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Instagram seems to have cursed Web-first startups. The runaway success of the company and the fact that it only launched Web functionality last month sends a message to startups: Don’t bother with the Web, it’s over.

Which is precisely why Seatgeek counter-intuitively took the opposite approach. The ticketing service, which makes choosing one’s seat for sporting events and concerts user-friendly, has operated without a mobile app for three years. “We thought ‘being mobile’ was vogue for startups but didn’t drive conversions,” founder Jack Groetzinger says. The site, which has 1.8 million users and turned a profit in October, had very few mobile sales.

Then one day, one of Seatgeek’s engineers pushed a bug that took away Seakgeek’s special sauce, its interactive seat map. Conversions dropped by 70 percent and Groetzinger realized mobile was actually a huge missed opportunity. “We started building the app the next week,” he says.

SG-App
The fruits of that labor have launched today. Seatgeek now offers ticket buyers a Google Maps-like functionality for choosing their seats. It’s a big enough improvement on the flat stadium charts offered by most online ticketing services that those services partner with Seatgeek. Ebay, Ticketsnow (owned by Ticketmaster), NFL Ticket Exchange by Ticketmaster, Ticketfly, and Stubhub all partner with the startup.

That’s because their mobile offerings leave something wanting, Groetzinger says. “Mobile ticketing right now is where photo sharing was at iOS 2.” They mostly offer dumbed-down versions of their regular websites, with very long tables of tickets and events. That works great when the ticket you seek has only one or two options. When the options reach into the thousands, it’s a little cumbersome. Further, Apple’s Passbook stores tickets but doesn’t actually help you buy said tickets. Seatgeek wants to do for event ticketing what Hipmunk’s app has done for airline ticketing.

Nothing is stopping Ticketmaster and its many subsidiaries from making a better app, but when you’re the dominant player, no one is forcing you to either. As an aggregator of tickets, Seatgeek needs these companies to populate its inventory. Now users have one more way to get to it.

Seatgeek is backed by Lerer Ventures, PKS Capital, Trisiras Group, Stage One Capital, NYC Seed, Founder Collective, Ashton Kutcher, Red Swan, and Mousse Partners.