Co-Founder Julia Hartz on Her Role as the "Operator" at Eventbrite


Among successful technology companies based in SF, one floating perhaps a bit under the radar is the leading online event and ticketing platform, Eventbrite.

From its offices strategically positioned on Brannan Street between the Caltrain station and the Sixth Street off-ramp of 280, Eventbrite sold 36 million tickets worth $600 million in 179 countries last year.

The company, which was founded by husband and wife team Kevin and Julia Hartz (along with CTO Renaud Visage), has been quietly building a successful business in the city since 2006.

“The story begins before the story of course,” says Julia Hartz. “Kevin was already an experienced entrepreneur in Silicon Valley (early investor in PayPal and founder of Xoom) and he'd been thinking about ticket sales for a long time when I came along.”

As they were falling for each other, long distance (she was living in LA), the couple decided to form the company together as well.

“When we got engaged, we had never spent more than two days together in a row,” she recalls. “But his conviction that we could do the company together rendered my reservations null and void. So we just moved in together and started Eventbrite.”

Their first office was a small room in a building owned by a friend on Potrero Hill, who took an equity stake in the fledgling company in lieu of rent.

They were soon just one of ten founding teams working there; others included, Flixter, and Zynga. A couple years later, they moved into a space on Townsend that they shared with Yammer, among others.

Starting in 2010, Eventbrite’s business took off, and the company’s workforce grew from 30 to 100. The following year it doubled to 200 before leveling off to its current level, 220.

“My massive ‘come to Jesus’ moment was when I realized I would have to be the people person at the company,” says Hartz. “I would be focusing on the culture here and the talent. My job is to foster the workplace culture by making sure it was not top-down, but was grown organically by the people who work here.”

Compared to the industry giant, Ticketmaster, Eventbrite focuses on the “long tail” of events and ticket sales.

“We can handle everything from a five-person yoga event up to music festival where 40,000 tickets sell out in a few minutes,” says Hartz.

The data generated by all of those diverse events is informative. The company recently released a Social Commerce Report indicating the additional value generated when users share a link to an event over social media platforms:    

  • One share on Facebook drives an additional $4.15 in ticket sales and 14 visits.
  • One share on Twitter drives an additional $1.85 in ticket sales and 33 visits.
  • One share on LinkedIn drives an additional $.92 in ticket sales and 10 visits.

Eventbrite’s relationship with Facebook has been critical to its success; it was the first company to gain access to Facebook’s events API and launched with Facebook Connect in 2008.

Increasingly, Hartz says, users are not only organizing events on Eventbrite, but also finding out about them–a trend that the company is encouraging with newsletters and marketing efforts.

“We have the inventory now for consumers to use us for event discovery,” she says. “We are becoming a destination site.”

The founders sit at desks next to each other in the center of the large open office space among their colleagues.

“My most recent epiphany was that although I've been called an entrepreneur for years, I see the difference between Kevin and me,” Hartz says. “It finally dawned on me that I'm a natural-born operator and he's a natural-born entrepreneur. We just happened to find each other.”

They now have two young children, and commute to the office together every day.

Julia is the driver.

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