Eventbrite CEO Julia Hartz: From 4 Years Bootstrapping to a Billion Dollar Company

From a windowless phone closet in a warehouse in Potrero Hill in San Francisco, Eventbrite was started in 2006 by 3 co-founders. They bootstrapped the company for the first 2 years and didn't even think of hiring until their 4th year. Since then, there has been no looking back. Eventbrite now boasts 575 “britelings” - as Eventbrite employees are called - across 10 offices around the world. The key lesson learned over the past 10 years? “Ticketing is a people-intensive business to get it right on a global scale.”

Recently named by Forbes in their 40 under 40 list, Julia Hartz is co-founder and new CEO of Eventbrite, a billion dollar company which has successfully disrupted the ticketing industry. They built a platform to provide a delightful experience for both ticket sellers and buyers. As of 2016, Eventbrite has ticketed over 2.1 million events around the world in 180 countries.

Big opportunities start with encountering bad UX

Hartz and her co-founders envisioned to democratize ticketing when they started Eventbrite 10 years ago. “Not having a platform that was easily accessible or self-service to sell tickets to events meant that nobody was catering to the mid-market opportunity,” said Hartz. 

Back in 2006, the ticketing industry did not always bring a warm fuzzy feeling to consumers. High fees, bad experiences when trying to get a ticket, and overall lack of innovation meant that ticketing was ripe for disruption.

With the right technology and platform in place, Eventbrite has successfully created a better experience for both ticket sellers and buyers. Today, the company has gone beyond the life-cycle of ticketing. “Our platform and products play a much larger role for events, like discovery, entry management, venue management.” .

Creating culture on a global scale

Hartz is also proud of accomplishing a personal 10-year long goal - being listed on Fortune’s “Great places to work for Millennials” in 2015. Eventbrite has also been voted no less than 7 times as the best company to work for in San Francisco. In response to what makes a company great, Hartz said “It’s how you do things, the people you gather and your community.”

Growing a company is always a challenge because one cannot predict what will happen to the culture. “We were going from a team of 30 people to a company of 100 in less than a year”. Eventbrite’s culture has to always be evolving, because it is a manifestation of every single person in the company, which is itself constantly changing.

“For a global company, it is imperative to respect and honor local culture and weave that into the core company values rather than the other way around.”

Role models and diversity

When asked about diversity and the numbers, Hartz proudly shares that “Eventbrite is 50-50 male-female and this has been accomplished organically”. She admits that role models are very important to keep attracting a balanced talent pool of people.

When thinking about how to build a diverse company, she asks herself two questions - “Where can I find the best talent?” and “How can I create an inclusive environment to make sure we’re not hiring just people that look like ourselves because of network effect, and referrals?”. The answer is to tap into the global talent pool while keeping an eye on diversity and using exact metrics in hiring and processes.

Building to achieve profitable growth

“We are future-proofing the business by taking strong measures and a path to profitability and coming in with a strong balance sheet this year”, said Hartz confidently. Profitability and growth rate are both equally important. “Getting to profitability does not mean all our problems are solved. I am looking out further on the horizon.

From handling customer calls in the middle of the night during the early days of Eventbrite to leading the company as CEO, Hartz has been on an incredible journey that started with talking to customers and getting their feedback and improving the product over time. Now, Hartz holds the reins and is on the path to leading the company to even more greatness. Here's to many more exciting years ahead for Eventbrite. 

Watch the full chat with Julia Hartz and Startup Grind: