After a career in development at MTV and FX networks, Julia Hartz has become one of the most visible women in technology in Silicon Valley. The co-founder and president of Eventbrite, a 5-year-old online-ticketing service, is now a sought-after panelist and keynote speaker at conferences on social commerce and entrepreneurship, such as SXSW and 2011 SF MusicTech.
We recently talked with Hartz about how she started Eventbrite, what challenges she’s overcome, and where the company is headed.
ISBB: How did you come up with the concept for Eventbrite?
Hartz: Since my husband, Kevin, was an early investor in PayPal, he and I have always been interested in online payment processing. We created Eventbrite when we determined that there wasn’t a platform available for people who wanted to publish their own event and reach a broad audience to sell tickets. We especially wanted event organizers for tech events and their attendees in San Francisco to have an easy buying and selling experience. We also wanted organizers to collide with the social graph to discover events from their friends and colleagues.
Has being named as “one of 18 female founders of tech to watch” by The Huffington Post helped your company’s growth?
I’m wildly humbled by this type of publicity, and I feel fortunate to work at Eventbrite. The visibility afforded by this recognition helped us to broaden our awareness, to reach users and entrepreneurs. Because both of these groups of people are connectors, they’re exactly the type of users we were looking for to find and attend live events.
What the biggest challenge your company has overcome?
One of the biggest challenges has been hiring. It’s an extremely competitive environment in Silicon Valley, and we’ve grown significantly over the past 18 months, from 30 to 170 people.
How have you overcome this challenge?
More than half of our new hires have come directly through a current employee. We’re always reminding our staff about who they can recruit and [asking] who they want to have sitting next to them. We offer a generous recruiting bonus for referrals.
You’ve sold more than $400 million in tickets to date. How far has that exceeded your expectations?
Again, we’re humbled by our success to date, but we believe that the sky’s the limit. We’re actually looking at a global ticketing market and see so much more opportunity. I’m wildly optimistic about the future and know we’ll be a major player in this space.
Do you feel there are still too few executive opportunities for women in technology?
Absolutely not. For example, there are plenty of self-made opportunities and ways to join great teams, and there’s an ongoing shift in the tech executive paradigm. At Eventbrite, five of our top eight positions are held by women, and I feel we were all brave enough to take the risk. Our generation is definitely making headway and being supported.