Randy Cohen - CEO, TicketCity
Austin Business Journal
by Colin Pope Editor
Randy Cohen bursts into his corner office off North MoPac Expressway with as much energy and excitement as a 12-year-old. And it’s fitting. Once inside, he is surrounded by comforts not cherished by the typical CEO; the Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots set, the Disney drawings on the wall and the Shelby Cobra car model.
“You’ve got to see this,” he quips as he grabs the computer mouse on his desk.
For the next 10 minutes Cohen gushes over the book he just wrote. But not “Ticket to the Limit,” Cohen’s motivational book for aspiring entrepreneurs that just hit store shelves. Instead, he unexpectedly swoons over “DD and Daddy’s Big Night Out” and shows off the ladybug illustrations that will be carried through the children’s book when it is published soon.
“Don’t get me wrong, ‘Ticket to the Limit’ is an exciting read and I’m urging everyone in the business world to go out and buy that now because it’s going to be an inspiration to a lot of people,” he said. “But ‘DD and Daddy’s Big Night Out’ is something different and special to me on another level. I’d much rather spend my day reading a story to second graders throwing spitballs at me.”
Even though Cohen holds the CEO title at TicketCity — a event-ticket brokerage he started in 1989 that now rakes in more than $30 million a year — it doesn’t stand for chief executive officer anymore. Rather, Cohen is the chief energizing officer and lets others do the heavy corporate lifting. That gives Cohen time to crank out ideas and do what he does best: pump his people and prospects up with his boisterous demeanor and out-of-the-box ideas.
“I’ve always been a big kid at heart,” Cohen said. “People may call me too cocky or fun-loving but that’s way more fun than the alternative. Think about it. We have to mind our Ps and Qs all the time. That sucks. Life is too short to not enjoy yourself.”
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
Clap my hands and yell, “Woo-hoo, hello, world.”
What are you doing after work today?
It’s the first football game at Westlake so I’ve got to be there for the kids, but I need to swing by Hula Hut to wish someone a happy birthday first.
What’s the toughest part of starting a business?
All the work. That’s a big part of my book. I share how I worked 18 hours a day for the first four to five years, and how that ruined my marriage. You have to find balance.
Tell me something not many people know.
I’m still a virgin. Nah [laughing]. I’m pretty much an open book.
Where do you go when you need to get away?
I have a Man Cave on the bottom floor of my home with old video games — Galaga, Pac-Man, Asteroids, you name it.
What’s the best concert you’ve been to?
Van Halen fairly recently. I took my seventh-graders, and to be honest I had more fun watching the kids than the band.
Who are your mentors?
Rob Solomon, Sam Goodner, Verne Harnish and Roy Spence.
What’s the most influential book you’ve read?
“The World is Flat” by Thomas L. Friedman and “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.
What’s the best invention in the past 50 years?
The iPhone. Everyone’s on that thing. It’s amazing.
What’s bookmarked on your computer?
I don’t know. Whatever it is I don’t use them.
I’m controlling and don’t take no for an answer.
The best aspect of you?
That I don’t take no for an answer [laughing]. So I guess persistence would be my best trait.
Tell me about something you really want to do.
I want to start a charitable foundation. People donate tickets, then we match up CEOs with underprivileged kids and they go out for an inspirational day at the ball game.
Talk radio or music in the car?
Mostly talk radio.
What’s your favorite thing about Austin?
It’s still a small town where everybody knows your name.
Do you consider yourself an advice giver or seeker?
I love learning, so I’m a seeker.
What was your first car?
A Ferrari. No, I’m just kidding. I think it was an old Toyota Corona.
Do you prefer Saturday nights or Sunday mornings?
It depends on what’s going on on Saturday night. But Sunday mornings are always for me because I can wake up, look out at [Lake Travis], and find some peace and serenity.
Do you prefer to go to parties or host them?
Definitely host them.
If you couldn’t live in Austin, where would you live?
Probably Seattle suits me best.
Children: Alec, 15; Derek, 15; Kelsey, 8
Education: Bachelor’s degree in marketing from University of Texas, 1987
Hobbies: Fishing, traveling, exercise