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Scam-free ticketing app coming to Minnesota in the fall

Student Seats sold over $1.4 million worth of tickets in 2023.
Image by Amaya Battle
Minnesota is one of 13 Big Ten schools associated with Student Seats.

In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, two students were left needing partners for their computer programming class project. Little did anyone know, the strangers would build a program benefiting 30,000 college students across the country. 

At the end of their semester, co-founder Jared Waller asked his classmate and partner John Ritondo if he wanted to join him in launching a website for tickets. 

Waller saw how expensive sports tickets had become on Facebook after the COVID-19 pandemic and did not want others to worry about being scammed when attending college athletic events. 

Waller and Ritondo started Student Seats in 2020 for University of Alabama students to sell and buy tickets. Waller said in their first semester they sold seven tickets. Now, over three years later, Student Seats has expanded to 43 colleges across the nation, including the University of Minnesota. 

Student Seats has operated at Power Four schools like the University of Southern California, North Carolina, Duke and Florida and smaller schools like Cal Poly, North Dakota and Colorado State. 

The 2021 Alabama graduates, Waller and Ritondo, quit their jobs to put more time into Student Seats, according to Ritondo. 

Charlie Pietz, a 2024 University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate joined the Student Seats team as Chief Marketing Officer two years ago. He helped Student Seats grow to over 5,000 users in Wisconsin with his work on campus and social media. 

“When I first started I would do donut handouts,” Pietz said. “I would hand out free donuts and get people to sign up.”

Pietz said some schools do not require students to buy tickets for certain sporting events. Most Big Ten schools allow students to buy tickets for multiple sporting events, while most SEC schools only sell football tickets.

“Big Ten schools really provide more tickets to go around, that’s why we started targeting the Big Ten,” Pietz said.

Unlike programs like SeatGeek, which requires a 10% service fee to sell a ticket, Student Seats requires no fee to sell. 

“We had to add an incentive for (sellers) to list on Student Seats and have an incentive where they wouldn’t need to list it anywhere else,” Ritondo said. 

Like any start-up, Student Seats faced its setbacks. In the fall of 2021, PayPal banned Ritondo and Waller from using the platform. 

“PayPal locked up $30,000, and a lot of that money wasn’t ours,” Ritondo said. “I took out a loan and got a job working at a country club to pay off the (buyers) and sellers.”

Despite the challenges, they never quit. 

“We set out on a mission to solve (ticket scamming), and we knew there would be roadblocks,” Ritondo said. “Students were using it, frankly, they needed it.”

Ritondo and Waller pivoted to a new way to hold their seller and buyers’ money. They chose TrustAp, which allows money from the buyer to be held in a secure account until the ticket is received.

Student Seats has a tiered system for purchasing fees. The larger the ticket price, the larger the fee. 

For tickets under $25, there is a 0% charge and a $4.98 fee. $25 to $50 tickets have a 5% buyer’s charge with a $4.98 fee. For tickets over $50, there is a buyer’s charge of 8% and a $7.50 fee. 

As former college students, the Students Seats team understands that over-the-top fees are not always manageable. 

“We don’t want to be like these greedy, giant, monopoly ticket companies, so we wanted to make the fees low,” Waller said. “We know how much losing money on a ticket can suck.” 

If a buyer pays for a ticket and never receives it, they get all their money back, including the purchasing fee. 

“We only take a fee if the money is successfully protected and (the buyer) gets the ticket,” Waller said. 

The future goal of Student Seats is to expand to everyone regardless of whether you are in college or not. Waller said their projected goal is to launch Safe Seats in 2025 for anyone to use for any event.

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