SM: How many paid events versus free events does Eventbrite do in a year?
JH: Last year we did 46,000 paid events and 77,000 free events. We hope to grow both numbers. People have asked why we do not charge for free events, but we have always had a gut feeling that it is very important for our model. Our conversion rate is fairly high. I know that 20% of our free users who attend an event become a paid event organizer. This all stemmed from our being a young company that wanted to undercut the competition.
SM: Who was the competition at the time?
JH: Between 2006 and 2008 it was just the three of us. The market was very fragmented. We did not worry about specific competitors. During that time I planned a wedding, had a baby, and worked on this company.
SM: When did you have the baby?
JH: January 31, 2008. We closed our first angel round of funding from the European Founders Fund on February 2, and we hired our first employee on February 4. For whatever reason, things in life all happen at once. We were in the hospital room signing documents to receive our first $1 million in cash, and Kevin was running over to the office to give keys to the office to our first engineer.
SM: How did the European Founders Fund come about?
JH: They are known for backing companies in Europe that are great concepts that have worked in the US. They had been looking at online event registration in Europe. They wanted to do the reverse and invest in US based companies and were very excited about the space. We had not been out fundraising.
SM: Where were you in terms of revenue?
JH: We had less than $1 million. The model had been validated. We are very focused on volume. When I give the orientation to new employees I don’t even talk about revenue, I talk about volume. I bet most of our company could not tell you what our revenue goal is, but they can all tell you what our volume goal is. Because volume is gross ticket sales, we are helping our customers sell more tickets.
SM: So in 2008 you were working in a free office space with just three of you, and you were pregnant. What else was going on?
JH: The owner of the building let us stay there free, but he asked Kevin to help attract other startups to that building. Kevin took that very seriously and brought in nine startups to that space. I was there in my fortieth week answering e-mails while holding my stomach, without AC. It was an interesting time. We had Flixter, TripIt, Boxspeed, and Zynga had a desk. We did not know what they did; all we knew is that they were always collecting checks. We joked with Andrew Trader that all he did was go around collecting checks from everyone. It was a very magical time.
We were also getting ready to focus on additional things besides the product. After we raised the money we started to expand our team. At the end of 2008 we had fifteen people. I took some time off to be with the baby, but I was also still working from wherever I was. I was always on my computer in the hospital, and the nurses threatened to take the computer away and move the baby to the nursery. I did not unplug from the business, but I did not go back to the office until I was ready. I worked from home for five months. That gave me perspective regarding our maternity leave in the United States.