If you don’t aspire to one day swim in pools of money you’re either a) lying or b) pre-fame Lorde – even now she’s probably not far off owning jet planes, islands, and tigers on a gold leash. If you want to make million$ and don’t have that killer voice, all you need is one simple idea. And for husband and wife team Julia and Kevin Hartz, that idea was tickets.
Frustrated by the power that big ticketing companies had over the
industry, the duo created a system that anyone from knitting nannas to global charity
organisations could use. Since inception in 2006, Eventbrite has
sold over 165 million tickets in 187 countries, and raked in more than
$2 billion in gross ticket sales. Now worth a cool one billion dollars, Eventbrite is a hell of a success story and so we caught up with the co-founder and president, Julia, ahead of their Pedestrian Coach session to get some tips on raking in the cash (and running a successful business while doing it).
Firstly, why online ticket sales?
Renaud, and I are passionate about democratizing industries that are
devoid of great technology and fraught with bad customer service and
poor user experiences. Kevin had a background in payments and
democratizing big, archaic industries (co-founded Xoom), and we wanted
to apply this experience by helping to address a huge and underserved
When people think of ticketing, they think of large
concerts or sporting events ticketed by what we call traditional
ticketing companies. While big, this encompasses only a subset of the
market for live experiences. When we founded Eventbrite in 2006, there
was no technology available for everyday people interested in hosting
their own events. People were literally cobbling their events together
with Excel spreadsheets and paper/pencil.
What’s been the hardest thing so far?
of the biggest challenges came in late 2009. The staff had grown to 30
people, but still wasn’t so big that we couldn’t fit round a table. Then
we secured a round of funding and it was time to scale the team to take
Eventbrite to the next level.
We created the plan to go from 30
to 100 in a year. It’s an extremely competitive environment in Silicon
Valley so finding the right people was a challenge. We also had to find a
way to maintain a good company culture and be sure we didn’t lose our
identity as we grew rapidly.
We didn’t want build the happiest
company, we wanted to build a sustainable company culture. To do this,
you have to have a strong philosophy and then let people do with it what
they will and be OK with that. So during that time of rapid growth I
focused on solidifying and communicating our vision and providing
encouragement and support as needed, rather than trying to manufacture a
culture. I also spent lot of time talking to employees about what kind
of company they wanted to build. From there our company culture grew
At what point were you able to stop and think, “wow, we’ve actually created something successful”?
had a lot of exciting milestones along the way. Our most recent
milestone was passing $2 billion in gross ticket sales at the end of
last year, where we experienced a phenomenal 25% growth in the previous
six months. And processing $1B in 2013 alone. But what really excites
us the most is when we talk to our organizers who have used Eventbrite
as an enablement platform – either to share their passion with others as
a hobby, or to make a living using our suite of tools and services. We
have countless stories of these people with the make-it-happen spirit –
and these are the people we come to work everyday to serve.
Is it hard to keep your work life and your home life separate?
the beginning we didn’t separate work and home life at all and that was
a benefit. When you’re starting a company there’s very little time to
think about anything else. Then we had our first child and that created a
natural balance for us. You want to take time and focus on your child.
No questions about it, we live very binary lives. Our family is our
love and Eventbrite is our passion. And we wouldn’t have it any other
way. One of the main benefits of working together is that we’re on the
same page all the time. We know what is going on professionally without
even having to talk about it. We know when to support each other and
lean in for some help.
You’ve achieved a lot since starting the company, where do you hope to be in another five years?
know that a lot of consumers come back to Eventbrite to discover events
they want to attend, so we want to continue to grow our inventory of
events to give people a much richer and hyper-relevant experience. We
also want to use our data and technology to recommend the most relevant
events for each consumer.
Another area that’s top of mind is
international growth. More than twenty percent of our tickets are
processed outside the US. Last year, we had people getting tickets to
events in 187 countries and are localised in 14 countries. In fact,
since Eventbrite launched its localised service in Australia in 2012,
we’ve seen demand growing quickly. Fifty percent of our total gross
ticket sales in Australia came in last year alone.
What’s your number one tip for those wanting to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams?
important to choose the right partner. I feel like Kevin is a
natural-born entrepreneur and I’m a natural-born operator, so we have
complementary skills and find it easy to “divide and conquer”. From the
beginning we looked for areas of the business that matched our
individual skills and weren’t overlapping.
To get some more entrepreneurial tips so you too can rake in $2 billion, sign up for Eventbrite’s Pedestrian Coach session.