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This article was published on June 18, 2012

Eventbrite tops $1 billion in gross ticket sales, doubles down on European expansion

Eventbrite tops $1 billion in gross ticket sales, doubles down on European expansion
Jamillah Knowles
Story by

Jamillah Knowles

Jamillah is the UK Editor for The Next Web. She's based in London. You can hear her on BBC Radio 5Live's Outriders. Follow on Twitter @jemi Jamillah is the UK Editor for The Next Web. She's based in London. You can hear her on BBC Radio 5Live's Outriders. Follow on Twitter @jemimah_knight or drop a line to [email protected]

Eventbrite, the company that has been shaking up how we buy and sell tickets for events is celebrating $1 billion in ticket sales. That’s not a bad effort for a company that started six years ago with only three people.

Recently Eventbrite has seen rapid expansion. Last month, Path CEO Dave Morin joined the company board, in February the company issued its 50 millionth ticket and announced £16.5m in UK ticket sales in 2011 alone. The UK HQ opened up shop last year and localized versions in France, Canada and Spain were unleashed at the end of March this year.

Kevin Hartz, co-founder and CEO, explains a few things about the little company that grew and how he feels that there is still a lot of work to do.

“It’s the effort of a lot of hard work,” he says. “We have some great talent on board now and it’s great to see that hard work paying off. We’ll do over half a billion this year, so there’s a wonderful momentum.”

The original idea of Eventbrite was to democratise the process of creating ticket sales and it is this spark that has pushed the company’s fast growth. “Ticket sales shouldn’t be restricted to those with larger pocket books. People can have all the capabilities of mobile, money collection and analytics now and set up a way to sell tickets within minutes,” says Hartz.

Around 95% of the $1 billion gross ticket sales are down to smaller events sales. So it’s the non-profits and the small businesses who needed this service that are the ones that are driving these figures. Opening up the market for smaller events to organise themselves certainly appears to be paying off.

Core values through growth

Keeping the core values of a company through accelerated growth is no mean feat and Hartz aims to keep his feet on the ground through Eventbrite’s expansion.

“It’s really staggering to think how far we’ve come. We were just three employees who used to worry about payroll for the month and running up credit card debit,” he explains. “We came up through the 2008/2009 recession so we were always very frugal and worked hard to build. I think this permeated the business. You develop a certain type of toughness or grit. We don’t take for granted the good times like now, but we stay focused on building a sustainable business.”

Another part of the formula for success, Hartz attributes to his wife, Julia. “We’ve always been in an open space, whether we were three people or two hundred. The transparency has reinforced itself over time and it’s very particular to Eventbrite.”

All of the employees at the company are shareholders which no doubt increases loyalty. “We want to empower people with a sense of ownership. Everyone gets the same information I get each morning for sales and metrics. We have flat screen televisions in our office that broadcast real-time numbers to the team and we find that critically important in creating that sense of identity and closeness,” says Hartz.

EU development

EventBrite has been forging ahead through Europe and has big plans for further expansion across the continent. “We saw the organic growth of what happened in the UK,” says Hartz .”London quickly became one of our top cities. I think too many companies can be too US-centric. We are really a global business. Soon we will be launching in Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal and Italy too.”

It looks as though the company’s road map is practically drawing itself. Without promotion or support, it has been adopted in many other places. “We’ve seen over 150 countries organically adopt Eventbrite without language or localization,” explains Hartz. “So we’re excited to see what will happen in these countries. The sky really is the limit. I think that what’s inspired us is that we thought all this time spent online would inhibit us from going out and having social interactions and in fact the opposite has occurred with social networking and people being able to connect more.”

Unlikely to sell out soon

With successful growth and sales figures, many companies might be tempted to sell out and cash in the big bucks. But Hartz feels that his firm is set for the long-term. “We want to keep our company independent. We want to grow it to ten billion dollars and beyond and we’re just getting started. We have a lot of building ahead of us and we’re in no need of capital. It’s a great thing to have a big balance sheet in uncertain times. It ensures that we can keep growing and keep investing aggressively.”

Indeed for all of its recent changes, Eventbrite has a to-do list that will be keeping it going for some time to come. Hartz mentioned a number of areas that the company is looking at for further disruption of the ticketing process.

There are plans to eliminate paper all together, deal with the secondary market for sales, take on ticket touting and see how that could be improved and develop deeper connections via social networks for discovery and suggestion.

Then of course there is mobile,”We see the seismic shift of the world to mobile and we are working to find ways to bring the full functionality of Eventbrite to mobile devices,” says Hartz. “We certainly have our work cut out for us.”

Quite so. The little ticketing company that grew is quite the inspiration for startups. It seems that one good idea done well, can lead to a global business with a pretty impressive future ahead.

Want to know more? Our own Robin Wauters had a further chat with Kevin Hartz at the SWITCH Conference in Portugal and you can see the video of that interview here.

Check out the video below where Eventbrite celebrates its $1 billion:

Image Credit: Mr T. in DC