Interview: Eventbrite’s Julia Hartz on building a global ticketing marketplace

Since it was set up eight years ago Eventbrite has sold more than 200m tickets in 190 countries

 Julia Hartz,president, Eventbrite. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE via Getty Images

Julia Hartz,president, Eventbrite. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE via Getty Images


Julia Hartz was 25 when she started San Francisco-headquartered ticketing service Eventbrite with her fiancé Kevin Hartz and chief technology officer Renaud Visage in 2006. With multinational giants such as Ticketmaster catering for large events, the couple saw an opening to provide ticketing for smaller groups.

“We thought we could reinvent the way people came together for live events. We wanted to ticket everything from a five-person yoga class to a 10-person cookery class to a fashion event,” Julia says.

Hartz had worked in television development at MTV where she was a part of shows such as Jackass and reality series The Real World. She was working at FX Networks – which made the Nip/Tuck series – when she met her future husband Kevin Hartz. The two maintained a long-distance relationship for two years, before Julia left her job and moved to San Francisco. It was at this stage they decided to go into business together.

“Kevin, I and Renaud were interested in democratising an industry using technology,” she says.

“Acquiring customers at the start is one of the hardest things you’ll ever experiences as an entrepreneur. Tech bloggers were our first customers and tech events are still among the most popular events on our site.”

Getting started

She wants to build the world’s first global marketplace of live experiences.

“Our major milestone has been building enough events to offer a marketplace. People now come back to the site to find events to go to.

“We have hundreds of competitors. We have competitors in every part of the matrix. No other ticketing service has the scale we have though.”

She says the most exciting thing is seeing people build their businesses on the Eventbrite platform. “Our platform is self-service so we enable people to host events themselves. The biggest events tend to be the free ones. We had 100,000 at a salsa congress in Mexico. ”

The company makes money by charging 2.5 per cent of the value of each ticket it helps to sell, in addition to a flat fee of 75 cent (99 cent in the US) per ticket.

The company, which opened an Irish office in Dublin’s Digital Hub earlier this year, has taken in more than €3.5 million from hundreds of thousands of tickets sold in Ireland.

The company’s localised page went live here in 2011 and grew ticket sales substantially in the two years that followed. Within six months of being on the ground in Dublin, it doubled that figure. Hartz says Ireland is one of Eventbrite’s fastest-growing markets in Europe.

Most recently, it ticketed the Darkness into Light runs at 37 locations across Ireland, in which more than 80,000 runners took part, as well as the Festival of Curiosity and the Big Grill in Dublin.

“Live experiences are on the rise. People would rather spend their money experiencing things than buying items. There is also a fear of missing out with live events. Most of Silicon Valley is upping and going to Dublin for the Web Summit. We all see each other every week but there is still a fear of missing out.”

Dublin events

There will be panel discussions on marketing, fundraising, technology, design, public relations, music and entertainment, with speakers including CoderDojo chief executive Mary Moloney, YouTube star Seán Connelly, RTÉ Digital managing director Múirne Laffan, Irish Internet Association chief executive Joan Mulvihill and Bodytonic promoter Eoin Cregan.

As well as running a ticketing business, the couple have invested in 17 companies in more than 14 countries. Among the well-known names they were early investors in is Pinterest.

The couple started Eventbrite not long after they got engaged, getting married six months later. So how do they maintain their marriage as business partners and vice versa?

“The best advice we got was from [Bebo founders] Michael and Xochi Birch who said: ‘Divide and conquer – never work on the same thing at the same time’. I thus look at the people and Kevin looks after the day-to-day operations.”