Eventbrite cofounders Julia and Kevin Hartz are doing it right.
Their San Francisco-based company helps event organisers sell and give away tickets. Over 7 years, it’s helped organisers sell $US2 billion worth of tickets. It’s on pace to sell a billion dollars worth of tickets this year.
Today, Eventbrite launched a big new product. It’s created easy-to-use tools event planners can use to set up “reserved seating.”
And Eventbrite is more than just a good business. It employs 300 people. It’s helped non-profits raise $US177 million through the platform. Some of its employees created a philanthropy group called Brite Impact, which focuses on issues like clean water for underdeveloped countries.
And yet, despite running a good business that does good, Julia and Kevin Hartz are the sort of people whom many in San Francisco loath these days.
That’s because they are “tech” people — the kind of people bringing Google buses into San Francisco, driving up rents, and pushing out bohemians.
Julia and Kevin came through the Business Insider office a couple weeks ago, and we asked them what it’s like living through the tech backlash in San Francisco.
Here’s a transcript of that conversation that’s been lightly edited for brevity and clarity:
Business Insider: What do you two make of the supposed “tech backlash” going on in San Francisco these days?
Kevin Hartz: I think more and more there’s the technophiles and the non-technophiles and they’re starting to look at us like we’re space aliens. I got a DJI drone. I was flying it around and somebody was really kind of scared and offended by it. That’s not necessarily a socioeconomic divide, but almost a fear of technology divide. I had a nice conversation with her and kind of calmed her down, but she was terrified of the thing.
Julia Hartz: With all due respect, I feel like it’s being fanned by the media. Do you actually see it? No. But I do think that there are very challenging situations in a dense urban environment where housing costs are rising and that’s a real issue.
Kevin Hartz: You do notice the buses. There’s Yahoo, there’s Google, there’s Apple, there’s Facebook. You can’t not notice these big buses. Those companies are very starkly aware of it. I think it’s hard as employees of those companies to get on to those buses and know everyone’s peering at you. I won’t try to defend the practice.
Juila Hartz: I think that, just plainly put, tech companies that are building and creating wealth and value in Silicon Valley should be giving back to Silicon Valley. There should be a symbiotic relationship between the tech companies and the local areas that they’re a part of. I think that tech companies should be pushed to do more for the city or for wherever they are.
Kevin Hartz: I think [Salesforce CEO Marc] Benioff is a great example. Very early on, He implemented what’s called 1-1-1. It’s one per cent of employee’s time, one per cent of revenue and one per cent of the company to philanthropic practices. It gets people in that mindset, and one per cent becomes very relevant.
BI: I’ve always thought of San Francisco as a very expensive town. I thought it always had been.
Juila Hartz: I mean, it’s definitely not an overnight phenomenon, but I think to be honest, the real estate industry is taking massive advantage of this time. The rents that we paid two years ago have tripled now in the span of two years. That’s crazy in itself, and that’s just the commercial side. You do see this massive capitalism aggressive taking advantage of a trend.
Kevin Hartz: We tech people like to blame the real estate people.
Juila Hartz: Yeah, we point our fingers to them.
Kevin Hartz: And then the real estate people can point the finger at somebody else.
BI: You wouldn’t think it’s because of the proximity to Silicon Valley, but the tech industry is pretty new to San Francisco isn’t it?
Kevin Hartz: It was really mid-2000s when companies started up here and then it just gathered momentum. YouTube made it to San Mateo and that was a big deal that they’d gone north and were able to find less expensive real estate and draw upon talent from the city and the peninsula. Soon after came Zynga, Twitter, Dropbox.
Juila Hartz: I guess I feel optimistic that the conversation could eventually lead to somewhere more productive. For me, it’s how can we effectively give back to San Francisco? What is that outlet? As an owner-operator of a business that now has the capacity to think about it in a more organised way, I want models that work and I want great examples of how we can be active in the community. Everybody’s kind of doing their own thing, but if you can organise everybody toward a few key issues, I think that’s where we can really start to make a difference. I don’t know if that solves this debate, but at least it’s something concrete and solid that we can all agree can be something good.
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