Matthew Wise: Hi this is Matthew Wise with FounderLY.com. We empower entrepreneurs to have a voice and share their story with the world, enabling others to learn about building products and starting companies.
I’m really excited today because I’m here with Julia Hartz, co-founder of EventBrite. EventBrite empowers anyone to be an event organizer by offering online tools that make it easy to sell tickets of all kinds to social events.
So Julia, we’d love for you to give our audience a brief bio.
Julia Hartz: Sure, I was in television development at MTV initially, right out of college. I actually minored in television production so I put that to use and went to MTV in the series development department where I worked on the first season and first movie of Jackass, so my parents were thrilled.
Then I went on to FX Networks where I was a current executive and I helped work on shows like Nip/Tuck and the Shield, Rescue Me and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. That was my career before I found tech and fell in love with the tech industry.
I made the leap in 2005 and came up to San Francisco where I promptly co-founded EventBrite with Kevin and the rest is history.
Matthew: So what makes EventBrite unique? Who is it for and why are you so passionate about it?
Julia: EventBrite is unique because it empowers anybody to sell tickets to any event. And what makes it so unique is that we approach ticketing from the point of technologists. We want to empower anybody and everybody to use the best technology to reach a wide audience of people and gather them around a live experience.
That’s why we’re so passionate because this group of people here, we’re about 130 strong now, we’re so passionate about the live experience because it’s something that you can share with anyone. And everybody has some sort of relation to that, the magic of the live experience, which is an event.
Matthew: Given your domain expertise, what are some of the technology and market trends that currently exist and where do you see things developing in the future for your space?
Julia: Well certainly the social graph is extremely exhilarating for us. Back in 2008, when we started to see Facebook pop up in the top ten traffic sources to our site we really understood that this was a channel in which people would be discovering events to attend with their friends. So what transpired from that, from our work in integrating all social platforms into our product, as well as really thinking about how people share and discover events, is we’re really at the center of social commerce.
So that’s a transaction that derives from sharing and we’re seeing that trend just explode across the EventBrite platform. The social graph has a long way to go but I feel so excited to be in a space which is events where people really do want to share and discover events and attend them with their friends, which is kind of a beautiful thing.
One of the things that we’re really developing towards, this year in particular, is mobile. Similarly the mobile platform is growing and expanding every day and there are new technologies that come out, pretty much quarterly for us that affect our business. So, everything from sharing and discovering events, again, to utilities for event organizers to track their ticket sales, to check-in mechanisms for entry management.
So we’re really excited that new, better camera technology and barcode scanners are coming out, again, almost quarterly and we think mobile is going to play a big part in what we do as well.
Matthew: So now that we’ve covered your background and an overview of your market, we’d love to dig into the details of EventBrite. Can you tell us what inspired to you to start EventBrite? Was there an ‘Aha!’ moment or marketing research that led to the opportunity? What’s the story behind it?
Julia: There wasn’t a lot of market research or thinking before we started EventBrite. I was actually just speaking with some Harvard Business School MBA students and they were asking me about all the, how long we took to research the market and we took no time. We dove right in and we got our hands dirty and we actually just starting building the product.
What inspired us was the idea that online payment processing and technology can democratize and industry like ticketing. So with the technology that we’ve built and the product that we’ve developed for our customers, anybody, no matter where you come from, how much knowledge you have about technology or if you’ve ever processed a credit card before, you can be a ticket seller.
You can gather people around this live experience by virtue of using this technology that truly does democratize an industry in which, you know, typically only the higher end players could provide a solution. And so, that’s what excites us and that’s really what incited us to even think about trying to go into this space was the excitement to disrupt an industry and the possibility really.
Matthew: Who are your co-founders? How did you meet and what qualities were you looking for in a co-founder and how did you know they would be a good fit?
Julia: Sure, I met my co-founder Kevin, who’s the CEO of our company at a wedding in Santa Barbara in 2003. We sat next to each other during the ceremony and it was love at first sight. We were engaged when we started EventBrite. We had never been in the same room or the same place for more than two days at a time and in a month we had gotten engaged, moved in together and started EventBrite.
So I think we have a recipe for success, hopefully.
Our third co-founder, Renaud Visage, we met through mutual friends in the Valley and he was actually on his way back to Paris, France when we met him. But we really connected with him and we thought, ‘Well, we’re already in a sort of perilous situation as being a newly engaged couple working together. Why not add a co-founder in France?’ and so we did and it actually worked out really well.
We were able to maintain a 24 hour dev. schedule because he would code while we were sleeping, we would QA during the day. It worked out really well, especially in the beginning. It was just us three for two years, so from 2006 to 2008 and we got to profitability and to building many of the core features you see today in those first two years. So, I think it was a recipe for success.
Matthew: From idea to product launch, how long did it take and when did you actually launch?
Julia: We actually, it’s sort of a longer story. We had a freeware app that Kevin had built two years prior to us actually launching EventBrite. He and his business partner at the time, Allen Braverman, had launched a company called Xoom, which was international money transfer. They also launched something that became EventBrite at the same time and they had to kind of put that on the backburner as they worked on Xoom.
So we had our framework to start with and we had an early-adopter group. So we had the tech community who was using EventBrite to collect RSVPs for events and so what we did was we took that framework and that’s where we started to, we had a great base user group to speak with and I mean, there’s no better user group than the tech community.
They gave us a lot of feedback as far as what they wanted to see product-wise and we dusted it off and we started building on top of that existing framework. So there was no lag time. I immediately, my first day in the tiny conference room about half the size of the room we’re in right now, sitting at a sawhorse desk, I just dove in and started answering customer support e-mails that had been sitting there for, you know, months and just trying to re-engage those people to then have the conversation to understand how we could build a great product.
So that’s really how we started and that’s, we just started making it happen from day one.
Matthew: Excellent and so are there any unique metrics and social proof about EventBrite that you’d like to share with the audience?
Julia: Sure, absolutely. So we’ve had tremendous growth in what we call gross ticket sales or GTS. We track volume as our number one metric, or one of our top two metrics I should say. Because that’s an indication of how much money we’re helping event organizers raise for their event.
Gross ticket sales is the culmination of ticket sales for paid events. Last year we did 200 million and we’ll grow almost to a half a billion this year. We’re really excited to see that, I think we’re definitely gunning to a billion and beyond.
Then on the social, so that’s sort of on the business metric side. We track that as one of our main metrics and our indications for success because it keeps our interests aligned with our customer. So if we’re helping them sell more tickets then we’re doing our job and that obviously translates to revenue for us.
The social commerce side, we’ve actually released two reports in the last six months that really outline numbers that nobody’s ever shared before. The reason why we do that is because we want to open up the dialogue around social commerce. I think it’s sort of mystical to a lot of people, it’s confusing to some and we want to show that, you know, social sharing can really help drive revenue.
And so we’ve been releasing numbers for, again, about six months and one of the more interesting numbers is that every time somebody shares an event on Facebook from EventBrite that drives $2.50 in gross ticket sales. And you can imagine how that scales. It’s kind of a beautiful thing. And so we’re really focused on how can we leverage the social platform to allow for better discovery and then also to translate into ticket sales for our event organizers.