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Parker: Showpass designs office for staff to enjoy

A good test of the success of a company can be found in the amount of additional space it needs

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Not many of the staff at Showpass opt to work at home with the perks that founder Lucas McCarthy provides them at the office.

McCarthy is a born entrepreneur with a good understanding of human needs. He launched his first company when he was 14, designing logos and websites for online video game teams — way before online gambling was popular. He sold that and earned his degree in finance at the Haskayne School of Business, expecting to settle down to a career in downtown financial towers.

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He says it only took him two interviews to determine that world would never satisfy him. So he launched another company to relieve people of the lineup time at restaurants. He says it worked well, but before long the “big boys” took over and he closed shop.

What next?

McCarthy had long thought of a better way to purchase tickets to events and, with the help of capital from enthusiastic and influential investors, the idea of Showpass was born in 2014 at his kitchen table and nurtured in a small office in Victoria Park.

A good test of the success of a company can be found in the amount of additional space it needs. Staff increased and Showpass journeyed from Victoria Park to Inglewood, and then into the Edison Building. Peter Mayerchak of Colliers International came on board and helped another move into the TransAlta complex, and needing still more space negotiated the third floor of Heritage Square.

The latest move was a big plus in many ways. Rents are much cheaper in the suburbs than downtown and McCarthy had always provided parking for all of his staff. As numbers grew, he says staff parking cost almost as much as his office lease. Driving to the new space is easier, it’s close to the Heritage LRT station and he has the use of four levels of free parking.

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The building owner, Walia Group of Toronto, was receptive to tenant improvement requests and provided huge help in renovating space for a massive new kitchen that required $450,000 of HVAC changes. The top floor space also includes a west-facing patio and outdoor dog run.

Staff count is currently 100 — all of them served free breakfast and lunch prepared by the company chef from the open kitchen. A separate coffee shop is also well used throughout the day.

Andrea Freeman, founding partner of Make Design Lab, created pleasant open spaces along with a number of more intimate themed decorated working rooms, including Lego, guitar, sports and candy (where more treats are available from tubular dispensers) and a larger jungle room for quiet relaxation. Staff also have use of six phone booths for personal use.

The lease is for 30,000 square feet. Currently, Showpass resides in 20,000 square feet but McCarthy says continued growth will soon fill the rest.

Showpass is in business to support event organizers with their ticket sales. It manages online ticket platforms for local and a growing number of international clients. If you buy tickets to organizations such as Spruce Meadows, Heritage Park, Ranchman’s Cookhouse or many events in the BMO Centre, they will be through Showpass. But almost 25 per cent of the clients are in the U.S.; 20 million tickets are sold internationally through Showpass every year.

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McCarthy says his company designs its platforms with the customer in mind, making buying a ticket a good and easy experience.

A second platform takes advantage of the fact that millions of people are looking at his website for things to do, so Showpass also deals directly with consumers to help them to buy tickets to events of their choosing.

Heritage Square has turned out to be a good investment for McCarthy. He says looking after staff is important to his business — it’s not too difficult to recruit from within our tech industry, but tough to compete with individuals who prefer to stay at home and work remotely for a Florida company that pays in U.S. dollars.

David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at calgaryherald.com/business. He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at info@davidparker.ca

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