Nine Startup Scaling Secrets from Eventbrite

1/24/11Follow @wroush

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works extremely well together. Why did Facebook win versus MySpace or Friendster or the Winkelvi? Because Mark Zuckerberg was able to attract tremendous talent and build a great product.”

3. Just as important: pick the right trend to follow. “Why did PayPal succeed amongst the 20 or so PayPal copies?” Kevin Hartz asks. “The payment market was ripe for disruption—there was no processing solution for small players. But eBay turned out to be the perfect market for that. In [Eventbrite's] case, we originally thought we would be much like Yelp, and that our growth would come from organic search. But then the social media revolution happened, and we found that our business was growing because events are social and people were telling their colleagues and friends about events through Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. That’s really what gave us that lift in 2009, and it’s what we continue to enjoy.”

4. Keep it simple. Before Eventbrite, online ticketing systems were “complex but rudimentary: the worst of both worlds,” says Julia Hartz. “We wanted to create something as intuitive as publishing a blog post, so that anybody could do it. To this day, Eventbrite is very self-service. You enter your e-mail address and you’re sent to the event creation page. You can literally start selling tickets within minutes.”

5. Build on existing tools. Says Kevin Hartz: “What PayPal brought, through their API [application programming interface], was the ability to facilitate a payment between a buyer and a seller. So we could focus on the core piece of our business, which is event ticketing, not payment processing. That’s why you could have a three-person company go this distance—what we call this ‘payment OS’ of PayPal.”

6. Empower your customers. With older ticketing systems, “one pain point was low visibility, not knowing where your buyers were and not being able to engage with them,” says Julia Hartz. Today, Eventbrite provides event organizers with extensive analytics. “You can see charts about who your attendees are, where they’re coming from, which events are selling, which marketing channels are driving traffic to your event site. It really does empower event organizers, especially those who don’t do this for a living, to make better decisions the next time they host an event.”

7. Trust in the value of your product. “In the early days we tried to offer a basic and a premium service,” says Julia Hartz. “But we wanted to give everyone every feature, and we were really bad at differentiating between premium and non-premium features. When we finally decided to get rid of the two tiers, we thought our conversions would go to hell and we’d really piss off our legacy customers. It was the exact opposite. Our conversions went through the roof, because now customers didn’t have to choose between the options. [See: Keep it simple.] We needed to have a little more confidence in ourselves, and learn that we were offering a very valuable service, and not agonize.”

8. Learn from your customers. Julia Hartz: “Google search was always the number-one driver of traffic to Eventbrite, but in 2008 we started to see Facebook pop up in the top 10 traffic sources. A lot of our users were taking their event details from Eventbrite and republishing them manually in Facebook and sharing with friends. We capitalized on that and integrated with Facebook Connect to create a one-button process so that users could send their details over to Facebook. We did a lot to make sure that it was really integrated with the Like button and the news feed. So much so that Facebook is now the number-one driver of traffic, more than Google. So if you keep your eyes open, you can learn a lot from your users and they can really help guide your company.”

9. Respect the data. Kevin Hartz: “We are really data fiends. I think we were the first to publish the metric of yield-per-share [every time an event attendee shares news of an Eventbrite ticket purchase on Facebook, it drives an additional $2.53 in purchases, the company has found]. Our head of financial analysis comes from a physics background. It’s that notion of testing, experimenting, observing, and data collection that has helped us to discover these trends and then to optimize them.”

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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