Listen to this with Pocket Casts, the free podcast app
Elevate your podcast experienceFind Out More
Every company has a story. Learn the playbooks that built the world’s greatest companies — and how you can apply them as a founder, operator, or investor.
25 Aug 2020 • 1 hour 30 mins
We're joined by two very special guests, Eventbrite CEO Julia Hartz and her cofounder, spouse and Eventbrite Chairman Kevin Hartz, to tell their story of building Eventbrite together (along with their lives and family) from the PayPal diaspora to bootstrapped business, unicorn status, IPO and now starting all over again in the wake of COVID with both a tragedy and a huge new opportunity in front of them as public company. If you want more more Acquired and the tools + resources to become the best founder, operator or investor you can be, join our LP Program for access to our LP Show (including the episode with Kevin on SPACs), the LP community on Slack and Zoom, and our new Book Club live sessions with authors like Hamilton Helmer of 7 Powers and Will Thorndike of The Outsiders. Join here at: https://acquired.fm/lp/ New! We're codifying our own Playbook notes and takeaways from each episode, and posting them here in the show notes and on our website. You can read them below or at: www.acquired.fm/episodes/eventbrite Sponsors: Thanks to Tiny for being our presenting sponsor for all of Acquired Season 7. Tiny is building the "Berkshire Hathaway of the internet" — if you own a wonderful internet business that you want to sell, or know someone who does, you should get in touch with them. Unlike traditional buyers, they commit to quick, simple diligence, a 30-day or less process, and will leave your business to do its thing for the long term. You can learn more about Tiny here: http://tinycapital.comThank you as well to Bamboo Growth and to Perkins Coie. You can learn more about them at: https://growwithbamboo.comhttps://www.perkinscoie.com/ Playbook Seeing the next technology wave before others do is rare. It provides a roadmap for what to build and invest in if you're willing to bet on that knowledge. Kevin worked at Silicon Graphics in the mid 90's. This led him to realize that internet services like PayPal, YouTube, and many others would be possible long before others (similar to Don Valentine realizing computers would penetrate every industry from his time at Fairchild). PayPal and its subsequent "mafia" was successful in part because of rapid experimentation. They observed what got used by customers and then doubled down. PayPal's "core" use case on eBay started as an experiment. International money transfer (Xoom) and event ticketing (Eventbrite) also initially started as experiments on the PayPal API before the eBay acquisition — and went on to become large companies.Julia, Kevin, and their cofounder Renaud had a prototype of Eventbrite running and serving customers even before starting the company — which gave them the confidence to do what seemed crazy on paper, but was actually "de-risked": start a company as an engaged couple, have a remote technical cofounder, bootstrap for 2 years after being turned down by VCs, etc.When a company is experiencing explosive growth, they often need to leave other huge opportunities on the table. PayPal knew international remittances could be huge, but didn't build it internally because of the need to focus on eBay merchants. The TAM for bringing an offline behavior offline is often WAY bigger than anything you can calculate beforehand. The range and size of what were previously niche or impossible use cases will often expand dramatically with easy-to-use online tools. This is especially true in long-tail use cases that can only be aggregated by self-serve internet-based software. One early encouraging sign for Eventbrite was its use to host speed dating events in New York. Before Eventbrite, it was nearly impossible to organize, promote, and charge for something like that. Now, organizers could suddenly become entrepreneurs and make real money hosting events like this. Most VCs ignored or were confused by this data (~"Call us when you attack Ticketmaster."), but they missed that it unlocked a massive new market which previously operated only through word-of-mouth and cash transactions (if at all).All three major dislocations of the 21st century — the tech bubble bursting in 2001, the financial crisis in 2008, and now COVID in 2020 — have only accelerated offline behaviors to online. COVID is unlocking a new wave of online event entrepreneurs for Eventbrite in the same way the financial crisis unlocked a wave of in-person event entrepreneurs in 2008-10. Starting with just one niche can be incredibly powerful; often your customers will then lead you to more. Before the speed-dating in New York (which was fully inbound), Eventbrite was used to organize tech meetups in the then-smaller tech community in SF. It was even used for the first TechCrunch Disrupt! Too much capital (and too little accountability) can hurt a company much more than help it. Capital covers up problems, distracts focus from customers, and leads to poor resource allocation. Kevin: "The periods where we had raised the most money privately were the hardest and most difficult for me, because we were really fighting this gravity of overspending and creating inefficiency. And it took us away from our roots as a capital-efficient, highly-effective perpetual motion machine [that we'd had as a bootstrapped company]." Being a public company not only instills more capital allocation discipline, but can ALSO afford a degree of financial flexibility that just isn't possible as a private company. Within weeks of COVID hitting, Eventbrite dramatically shrunk the size and scope of the company AND raised $375m in new capital from new and longterm shareholders. Both actions would have been difficult to impossible as a private company with a static valuation (and associated anti-dilution, ratchet terms, etc) that no longer reflected the reality of the current situation.