Almost Famous: Julia Hartz of Eventbrite

A feature wherein All Things Digital looks at up-and-coming and innovative start-ups you should know about.

This week: We got all-access passes to Skype for an interview with Julia Hartz, co-founder and president of Eventbrite, the four-year-old Web-based ticketing service aiming to unseat the big guys.

Using the Eventbrite Web interface, organizers can set up ticket sales and publicize their events using social media tools. It’s a labor of love, too, as Julia shares the big office with co-founder and husband Kevin.

Who: Julia Hartz

What: President and co-founder

Why: Hartz said Eventbrite has cracked the code on merging business and the social graph. It enables event organizers to publish events online and sell tickets, then publish the events to Facebook. And if your event is free, so are Eventbrite services. Julia says it is democratizing the ticketing industry, but it can’t all be free. Eventbrite saw $100 million in ticket sales in 2009.

Where: eventbrite.com (Web site); @eventbrite (Twitter); San Francisco, Calif. (analog place)

Who else: Eventbrite services put it in competition with most of the ticket-selling world, especially Ticketmaster, which is now owned by Live Nation (LYV). But Hartz said most of the people using Eventbrite for the first time are switching from using spreadsheets.


Five Stats You Won’t Find in Her Facebook Profile

Worst Job Ever: I was an intern on the set of “Friends.” It was this awful experience taking place in this wondrous environment. There was a serious level of paranoia there. And basically, my job was to hold a phone and anytime it rang, I had to go find that person on the set. My second worst job was as a barista at The Ugly Mug in Santa Cruz. I would drink like three mochas and eat some pastries during my shift and then be depressed for the rest of the day.

Her Big Event of 2010: I’m really looking forward to Chirp, the upcoming Twitter conference. That and maybe F8, the Facebook conference.

Gadget of the Moment: My new iPad…just kidding. I guess just my Apple (AAPL) iPhone. We’re kind of a gadget family. Our two-year-old has a Pleo, because we can’t get a puppy in our place.

Wants to Be When She Grows Up: I want to be a great mom.

Fails At: Being a working mom and running the start-up. I feel like I’m never doing 100 percent in either. I feel 80 percent in everything. Kevin would say I fail at taking big risks–stuff like skydiving or petting a spider at the children’s museum.


Bio in 140 Characters

Hartz grew up in Santa Cruz. She went to Pepperdine for a degree in being a TV exec. She was at MTV, FX, then left for the start-up world.


The Five Questions

You started Eventbrite in 2006–why this and why then?

Well, I’ll just be honest; it had a lot to do with logistics. I’d just moved up here and Kevin and I had just gotten engaged. I was about to go to Current TV and didn’t know if that was the right move. We got to talking about all the events we heard about after the fact, and all the event “postcards” we got on our car windshields. There was little to no innovation in the events market. Unless you were using Ticketmaster, you really had no access to tools and technology that could help you as a smaller events planner. Also, Kevin was very close to PayPal, so we were looking at what we could do based on the PayPal API. The transaction is where it began.

So, you and Kevin have sort of made Eventbrite your baby. How does being a start-up couple change things?

Well, in working with somebody you know quite well, we sort of divide and conquer. We sort of have our own areas of the business that we strive to excel in, and we try to support each other. We received some really great advice early on from Michael and Xochi Birch, who co-founded Bebo. When we asked them how they worked together, they said divide and conquer–don’t work on anything together. That’s sorta what we do. And we do really well on a day-to-day basis. But if you get us behind the same spreadsheet, we’ll definitely be fighting for the mouse.

What sorts of mistakes have you guys made doing this?

I think we’ve been pretty good on avoiding most big mistakes, but I do think we’ve been too focused on making decisions around customer reactions…that sounds a little weird. Let me give you an example. So, we were a free service early on, then we were freemium. The problem was that our basic service was so robust that our premium service was only a little better. We were toying with the idea of going all paid for too long. When we finally bit the bullet and did it, we had very little decrease in use. We think it’s because event organizers don’t have to make an additional choice now about which service to use. The cost just scales with the ticket price. We just took too long to make the decision, I think.

You guys are building a pretty interesting picture of who attends what events. Are you planning to tread further into the social graph and begin recommending events to people based on past attendance?

Yes. We see that to be something that’s very exciting, but we want to do it in the right way. Hyper-relevancy is key to us, so, um, I can’t say how we’ll do it, but when we do it, we’ll definitely take into account what’s out there right now and try to innovate on that. I’d say that will happen in the broad window of the next two years.

What are your major moves going to be in 2010?

How about this? How about the fact that in five years, Eventbrite will be the only place that you will ever go to buy a ticket for any event that you would ever attend. I truly believe that, and I can actually see how we’ll get there. We are a smaller business and can move quite quickly. We don’t have a bullseye in your office with the Ticketmaster logo in the middle. We aren’t a Ticketmaster killer, but we see our model as becoming the status quo for all ticketing.


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