Woman Of Substance: Julia Hartz

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Julia Hartz at EventBrite’s San Francisco headquarters Photo: Jayms Ramirez

Eventbrite Co-Founder and President Julia Hartz was a 25-year-old executive at FX network with a view from her 42nd- floor office in Century City. She was on the verge of signing a contract with Al Gore’s Current TV—so she could live in San Francisco with her fiancé Kevin Hartz—when her beau propositioned her at the 11th hour.

Come work in a windowless phone closet, which you’ll share with me and one other person, in a warehouse in Potrero Hill. Our desk will be a door on a sawhorse, and we’ll decorate our office walls with packages of Cup Noodles, which we’ll eat daily, because that’s all we’ll be able to afford after we put all of our money into a startup.

That was the reality, although what Hartz says her future husband really proposed to her at the time was, “‘You can go work for a startup and make pretty low compensation, or we can start something together and you can make nothing. We can put all of our money into it.’ That is the essence of a serial entrepreneur— someone who can make that sound like a good idea.”

A gambler would jump at the opportunity; Hartz was not that person.

“I have not always been a risk taker,” she reveals. “I didn’t play any extreme sports growing up. I never surfed, and I grew up in Santa Cruz. I was very good at doing what I was told, taking direction and staying middle of the road. I mean, they called me grandma in college. So doing this was the craziest, wildest thing I’d ever done in my life, and I think everybody thought I had lost my mind. I’m so happy I did, obviously.”

Eventbrite, started by the Hartzes and Renaud Visage, was the first self-service platform to sell tickets to events and will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year. Now a global ticketing platform that connects people with live experiences—from classes to wine tasting to large festivals and concerts—it counts thousands of promoters and organizers, including those from the Sundance Institute, BottleRock and the Tribeca Film Festival, among its clients. Looking for something new to fuel your passion and enrich your life? Eventbrite can present you a multitude of options in a flash. Operating on the freemium model, this “Unicorn Club” ($1 billion valuation) member also processed $1.5 billion in gross ticket sales in 2014. The headquarters moved from that Potrero Hill phone closet long ago, and currently occupies the entire top floor of a seven-story building in tech-centric South of Market where Britelings enjoy panoramic views of San Francisco.

Britelings? Oh, those are the employees, and just one of the cutesy names Hartz invented. She’s known for cultivating and advocating an award-winning culture in her workplace where 80 percent of the team is millennials. Having eight offices in seven countries with 500 employees wouldn’t mean a thing to her if those Britelings weren’t happy campers. Bring your dogs—they’re called barklings—and your kids to work, where lactation rooms fall alongside various GVC-connected rooms to collaborate with offices around the globe. Work from a hammock, or remotely, if you so please. Stay up-to-date on the latest in the company and ask questions to Hartz, president, and Kevin, CEO, when you attend the weekly “Hearts to Hartz” sessions. These reasons, and more, are why Eventbrite recently made Fortune’s inaugural list of “100 Best Workplaces for Millennials,” and for the last six years has nabbed a spot on the San Francisco Business Times’s “Best Places to Work in the Bay Area” list.

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Julia Hartz and Kevin Hartz at TechCrunch Disrupt SF   Photo courtesy TechCrunch

“My goal is to create one of the greatest companies that’s ever existed, and that has everything to do with the people, the culture and what our core values are, versus what we build or how we’re perceived out in the market,” she says. “I live, breathe and die by what kind of company we’re creating.”

For the first three years, Hartz was the entire customer support, marketing and finance departments. She recalls being in the delivery room when her first child Emma, who is almost 8, was born.

“The story Kevin likes to tell is that they literally had to take the laptop away from me,” she says. “My point of view was that I didn’t want to know what was coming next after push. I just kept answering customer service emails.”

After Emma, she took five months to transition back to full-time status. With her second daughter, Maeve, she admits she was “too aggressive” in her return, but wanted to get back to the 200 Britelings. Nearly half of her employees are females, which is impressive, considering the tech industry is much-maligned for its lack of said gender, and more than 20 percent of Eventbrite’s women are engineers. “Still low,” she pauses, then adds, “but much better than the average.”

The XX chromosome Britelings don’t have to look far for a role model. Hartz was honored as one of Inc.’s “35 under 35” in 2014 and Fortune’s “Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs” in 2013. The fashion-conscious executive, who danced from the ages of 3 to 20, credits that activity for helping her succeed in her career.

“Time and time again I have to rely on the discipline I learned in dance to solve a problem, the poise to handle multiple things in one day and the confidence to speak in public like I know what I’m talking about,” she says. “That’s been a huge tailwind for me.”

Despite the accolades she and her popular company receive, Eventbrite has yet to show a profit, which is probably why she is so determined.

“Daily life here isn’t like Disneyland,” she shares. “It’s certainly challenging. We’re trying to do big things with this company, but it’s a kick-ass job to have.”