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The woman behind a ticketing juggernaut

Plus, the next government to benefit from easing of the cost-of-living crisis, Tata Port Talbot steel plant strikes called off and Revolut reports record profits

Event QR code ticket scanning before beginning of business conference

What do the hit shows Friends, Jackass and The Shield have in common with Silicon Valley tech firm Eventbrite, the digital ticketing platform used around the world? The connection lies in one of its co-founders, Julia Hartz, who spoke to us for our Business Leader podcast.

She used to work in television production in Hollywood, before taking the plunge in 2006 with her now-husband Kevin Hartz and Renaud Visage and setting up a tech start-up in San Francisco. It meant a short-term pay cut, but they had spotted a gap in the market. The three co-founders believed they had “complementary superpowers” that would allow their company to take advantage of it.

Hartz and her team realised that anyone could become a merchant and set up payments and this was democratising lots of different industries. Could one of them be the ticketed events industry? Ticketing for large concerts was dominated by firms like Ticketmaster, but beneath that market, there were lots of medium-sized, often community-driven events taking place.

Eventbrite realised it could offer them a ticketing solution, taking advantage of the revolution in mobile phone ownership and QR-code technology. It started out by helping to organise meet-ups for people who worked in technology in The Valley.

As more people used the platform to access mobile tickets for events, word quickly spread. In the wake of the financial crisis, people also used it to organise networking events and create work opportunities for themselves. Eventbrite expanded across different states in the US, before it went global. Private investors were wary to begin with, but the organic growth of the company eventually persuaded them to come on board with significant amounts of capital.

Julia Hartz, Eventbrite CEO

“I went from Hollywood to Silicon Valley because the speed was so gratifying and I could tell there was disruption on the horizon,” says Hartz. Her days in “scripted production” in the machine of Hollywood television were vital to her success as an entrepreneur because they sharpened her storytelling skills, she believes.

It crafted the way she thinks about storytelling to her team, to help employees perform better for Eventbrite. And it has also helped externally, with customers, “connecting with our audience”. “The story you tell your customers through the product experience you create has to say, ‘we’ve got you’, because event planning and attendance is anxiety-ridden.” Storytelling skills have helped her to refine the customer experience, where tone is everything.

Not many founders stay with the company as it scales from a start-up into a large multinational. Hartz went from company president to CEO in 2016 when her husband Kevin Hartz needed to take time out for health reasons. This year she also became executive chair of the board of directors.

Talking about her own development as a leader, Hartz says the key for her has been to “create a collection of people you seek advice from” and not be afraid to “ask great questions of many people, without trying to show how smart you are in your questions.”

When it went public in 2018, Eventbrite was valued at more than $1.8bn. It took a big hit during the pandemic as a hospitality business focused on in-person events. However, it is showing signs of growth and it continues to boast impressive reach. Last year it issued more than 300 million tickets for 5 million events.

“You’ll never fail, as a storyteller,” says Hartz. “If you start with what your audience needs to hear, not what you need to say.”

You can listen to the episode on AppleSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Business Question

Who am I?

  • I am a Baroness
  • I am the chancellor of the Open University
  • I am the president of a UK business group
  • I co-founded a well-known travel retailer
  • I am the chair of file sharing company WeTransfer

The answer can be found at the bottom of the page.

Business in Brief

Everything you need to know

1. UK shop prices fell between May and June and were little changed from last year, according to sector data that suggests the next government will benefit from a sharp easing in the cost-of-living crisis. Annual inflation dropped to only 0.2 per cent last month, down from 0.6 per cent in May and the lowest since October 2021, according to the new figures from the British Retail Consortium and research firm NielsenIQ. You can read more here.

2. Sainsbury’s has maintained its profit outlook despite a slowdown in sales in the first quarter, weighed down by weaker trading in its Argos division. The UK’s second-largest grocer said it continued to expect to deliver underlying operating profit of between £1.01bn and £1.06bn in the year ahead, an increase of between 5 per cent and 10 per cent compared to last year. Read more here.

3. A planned strike next week by workers at the Port Talbot steel plant owned by Tata has been suspended, amid union hopes of talks over future investment at the site in south Wales. Britain’s biggest steel producer warned workers last week that it could halt operations at the plant earlier than planned because Unite’s industrial action risked the safety of the site. You can read more here.

4. Revolut reported record profits last year as the UK fintech reaped the rewards from higher interest rates and an aggressive expansion plan. The London-based company revealed it made a pre-tax profit of £438m in 2023, up from a loss of £25m the previous year. Its revenues almost doubled to £1.8bn. You can read more here.

5. Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corporation is entering the UK’s highly competitive free, ad-supported video streaming market. Tubi has been quickly gaining market share in the US where, according to Fox, it has almost 80 million monthly active users. In the UK, the platform will offer more than 20,000 films and TV series. You can read more here.

Business Quotes

Inspiration from leaders

“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”
– Pelé

Business Thinker

Ideas on the future of business and leadership

1. 📉 Echoes of dotcom bubble haunt AI-driven US stock market 📉

2. 🎓 Britain’s famed universities near a financial cliff 🎓

3. 💻 A WFH ‘culture war’ has broken out across Europe, with the UK leading the charge 💻

And finally…

Cristiano Ronaldo is consoled by teammates at the end of the first half of extra time during the UEFA EURO 2024 round of 16
(Image: Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

Portugal barely beat the team ranked 57th in the world last night as they took on Slovenia at the Euros. The sides played out a nil-nil draw in normal time, meaning the game went to extra time, when Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty in the 105th minute.

The Portuguese captain was in floods of tears between the halves in extra time and was seen by the world’s cameras being consoled by his teammates. Such a display of emotion is rarely displayed during a game, especially from one of the best players of all time. Yet he still stepped up to take the first penalty in the shootout, which Portugal won.

“He’s an example for us,” Portugal coach Roberto Martinez said afterwards. “Those emotions [after missing the penalty] were incredible. He doesn’t need to care that much after the career he has had and everything he has achieved. After missing the penalty, he was the first penalty taker [in the shootout]. I was certain he had to be first and show us the way to victory. The way he reacted is an example and we’re very proud.”

It’s a show of resilience many could learn from. You can read more in The Athletic here.

The answer to today’s Business Question is Martha Lane Fox.

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