The story of Eventbrite
Last night, Eventbrite founders Kevin and Julia Hartz spoke at Hub Sydney about their entrepreneurial success. Here are my top 10 take outs.
1. Spot a gap
In 2006 when Eventbrite was founded, and in the slew of opportunities that digital was presenting to young entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, ticketing 'was an obvious choice', said Julia. Ticketing involved 'high fees, bad service and was void of technology'. In other words, a problem was spotted and they set out to solve it.
2. Have a 'real world' mission
When I say 'real world' I'm referencing the way I often hear business-people talking about 'first-world problems' as though they are 'real world problems', whereas it is extremely wise in business to be addressing a real human need. Ok, yes, perhaps an online ticketing portal is a first-world problem to some extent, but Eventbrite's mission of "bringing the world together through live experiences" certainly speaks to the 'real world' and the human condition, as opposed to just the digital or commercial realm.
When starting up, fund everything yourself for as long as possible. The more you dip into other people's money the less control you have and riskier the enterprise. Kevin and Julia also mentioned that putting up their own money, and reinvesting all their profit, meant that they gained a keen eye for watching the return on investment of every dollar spent.
4. Really pay attention to trends
Ten years ago, the digital wave made it seem as though we'd end up in a world where we sat at home, plugged into a digital universe, never having to leave the house or speak to another human being again. Now, we've seen that 'technology has actually brought us together more' with digital technology facilitating real world activities and connections, not taking them away. Usually, our behaviour follows certain principles linked to the human condition.
5. Keep extending your horizon
'Our competition was categorised by the incumbents, but our mission is not categorised by the incumbents'. By this they meant that
Eventbrite have continued to expand their business by enabling others. In the same way that Etsy's success has come down to how well the company supports its merchants, and Air BnB's success on how well they support both hosts and visitors - Eventbrite's success is deeply aligned with the success of event organisers - so it pays to support them to put on better events and sell them out. PS. their number one tip for event organisers: sell discounted tickets, early, and increase the price over time.
7. Company culture
As the person who was the custodian of people and culture at Eventbrite, Julia provided some very interesting insights into what it was like to build a company's culture from scratch. She knew when they were about to go from 30 to 100 people that the transformation was going to be key to their success. Her biggest learnings: make people the focus as your grow (in her case, she put 1/3 of the founding 30 at the table on every decision), secondly 'you cannot dictate the culture... your culture is who the people are at the company at that time.. you must embrace people, their past experiences and their ideas in order to build a positive culture'. And finally, you can be the 'Disneyland of startups' (as Eventbrite was called - ie. the happiest company around) but also be the blandest of startups if people aren't highly motivated and performing at their peak. Invest the time required in knowing what makes each of your people tick.
8. "You can't be it if you can't see it"
Julia Hartz stated that it's important to celebrate pioneers, particularly women (in the workplace and in tech) because "you can't be it if you can't see it". Demonstrating anything - whether it's gender balance, risk appetite or a pioneering spirit - is key to seeing it eventuate. One strong example of this is the 50/50 gender split at Eventbrite - a a direct reflection of the 50/50 gender split of its founders.
9. High velocity feedback loops
Parts of the talk got a little 'buzzword bingo', with startup talk of 'scaling', 'time to saturation', 'net promoter score' and this 'high velocity feedback loop', but in essence what this refers to is having systems in place to get hold of key performance data, quickly, to iterate and improve. 'More is more when it comes to feedback' said Julia - and interestingly she extends this principle to feedback on yourself: 'learn more, ask more, critique yourself more and have a mentor'.
10. Know your promoters
Eventbrite focus their feedback loops around 'net promote scores', aka the satisfaction levels of three key groups: event organisers, event attendees and Britelings (Eventbrite employees) and whether they would recommend Eventbrite as a ticketing platform, a place to buy tickets, or place to work. All their activity circles around these scores and what works and doesn't work for these groups. Ultimately, they said, 'focus on your customer, and the money will come'.