Julia Hartz – Eventbrite 2 of 2

“Never underestimate the power of people.” Eventbrite is the leading social commerce platform that provides tools for anyone to organize and sell tickets to events.

Matthew: What was hard about starting EventBrite and how did you overcome this obstacle?

Julia: So, the most common question we had in the beginning was what is your distribution model? And it was funny, because once you get asked a question so many times, particularly by smart people and also by the VC community, you start to question a little bit your answer. So, we had this notion that if we built a service that did what we wanted it to do, it would become, in essence, viral. And viral is a very strong buzzword. It’s overplayed. But, really what we were looking for is how to create a virtual cycle that was extremely scalable through technology. And I’ll explain what I mean.

Organizers comes to EventBrite. They hold their events. They attract attendees. Attendees come to EventBrite, buy the ticket. And they’re aware of the brand, right? We build consumer mind-share. Well, those attendees are now converting to event organizers. So, you see this nice cycle happen where, through technology and ease of use and brand awareness, you’re driving that engine. And it’s kind of this fine wheel of growth. And so, that was the biggest challenge in the beginning. Really believing that that would happen. That’s what we thought would happen but it was hard to get past all that sort of naysaying and really keep the faith.

Matthew: Since you’ve been in operation, what have you learned about your business and users that you didn’t realize before you launched?

Julia: The many ways in which you could use a platform like EventBrite. We discovered new verticals regularly. So, we service anything that could ever sell anything that resembles a ticket, right? So, that means that we have a very broad user base. And we’re constantly amazed at the types of events that are held on EventBrite. Everything from a pickling seminar to a 30,000 person rave. Arcade Fire held a small concert at the Henry Miller library in Bug Sur. We didn’t know, because nobody told us and we’re self-service. So, it was extremely exciting to see that. We, obviously, discovered that once thousands and thousands of people hit the same page at the same time. 

That’s something that really surprises us, the types of customers that use EventBrite and the types of events that they throw. It’s just never ending. Really amazing content in life experiences. 

Matthew: Lots of people admire entrepreneurs because they appear to make starting companies look easy. We know that it can be very difficult. We want to dispel some myths here, so my question to you is what do you make look easy? What talents or skills come intuitively or easily for you? What has been difficult and how do you manage this?

Julia: I never pictured myself as an entrepreneur. I didn’t grow up and have the consummate lemonade stands every other weekend. I actually was a ballerina and so I was actually really good at getting in line and marching to the beat of everyone else. 

So, I think that I was surprised to find that I succeeded as an entrepreneur and I really felt fulfilled being an entrepreneur. And when I think about why, I think that having that can do mentality. It sounds so cheesy. But, being able to just roll up your sleeves and get in there and start making it happen is, I think, one of the reasons why that it, in a way, came easy for me. I really love to learn as I do and that’s really what we did. 

We dove in and I immediately took on customer support, marketing and finance and was really self-taught in all of those areas. I’d never done this before. So, it’s possible to do that and it takes a little bit of chutzpah to really just get in there and start doing instead of really thinking long-term about it.

So, one of the things that I’ve evolved, one aspect that I’ve evolved over the years has been the ability to sort of not being insecure about my role. So, my role has evolved over the past five years as we’ve found really brilliant people to come in and take customer support and build that out into a strategy and a team. And the same with marketing and finance. 

And I sort of felt at some point, I think between 15 and 30 people, I sort of felt like, “Oh gosh, am I just going to be in the way? Am I going to be just that random roadblock that people need to go around?” I wanted to just be helpful because EventBrite is, I feel, like our baby. 

So, I had to really learn how to be patient for the right time to come along to find my niche. And that’s exactly what happened. And I really worked through that with Kevin and he was so supportive and sort of told me that this is normal and that as a founder, you kind of have to ebb with the flow. So, I was patient or I tried to be. 

And right around 30 people, when we had raised our round of funding from Sequoia Capital, it became clear that I had found my niche, which was building and evolving a dynamic and unique and engaging team and culture. And that’s really where I found my extra special spot. 

Matthew: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned launching EventBrite?

Julia: Wow. Never underestimate the power of people. Really. I mean, in both our day to day lives here and also what we’re helping to power, you can never underestimate a group of unique and engaged and brilliant people. And that’s what I’ve learned. I see it every single day. And it astounds me every single day. 

Matthew: What bit of advice do you wish you would have known before you started EventBrite?

Julia: That’s a good question. I think that in the beginning, everybody makes the wrong decision or not the perfect decision in hiring and it was really agonizing for me to part ways with people who just simply weren’t right for EventBrite. And I think that you kind of have to know that’s going to happen. And it’s not mistakes, it’s just you would doubt, right? You make a decision and, perhaps, it doesn’t end up being the right decision. And you sort of in a way have to extract the emotional aspect of it and understand that you owe to the entire team and to your company to course correct and to make sure you have the right people on the team. And when you have the right people, it’s incredibly powerful. 

But, I think in the beginning, I really took those first few separations to heart. And I don’t want to lose the human aspect of it because I care about the people here. But, I think that I needed to also view it from the organizational aspect and understand that it’s good for everybody when you need to make that shift. And it’s painful at first but it’s inevitable. 

Matthew: What mentor has played a significant impact in your professional development?

Julia: This might sound really cliché but it’s the absolute, honest to god truth, is Kevin. So, I have an incredible partner and our relationship, obviously, has evolved as being co-founders. So, we weren’t like married for five years and then decided to start a company together. We have really grown through this experience. And every step of the way he’s been right there and he’s been so encouraging and so willing to teach me everything. 

This is his third company and this is my first. And he’s also a bit older than me. So, he’s got a lot of experience and wisdom to teach me. And I think I teach him things as well. But, I would call him, absolutely, my mentor.

Matthew: What advice would you like to share with our audience about launching a start-up? If you have to distill it, what are the key elements? 

Julia: I think that you need to be acutely aware of every single possible inroad. So, you have to be extremely observational. You need to stay focused but you need to really understand that at any given point, you have to be able to be nimble and to shift and find that inroad that’s going to make your idea a success. And so, you have to keep your eyes open at all times. Keep your eye on the ball but be able to really shift and change direction as necessary. And I think that’s what makes any company successful is when you never rest on your laurels. 

Matthew: Before we close, I would love for you to give our audience your vision for EventBrite and how you hope it will change the world. 

Julia: I believe EventBrite will be the only place you would ever go to buy tickets to any event you will ever attend. And it’s a big, lofty goal that I definitely think that we have the team and the vision and the product to get there. And so, it’s just a matter of time. I think we have a lot of challenges ahead but we have, again, the team to tackle those challenges. And so, that’s my vision for EventBrite. And I would be lucky to still be a part of it when we get to that point. 

Matthew: Julia, it’s been a pleasure having you as a guest on FounderLY. We’re rooting for your success at EventBrite. For those in our audience who would like to learn more, you can visit their website at www.eventbrite.com. You can register to become a user and join their community.

This is Matthew Wise at FounderLY. Thanks so much, Julia

Julia: Thank you.


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