The interview: Julia Hartz, president and co-founder, Eventbrite

2 Jul 2014

Julia Hartz, co-founder and president of Eventbrite, address Silicon Republic's Female Founders Forum at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. Photo by Conor McCabe Photography

To succeed, start-ups from the get-go need to embrace diversity and create inclusive environments where employees feel embraced by the company and its mission – that’s the view of Julia Hartz, co-founder and president of Eventbrite.

Hartz was in Dublin this week to give a keynote address at the Female Founders Forum. Hartz co-founded Eventbrite with her husband Kevin in 2006, along with CTO Renaud Visage.

The company has processed more than US$2bn in ticket sales. Growth is accelerating to such an extent that in 2013 alone, the company processed US$1bn in ticket sales.

Eventbrite is also establishing an operation in Dublin’s Digital Hub.

In Ireland, some 350,000 Eventbrite tickets have been sold, generating €3.5m in revenues for organisers.

The San Francisco, California, company recently raised US$60m in venture capital, valuing it at more than US$1bn.

Hartz is a firm believer in instilling the right culture in start-ups and makes a point of interviewing each and every candidate who applies for a job with Eventbrite.

“I think instilling the right culture actually starts with the founder in embracing whatever culture is created by the people of the company. There is some DNA from founders that can be found throughout a company no matter what, and I think for Kevin and I that’s really the DNA around transparency, collaboration and sense of learning and always learning.

“Those things are present in Eventbrite but everything else is created by the ‘britelings’ (Eventbrite employees) and I think one of the best things you can do as a founder is embrace the fact that your culture will always be evolving because you are always be adding new people and people will leave the company. Those people create the fabric of what is your culture. And in order to create a sustainable culture it has to be built from the ground up.”

Meet and greet philosophy

As Eventbrite grows – it now employs 200 people – Hartz said she would love to continue the practice of meeting every potential hire.

“It is so important to have a face to a name. It started with the simple notion of wanting to know everybody in the company and for the most part I am doing pretty well in terms of knowing everybody’s first name, at least.

“But it is also about creating that sense of familiarity between the candidate and the founder.”

Hartz said she believes there’s a symbiotic relationship that emerges when a founder meets a candidate before he or she joins the company.

“If I don’t get to meet someone before they join I make a point of meeting them on their first day. So I think it’s about that familiarity. It’s not about vetoing a hire – I give feedback, of course, but we give all of the empowerment to the hiring manager to make that decision.”

Efficiency is in Eventbrite’s DNA

If you read the multitude of publications online about start-ups and attend all the various tech events and start-up meet-ups, it’s hard not to appreciate the tension that exists in the middle ground between being innovative and visionary and sticking to core business principles.

Hartz believes this is a necessary tension to experience. “Internally, we think about our mission as bringing the world together through live experiences and how we are going to get there is to efficiently build a global marketplace that people love.

“We talk about efficiency a lot at Eventbrite and in everything that we do we find that optimal point of efficiency. So we are never wasting money but we certainly are investing in growth and innovation and that’s just tantamount to being a high-growth technology company.

“I think we’ve found this great balance – a line that’s taut at all times – where you are investing in growth and innovation but you’re not being wasteful of your resources.”

Nearly every second day lately there are soundings from Silicon Valley in terms of how male-dominated an environment it still is, the culture of ‘brogrammers’, scandals over boorish behaviour by executives and investors, and of course, gender quotas.

Perfect Zen

Hartz believes if companies from the get-go aim to be balanced and reflect the real world around them, they will find that balance.

“I grew up in an era where I didn’t feel that pressure, I didn’t feel marginalised, I felt I was empowered and given all the chances to succeed, just like my male counterparts. At Eventbrite, we strive to create that reality which we feel is just reality.

“We’re not actively thinking about what our gender balances are. We have this very balanced company because we’ve hired the best people for the job and so I think it is really important for founders to just think about creating a company that looks a lot like the world.

“If we were just looking at 50pc of the world in terms of geographic region, we’d be leaving another 50pc on the table and I think in terms of hiring you have to look at the entire spectrum of talent and be able to hire the right people for the right jobs and that’s what we’ve done at Eventbrite

“I am really proud of the balance we have and the diversity and I think one of the ways we do that is we create a very inclusive environment – actively creating an environment where people can work at Eventbrite no matter what stage of life they are at and they feel embraced by the company.”

Recently, both Google and Facebook released diversity reports that indicated disparities in race and gender. In Facebook’s case, men held 85pc of tech roles. Across Google’s entire global workforce, only 30pc of its employees are women and the majority of these are in non-tech roles.

Hartz said she believes Google and Facebook were doing the right thing insofar as being transparent about the situation and publishing revealing reports.

“That the best thing we (at Eventbrite) can do is create great models for other companies and I commend Google for putting out a report that honestly didn’t have the best results. And I think that was so strong of them to do from a transparency perspective and an education perspective.

“It is about creating models where other companies can look to those models to understand how to build a great environment and that’s the best incentive out there.”

Women Invent Tomorrow is Silicon Republic’s campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. It has been running since March 2013, and is kindly supported by Accenture Ireland, Intel, the Irish Research Council, ESB, Twitter, CoderDojo and Science Foundation Ireland.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years