With $50m still in the bank, Eventbrite targets Europe

Last year the ticket sales startup Eventbrite went out looking for money and came back smiling, with a bumper $50 million from Tiger Global in its pocket. Now the company has finally revealed exactly what it’s going to do with the money: go international, and in a big way.
I talked with co-founder and CEO Kevin Hartz in Lisbon, Portugal this weekend, where we were both speaking at the Switch conference — and he explained how the company was going to expand: first Europe, then the world.
Having told the crowd that Eventbrite’s Portuguese version would be coming next month, Hartz explained to me that the company was translating the service into a variety of different languages that would all be rolling out soon. And based on the evidence seen by the site’s English version over the past six years, he said, he expects to see dramatic growth once local users across different countries can use the site in their own language.
“The English-speaking countries — England, Australia, Canada, Ireland — took off organically, and that’s been our mindset,” he said. “One of the main drivers for why Tiger Global got involved last year was the international aspect of it: it’s typically reserved to mobile applications where you see that sort of adoption. But Eventbrite, the service itself, we’re doing about 20 percent of our business outside of the U.S., so we’re leaning into that and ramping things up in the U.K. and on the continent and the rest of the world.”
And of course, just because you’re launching in a European language doesn’t mean your only targets are European countries. Launching in Portuguese, for example, gives you potential presence in Brazil; launching in Spanish hits much of Central and South America. And while French and German may not have such large base of speakers, they’re still significant.
“It’s about awareness. Where we’ve started raising awareness, we’ve seen fairly predictable growth. When you see adoption of the free service, we look very closely. That’s driven our past and present decision making on where we want to go, but we are seeing a lot of interesting growth in developing countries.”
To get where it wants to be, Hartz said, the company was looking to hire a managing director for Europe and was heading off to catch a plane to Germany once we’d spoken. Read into that what you will, but he promised that more announcements would be coming soon.
Having just passed the landmark of generating $1 billion in ticket sales, you can see plenty of opportunity for growth — especially as the site is increasingly becoming about live events of all sorts. That’s one reason it started producing its own card reader for use at gigs and suchlike.
But isn’t working on hardware a distraction? Wouldn’t partnership be a better idea? Although Hartz said he’d love to partner with the likes of Square to deliver the same service, he says it doesn’t seem to be a big priority for the payments company right now… and that’s left Eventbrite to go its own way.
Still, there are areas where Hartz and his colleagues won’t get distracted — including one particular international market that he is keen to avoid for the time being.
“We looked really closely at the Chinese market, and I spent a lot of time wondering whether we should create a joint venture or a subsidiary, but we decided not to for various reasons,” he says. “You can win the world and not win China, but it’s not the opposite way around — if you win China, it doesn’t have a bearing on the other parts. There’s certainly governmental issues and so on, but essentially we’re looking everywhere but China.”
Photograph of Kevin Hartz used under Creative Commons license courtesy of Randy Stewart / Stewtopia