Eventbrite Founders Q&A: ‘Oliver Samwer Lives, Breathes & Sleeps Growth’

By David Knight |

Berlin’s startup scene is all about the events – that’s why it has been such a fertile market for Eventbrite, the Silicon Valley-based company which has embarked on an aggressive path to conquer the world of ticketing. After seeing some serious organic growth in the German capital, the company launched its own presence here. That was backed up recently with the visit of two of Eventbrite’s three co-founders, husband and wife team Kevin and Julia Hartz (CEO and president respectively).

They sat down to speak to Silicon Allee about where the company is headed after its notable latest round of funding, and what it’s like to have Oliver Samwer as an investor.

SILICON ALLEE: Why did you decide that Berlin would be a good growth market for Eventbrite?

KEVIN HARTZ: With Eventbrite you can publish and start selling tickets when we haven’t localised, and prior to even having German language and when we were just solely integrated with PayPal, we were seeing a lot of activity in Berlin and in the wider areas of Germany, and that is an indication that there is a great demand. With German people, there is a high degree of gathering together and Eventbrite is about bringing people together, and you can see that whether it is on the entertainment side or whether that is going to a club and seeing a DJ, or whether that is at a tech event, which is obviously a fast growing segment inside of Berlin itself.

SA: You recently announced $60 million in new funding despite having apparently been on a straight course towards an IPO – why the change of heart?

KH: There are two points there. The first is, businesses generally require more capital than they have in two situations – when they are dong very poorly and when thy are doing very well and you have expansion opportunities. The second point is, why did we raise a private round rather than going public? We always had the intention of going public sooner rather than later, but over the last, I would say, 18 months, we have really shifted our thinking there. A lot of the reason, having talked to a lot of the entrepreneurs like Dave Goldberg [at SurveryMonkey], Drew Houston at Dropbox and Brian Cheskey at Airbnb, is that there are a lot of advantages to staying private. We have a great balance sheet, we have $100m in cash on our books, and we can take some big risks and do some things that would be very difficult and would raise a lot of eyebrows in the public markets. We want to take these risks now, get the company on an even faster growth trajectory and bring something to the public markets that’s even bigger and better.

SA: So you’re planning some big changes in the near future?

KH: Absolutely. And that revolves around international expansion, that revolves around the consumer experience, that revolves around mobile.

SA: Let’s talk about Oliver Samwer, copycat king and co-founder of Rocket Internet with his brothers and one of the most divisive figures in the German technology industry. He decided to invest in Eventbrite at an early stage rather than follow his usual MO and copy the business model – why?

KH: Oli was out in the Valley when I was fairly active in investing and we kept crossing paths and comparing notes on deals. I find Oliver to be extremely sharp, extremely aggressive, and we were talking and he made us an offer and invested into the company. I think the Samwers are often kicked around a bit in the Silicon Valley media but in reality they have had a very positive impact on helping to build a startup culture in Europe; they have trained so many – there are hundreds if not thousands that have been part of Samwer companies that are now going off to start their own companies.

SA: What is he like as an investor on a personal level?

JULIA HARTZ: We found him to be extremely supportive and enthusiastic, and I’ll never forget when he first came in and said, I really love what you’re doing and want to invest in you, and of course he had the opportunity to invest in a lot of different people closer to home who were doing what we were doing but he saw how we were doing it and he identified that, and it was really helpful at the time.

KH: He is extremely bright and very very aggressive. He loves growth; he lives, breathes and sleeps growth; how do you grow a company fast?

SA: When it comes to competitors, where you are facing off against the likes of Amiando and Ticketscript, you have said that the event ticketing space has an easy entrance threshold but an extremely difficult success one – can you leverage your current position to dominate the market?

KH: We’ve been absolutely gaining momentum while competition has been waning so it’s a period where we just have a tremendous amount of momentum and that is punctuated by the aggressive nature in which capital is coming our way.

SA: What’s next for Eventbrite in Berlin?

KH: Eventbrite is really is all about what Berliners create, and the tech community has been so strong in adopting Eventbrite but we’re also very excited to see electronic dance music, we’re excited to see other conferences in different content entering onto the system – we put the platform out there and the market really grows upon it.