With a BS in computer science and a career specialized in enterprise software, it didn’t take Charles Hajj a very long time to realize that he had to create his own company. “There was always this idea that I had to do something of my own and it haunted me. I felt that there was opportunity in software development, and I jumped right in without thinking much about it,” explains Charles. That’s how Grapes was born.
The first major project for Grapes was in ticketing – a solution which eventually became its core business. In 2010, they were commissioned to build a ticketing solution for Virgin Megastore tickets.virginmegastore.me in 5 countries in the MENA region. “We were able to create a solution for Virgin that can serve a very complex environment for ticketing. With no previous experience in the industry and a delicate project at hand, we learned the hard way, with pitfalls and major challenges,” confirms Charles.
In 2014, Grapes put its product to use for the first time in Lebanon for Librairie Antoine’s ticketing operation, Antoine Ticketing www.antoineticketing.com. Grapes accommodated their needs and today they have reached a well-rounded solution that can serve different types of clients. “So far we have sold more than 2 million tickets on this platform. This is not a small number! I could have never imagined us reaching this volume without any serious problems and only minor hiccups,” explains Charles excitedly. “Last year we moved forward to acquiring a startup company in the UK, FusionTicket Solutions Limited www.fusionticket.com a company specialised in ticketing on the cloud. This step was necessary for our expansion not only in terms of advancing the platform but it also gave us a stepping stone to the European market.”
“I got to a point in my career in Lebanon where I felt that I had reached a ceiling, while I had different dreams and ambitions. Being an entrepreneur at that time was not straightforward, the ecosystem was not well defined. Many people told me that I would fail. But if you have a true passion for what you do, people will start hearing about it. It was through our work quality and reputation that we got our first projects,” recalls Charles.
Grapes currently focuses on three services: Ticketing, with an extremely flexible platform called SquareMaze, Web development, and digital services ranging from marketing to social media. “We are shifting from a service based company to a product oriented company” adds Charles.
“Today we have a vision of how we want to differentiate ourselves in the ticketing world. We believe that the whole experience of attending an event – the before and after are as important as buying a ticket: how do you get there, how do you get in and how do you leave the venue when the event is over. The social aspect is also vital: who of your friends are there, sharing your sentiments for the concert, and connecting with artists. When you think about it like this, ticketing becomes an experience, before, during and after the event. Our aim is to completely change the way people do ticketing.”