Manick Bhan and Angela McCrory
By Katie Jansen
For Manick Bhan ’09, self-creation has always been important.
The neuroscience and chemistry major taught himself how to code and made himself into a tech entrepreneur as the CEO, CTO and founder of Rukkus, a ticket sales company that aggregates available tickets from various online sources.
Even while still at Duke, Bhan was interested in self-teaching. He studied up on financial markets and began trading on his own using money he made while gigging in his band.
This experience helped him land an investment banking job at Goldman Sachs right after graduation. He spent about four years there and said he loved it, but he wanted something more.
“It’s important for us to think we have some agency or have created something,” he said.
In his job at Goldman Sachs, Bhan was helping tech companies raise capital, where he got to see the ticketing space up close and personal through his work with companies like StubHub.
Meanwhile, the next phase of tech companies was going public – companies that would turn out to be huge, like Facebook. It made Bhan think about starting something of his own.
He recruited Angela McCrory, a friend of his since they were both freshmen at Duke. McCrory had majored in art history and visual arts and was just graduating from architecture school. A third co-founder, Joe Messineo, also joined the team.
Bhan said they were interested in aggregation models, which was already being done in the airline flight space but not in the event ticketing space.
“There’s so many places where events are stored on the Internet, and if you really want to go to them you have to find them,” Bhan said, listing Stubhub, Eventbrite and Ticketfly as a few.
Bhan, a musician who plays violin, guitar and piano, knew he was interested in Rukkus offering concert tickets, but the platform also aggregates tickets for pro sporting events and certain theater performances.
“We had big ideas, big dreams, but no skillset really,” he said. “Not the right skillset to be successful.”
So they both started learning to code – and as they hired employees, they taught them to code, as well.
That was an important part of Rukkus’ culture early on, Bhan said.
“It didn’t matter what skillset you came in with,” Bhan said. “It just mattered whether you wanted to transform your skillset.”
Although Bhan said he made a “very pathetic, terrible CTO” at first, but after nine months to a year, their products were getting better. Rukkus officially launched in 2013.
Rukkus partners with ticket buyers who sponsor teams in exchange for tickets. This partnership allows Rukkus to offer tickets at wholesale prices.
The platform’s Seat360 function also helps ticket buyers identify exactly which tickets they’re purchasing, using McCrory’s design skills to build a virtual reality technology that offers users a panoramic view of major event venues.
Most ticketing websites, Bhan explained, offer only a “crappy, 2-D map” that isn’t interactive.
The team behind Rukkus has grown to 20 people, and the product has had to pivot several times along the way, McCrory said.
For example, Rukkus used to focus on curation and would suggest events to users based on what they were listening to on Spotify. But that proved to be a hard sell, and now Rukkus focuses on a robust search function so users can find exactly which event they’re looking for.
While they were at Duke, Bhan said, the door to entrepreneurship wasn’t even open; McCrory agreed, saying she had no awareness of entrepreneurship while at Duke.
Bhan said he wishes that more resources for entrepreneurship existed while he was at Duke, but the most important thing for him was creating his own structure.
If you learn to teach yourself and to become resourceful, Bhan said, you can use this skill over and over again.
To learn more about Rukkus, click here.
To read about more Duke entrepreneurs, click here.
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