The Day This Eventbrite Co-Founder Learned When to Speak Up
Editor’s Note: Entrepreneur’s “20 Questions” series features both established and up-and-coming entrepreneurs and asks them a number of questions about what makes them tick, their everyday success strategies and advice for aspiring founders.
Julia Hartz, co-founder and CEO of Eventbrite, an event technology platform that allows people to find and create events, was never the “girl with a lemonade stand.” She actually wanted to be a journalist.
Before going into the startup world, Hartz worked as an MTV executive, and it was during this time she developed the skills needed to advise marketing and PR and customer relations in her company today. But in terms of learning what it takes to build a company, it wasn't until she actually launched Eventbrite with her husband in 2006 that she understood what it took to be an entrepreneur.
“Being an entrepreneur can be learned and that is exactly what I have done,” she says. “You don’t have to be born with it, or have had the ‘lemonade stand.’ But, you do need to have the passion, devotion, conviction and sheer will and drive to make it happen.”
The company now resides in 187 countries, power 2 million events per year and processes 2 million tickets each week.
We caught up with Hartz and asked her 20 questions to figure out what makes her tick:
1. How do you start your day?
I start the day by carpooling into work with my husband and co-founder, Kevin, which gives us a chance to discuss what’s on our mind in relation to our family or our business. It's a great opportunity to connect, because once we get to work, we're off and running in two totally different directions. We typically come home together as well since eating dinner as a family is a huge priority to us.
2. How do you end your day?
With my family. Structure allows me to be focused on the day to day and have the assuredness that I have time for family. I’m still seeking a perfect schedule, and it’s an organized system, but a total jigsaw puzzle. The beauty of being co-founders with your spouse is that we run our business and family together.
3. What’s a book that changed your mind?
Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte. It outlines the current issues around self worth and approach to time, but also gender roles and pursuit of work-life balance. I was so moved by the book -- which is chock-full of supporting data points and useful reflections -- that we had the author join the company to talk about her book via Google Hangout.
4. What’s a book you always recommend?
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown. It’s an inspiring story about a Washington-based college crew team which beat the perennial favorites, Italy and Germany, in the 1936 Olympics to win the gold medal. The takeaway from that story for me is that the U.S, team, the underdog in every way, was able to rise above the rest by focusing on themselves and their teamwork, rather than their competition.
5. What’s a strategy to keep focused?
Embracing challenges and learning from failures. When we set out to build Eventbrite, we had to face many challenges and come up with creative solutions to get past them. Each time we learned new ways to cope, we became a stronger and more cohesive team. However, staying focused is an ongoing challenge: The bigger you get, the more opportunities you have to take your eye off the prize.
6. When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to work in television, and I did! I studied broadcast journalism at Pepperdine University. After a short career in television with MTV and later on at FX Network, I found my true calling in Eventbrite.
7. What did you learn from the worst boss you ever had?
Since I founded Eventbrite in my mid-twenties, I’ve only had a couple of bosses and can't say either of them were bad. However, I know that a lot of poor habits can be formed by bad bosses -- including issues with confidence, team dynamics, etcetera. -- and my hope as the CEO of Eventbrite is to help our people grow and develop into great leaders themselves.
8. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?
One of the great things about being an entrepreneur is that it naturally enables you to build a village of advisors and role models. In my village, there are role models like Sean Moriarty, Jana Rich, and Wanda Holland Greene. My co-founder (and husband), Kevin, is also an incredible mentor for me, guiding me through entrepreneurship and leadership for the last 10 years. Also, there are people I don’t work with day to day but who inspire me with their fierceness, like Brit Morin, Anna Brockway and Debbie Sterling-Lewis.
9. What’s a trip that changed you?
I recently traveled with my family to Europe. It started off connecting with my work family -- meeting with our teams and customers in Amsterdam, London and Berlin. Then my family joined me and we enjoyed some time off together. This kind of work-life connection is a reflection of how we live our lives. It’s all incredibly intertwined but beautifully separate when appropriate.
10. What inspires you?
Seeing the people at Eventbrite be so customer obsessed. They come into work every day to help people fuel their passions with live experiences and to help organizers be more successful. They are what make this company such a great place to work at, and I am honored that I get to share this journey with them.
11. What was your first business idea and what did you do with it?
I never saw myself as an entrepreneur; I wasn’t the girl with the lemonade stand. Although, being an entrepreneur can be learned and that is exactly what I have done. You don’t have to be born with it, but you do need to have the passion, devotion, conviction and sheer will and drive to make it happen.
Related: Need a Business Idea? Here are 55
12. What was an early job that taught you something important or useful?
When I worked as a television executive, I was often the sole woman in the room and the youngest. I had a wealth of ideas and thoughts but struggled to find my voice in a conference room full of big personalities. One day, my boss pulled me aside and asked me to speak up more. He knew that I had many valuable ideas to contribute but needed the airtime. I took that to heart and started making my thoughts heard. It felt great to participate, and I encourage others to speak up often.
13. What’s the best advice you ever took?
Don’t second guess yourself. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and bring out the best in you.
14. What's the worst piece of advice you ever got?
To be fearless. This is unattainable, because humans are innately built with fear, and it’s part of how we survive. I think it’s better to examine your fears and divide those into buckets. There are irrational fears that you should pack in a box and put on a shelf, but then there are warranted fears that you should listen closely as you think through challenges. You will encounter fight-or-flight situations where you need to act fearlessly but feeling the fear a little isn't always a bad thing.
15. What’s a productivity tip you swear by?
Staying organized. Asana is great for that. You can build out projects and connect other users to task lists to contribute and collaborate. There’s also a Google integration so that as tasks come in via email, you can add them to Asana with a few clicks. It’s all about having a central place to keep track of short-term and long-term goals. It is shareable with your team, so it encourages collaboration, which is key.
16. Is there an app or tool you use in a surprising way to get things done or stay on track?
I live by my Google calendar; it’s a compass for navigating my days. Productivity starts with staying organized and calendaring my day enables me to create a structure that empowers me to get things done. It’s also crucial to block out time for yourself, so you’re not just stuck in meetings all day. Each week, I look back back at how I spend my time and re-evaluate if needed, so I also use it as a learning tool.
17. What does work-life balance mean to you?
Finding balance is an ongoing challenge, which requires constant attention and dedication. My life is extremely binary -- my passion is in Eventbrite and my love is in my family. The nature of business today is that the lines of “work” and “life” are a little more blurred. Time spent outside of the office or with family is sacred, so we try our best to bring many things that happen outside into the office.
18. How do you prevent burnout?
The best way to do that is through exercise. I alternate between yoga, pilates and barre in the mornings. I also try to take time to step away during the day, even if it’s for a quick walk around the office. Disconnecting for a bit during the day allows me to clear my mind and be more productive throughout the day.
19. When you’re faced with a creativity block, what’s your strategy to get innovating?
Talking through it with my team. The people you hire are your greatest asset and strongest resource. We’ve put a lot of energy into hiring great talent, and there is always someone to count on who knows the answer or can bring a creative approach.
Related: 6 Steps to Build a Strong Team
20. What are you learning now?
I have a strength in coaching leaders and keeping focused on the vision of the company. This is critical, because I can’t do it alone and I’ve surround myself with people who make me stronger and better. Build a tribe of teammates, advisors, investors, who will inspire you, push you and support you daily.This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.