A CSE alumnus is making waves in Hollywood because he may be pointing the way to the future of movie-going. Ameesh Paleja (B.S. '01) finished his undergraduate degree in computer science at UC San Diego. He is now the co-founder and CEO of Atom Tickets, based in Santa Monica, Calif. According to Paleja (below), Atom Tickets is building "amazing products that aim to delight customers," and some Hollywood heavyweights have signed on as investors in the startup, including Disney, 20th Century Fox, and Lionsgate.
Paleja founded Atom Tickets with Matthew Bakal, a former Lionsgate executive who is Atom’s executive chairman. In 2014, the two set up shop adjacent to the Lionsgate movie studio headquarters in Santa Monica.
After graduating from CSE, Paleja worked for two years at Microsoft as a software engineer handling the Windows firewall platform and IP security. Then from 2003 to 2014 he cycled through a series of senior engineering jobs at the rapidly-growing Amazon.com. He focused on building software and services like Prime Instant Video,Cloud Drive, and the Kindle product line. Paleja then became the founding employee of Amazon’s digital R&D facility in Southern California (Irvine), where he oversaw more than 550 employees. He had the title of Director, running the product and engineering division for Amazon's Appstore, when he decided to step down and start over.
In 2014, Paleja co-founded Atom Tickets with Matthew Bakal, a former Lionsgate executive who is Atom’s executive chairman. Atom Tickets is a first-of-its-kind theatrical mobile ticketing platform and app, allowing moviegoers to skip lines by preordering tickets and concessions, and invite their friends without having to pay for their tickets via its social invitation features.
“Going to movies with a group of friends can be a hassle, between picking a day and show-time, finding a theater, and a lot of times, one person has to buy tickets for the group which can expensive,” said Paleja. “Our product is designed to make that process easier. We are taking a more modern, thoughtful and customer-friendly approach.”
The Atom Tickets app (left) launched in Southern California (including Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties), and it's rapidly expanding in other parts of the country. The company says it will expand to 1,000 theaters – or 15,000 screens - by the end of the year, thanks to partnerships with Regal Cinemas and AMC Theatres, the country’s largest cinema chains. That total is roughly half the number of screens as the market leaders Fandango (27,000 screens) and MovieTickets.com (29,000).
Paleja doesn't appear worried, because Atom Tickets is using technology that provides a much more dynamic user interface and environment for movie-goers, including personalization, recommendation and advance ticketing for social connections.
“Those companies are media companies attacking the ticketing problem, we are a tech company attacking the ticket problem, so that is the fundamental difference,” says Paleja, referring to Fandango and MovieTickets.com. “Before we started Atom Tickets, we found that there hadn't been a lot of innovation in digital ticketing in the last 15 years, so we saw a huge opportunity for disruption.”