, speakers and presenters can also be booked directly.
Artists and speakers can list themselves for free on ShowBird and negotiate directly with the client. ShowBird receives a 10% fee from the artist upon booking, while the customer pays nothing to the platform. ShowBird handles marketing, communication, contract handling, and payment for both the artist and the customer. At the time of the interview, a person from Wassenaar is booking a French chanson singer for a party.
Anyone who wants to book Ilse de Lange, Guus Meeuwis, Jan Smit, or Maan for a private or corporate event can do so through ShowBird. "The platform is growing rapidly," says Tagi. "There are eight thousand artists affiliated with it, and we already have 25,000 customers, of which nine thousand are businesses. There are about a thousand bookings per month. We have only been commercially live for just over a year. We expect to turn a profit next year." Customers include banks such as ING and Rabo, hospitality and hotel chains, business clubs, holiday parks, casinos, healthcare institutions, and platforms like Booking.com and Bol.com.
Tagi founded ItaQ in 2001 before ShowBird, an IT staffing and consulting company of which he is still the sole owner. ItaQ, with forty employees, provides around six hundred interim managers to almost all government ministries, organizations such as the Tax and Customs Administration, and major companies like Philips and VodafoneZiggo. Due to its rapid growth, the company has received the FD Gazellen Award six times. Tagi invested part of the money earned from ItaQ into ShowBird. Laughing, he says, "ItaQ makes the money, ShowBird spends it."
Personal experiences were the catalyst for the founding of ShowBird. "We had a party for two hundred clients of ItaQ on Scheveningen beach one Friday. It was quite a search for live entertainment on the internet. Good information about prices was lacking, you didn't know what you could do with your own budget, and you weren't called back quickly. It was a hassle and lacked transparency. The taxi, hotel, and travel industries have shown that it can be different, easier, and more transparent. That's when the idea came up to do it ourselves."
Various intermediaries and booking agencies, which he considers too expensive and non-transparent, were not happy with the arrival of ShowBird. Tagi says, "We are disrupting heavily."
Although ShowBird is the only platform with more than 45 different categories of live entertainment, there is plenty of competition, although not all parties operate in the same segment. For example, the Amsterdam-based musician marketplace Gigstarter focuses almost exclusively on the live music market. Another booking platform for musicians, Plugify, went bankrupt during the COVID-19 pandemic. ShowBird acquired it. Tagi says, "Plugify had a strong position in the private wedding market with two thousand musicians. We were underrepresented in that area."
Tagi is the majority shareholder of the niche company, but recently five other smaller investors have joined, including presenter Wilfred Genee and former race car driver Robert Doornbos.
In the coming years, ShowBird aims to break through internationally. The Turkish-Dutch entrepreneur says he is already in talks with potential new investors. "First, we need to capture the Dutch market. Then we will expand to Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and continue to grow through acquisitions. But that will involve much larger investments than those made so far."