Lots of Silicon Valley startups have their copies in China, and most ideas have been able to get popular there to some extent. But there are exceptions, Eventbrite is one of them. The idea sounds so straightforward: helping people selling tickets online. The market and the needs are definitely there, but its scalability and the technology barrier mean people are not sure how big this company can go. That makes me believe Eventbrite is a famous and respected startup, but should not be big. And I am completely wrong!
Terra Carmichael, the Communications Ninja and Tamara Mendelsohn, the VP of Marketing gave us a very warm welcome at Eventbrite’s massive and beautifully decorated San Francisco office. $50 million secured in March 2011 which brought their total funding to $80 million, currently ~215 staff with ~500 thousands events published and $600m worth of ticket sell so far this year, Eventbrite is doing great. I was absolutely blown away!
The key value of Eventbrite is to enable everyone sell tickets online and collect money from attendees. But it’s more than that. As Tamara said, it’s to use technology to get people connected, on web and on mobile, online and offline. In Silicon Valley, a simple idea can be big.
Silicon Valley Culture: Not-to cross the Line
Tamara admitted that in early 2008, when the social networks like Facebook just started ruling the world, Eventbrite as an event organiser also identified the power of social networks. People on social networks post the event info, share the events they planned to go to. When the event goes social, Eventbrite leverage the social networks and its own strength quite well. Tamara said Facebook is No.1 traffic source for Eventbrite, and Google the 2nd, Twitter the 3rd.
However, think about this, what if Facebook cut off the relationship with Eventbrite and promote its own event features; and what if Eventbrite takes the advantage of its connection with all sorts of events organisers to build up its own social networks against Facebook? These ideas may sound stupid in Silicon Valley but they’re actually happening in rest of the world (at least in China). Thanks to the culture of sharing and openness in Silicon Valley, startups here are in a healthy ecosystem where people understanding the value of Not-to-Cross-the-Line.
Build the Startup Culture
Startups need talents. In Silicon Valley, every startup will face the same issue, how to compete with big guys like Facebook, Google etc on the talent hunting. Eventbrite is able to manage 200 people and growing is not an easy thing. Startups need to build their own culture in the valley. Tamara said in each interview, applicants will be asked not only about the skills they have but more importantly their stories to understand if they fit into the company culture and what value they can bring in. Kevin Hartz, the co-founder of Eventbrite, is still personally involved with each interview, Tamara told us.
When we bumped into Kevin, the CEO of Eventbrite at the door, the question he asked is how they could improve the product. And walking around in Eventbrite’s office, you can really feel it. Smiling faces in Eventbrite’s office tell you everything.
Talking about the future of Eventbrite, Tamara said that on the product side they will spend more effort on mobile (check out its brilliant At-the-door service with that card reader and printer) and event discovery (data mining). The company has its branch opened in London and they will keep looking into oversea markets.
Eventbrite is growing steadily. “We are absolutely data driven, but it doesn’t mean we don’t take risk, we just take the risk carefully”, Tamara told us. The “secret” of Eventbrite’s success…