A New Way to Pay: GlobeSherpa’s Game-Changing Mobile Ticketing Design

By now you’ve met almost all of our awesome speakers for Delight 2012. From a basketball team to independent eyewear brand, our lineup is truly aiming to pack a punch with the best of the best in disruptive, delightful experience design.
Last (but of course not least) in our Speaker Meet and Greet series is Nat Parker of GlobeSherpa. Nat’s doing exciting things with mobile ticketing just next door to our Portland headquarters – in fact, under the same roof! – so we’re very excited to share the innovative things he’s doing. Check out his interview with Gene Ehrbar, our Director of Mobile Solutions, below:

Folks may not be familiar with GlobeSherpa, given how young of a brand you are — what is GlobeSherpa, and how did you get started?

GlobeSherpa is a startup software company based in Portland that specializes in building mobile ticketing and payment solutions for transit. We got started when my business partner, Michael Gray and I met in the Masters of International Management program at Portland State University. This was in 2007 when the iPhone first debuted and we were both fascinated by its seemingly endless possibilities. I had written a business plan for GlobeSherpa for a marketing class we had – at the time the idea was for a user-generated travel guide on smartphones that took advantage of GPS, rich media content, and social networking (I assure you this was a novel idea back then).

Over many beers, Michael and I decided to pursue the business and dug into the larger application market, moving from travel guide to investigating four broader opportunities for B2B apps – travel, news and entertainment, real estate, and the public sector.

After PSU Michael and I worked full-time jobs to pay the bills, but were always committed to GlobeSherpa – working nights and weekends to get things going. After over a year moonlighting as entrepreneurs, we finally decided that to make it work, we needed to fully commit to pursuing our dream. We quit out jobs, raised $500k from local angel investors, hired a stellar engineering and design team, and built the product [for TriMet] that will now go into service in Portland in the Spring of 2013.

Sounds like you poured your blood, sweat and tears into this venture – we’re excited to see it being brought to the mainstream this spring! How would you say “delight” fits into the GlobeSherpa story?

We believe “delight” is the perfect way to describe the relief and enjoyment TriMet riders will experience when they buy a ticket from our application instead of wrestling with a ticket vending machine or waiting in line at a retailer. The fact that our solution no longer requires exact change, that you can buy a ticket anywhere at any time is an enormous improvement over the status quo. Look at any ticket vending machine and you’ll see customer after customer react with disdain when their credit cards aren’t accepted, when a machine is broken down, or when they can’t get a ticket in time for a departing train. We think the ease and simplicity of mobile ticketing will not only delight riders, but will delight TriMet and other transit systems with a lower cost of fare collection and happier riders.

Can’t wait to see it in action! So, what do you hope attendees can take away from your session on Thursday?

I think they will see just how nuanced and complicated it is to design an effective user design experience that accounts for all scenarios while not diluting the most common one. For example, we had to answer the question, “How can we make it easy for a Mom who wants to buy a ticket for herself and her two kids while not over complicating the power user who shows his Month pass each on the way to and from work?” I think attendees will also walk away confident that government and public sector clients have vast opportunities for improvement and delight.

Those are both really valid points. Looking forward to hearing more. What are you most looking forward to about the event?

I’m looking forward to hearing from all the other fantastic companies at the event, networking with smart people who we can learn from, and sharing GlobeSherpa’s story.


In the meantime, here’s a preview of mobile tickets for public transit, from the GlobeSherpa website. If you were planning to attend Delight 2012, now’s the time to sign up — we’ve got just a few seats left! See you soon!

  • jeffcram

    Hi Nat – Thank you for speaking at Delight 2012. Folks were buzzing about your presentation. Look forward to getting the video on the site shortly.

  • This was one of my favorite sessions at Delight. Ironically, immediately after the event I was standing at a TriMet literally watching a group of about a dozen tourists feverishly trying to figure out how to purchase tickets.

  • Patricia Miller

    Great movement into digital space for an incon transit system.