CEO Q&A: Kevin Hartz, Eventbrite (Extended)

Kevin Hartz, CEO of Eventbrite, an online ticketing platform that launched in 2006, talks to Danielle Drolet about growth and South by Southwest plans.

Kevin Hartz, CEO of Eventbrite, an online ticketing platform that launched in 2006, speaks to Danielle Drolet about growth and plans for SXSW.

How did Eventbrite get started?
Eventbrite was initially created to empower event organizers who were relying on disparate, clunky tools to promote events, keep track of RSVPs, and collect payments. While there were solutions out there for events at arenas and convention centers, there wasn't anything available for classes, food festivals, or block parties.

We first focused on making it easier for smaller and midsize event organizers to create event pages, spread the word, and collect payments. Now, as the company enters its sixth year, we're ticketing events as small as five-person yoga classes and as big as concerts packed with tens of thousands of fans.

In 2011, the company reports doubled ticket sales compared to 2010. What were the key drivers for this success?
One key way in which we grow our business is by offering Eventbrite at no cost for events that don't have a ticket price. The full feature set is free to use for free events. It's a great way to introduce ourselves to a wide variety of organizers – and their attendees – who become dedicated users.

Eventbrite recently hired MWW Group as its AOR. What do you hope to accomplish with this partnership?
Our in-house PR team is small. MWW is helping us reach consumer-focused media outlets, while continuing to tell Eventbrite's story of tech-focused innovation. We'll be looking for guidance as we push beyond the business section and into lifestyle coverage that highlights exciting events on Eventbrite and the inspiring organizers behind them.

What are your plans for SXSW this month?
Last year, there were approximately 500 events related to SXSW on Eventbrite. And this year, with the launch of our mobile app, it's going to be easier for people attending multiple events in Austin to keep track of ticket purchases while staying paperless.

We have several senior team members speaking on panels about ticketing in the music industry, female leaders in the tech sector, and our mobile strategy. Eventbrite will also be hosting two events – a music showcase in an old auto body shop and a brunch for music industry professionals.

This past fall, Eventbrite opened a London office and a UK version of the site, followed by other localized version in Canada, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. Why is international a priority this year?
We have customers in 150 different countries who came to the platform before we began to localize the site. So clearly demand for Eventbrite is global. As such, we need to better serve these communities by localizing and translating the product. In the first three months of 2012, we look forward to launching in Spanish and French, so we'll also be adding French-speaking Canada, Spain, and France to our list of localized offerings.

How will PR support this globalization?
Because Eventbrite helps people come together in their local communities, we will focus our PR efforts not only on elevating brand awareness, but also championing local customer stories, sharing market-specific data, and really getting to know all of the exciting events that people are creating in these diverse markets. 

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