Seven Questions with Julia Hartz
Classic advice for founders from the Sequoia community.
Published June 13, 2018
Julia Hartz is co-founder and CEO of Eventbrite, the world’s largest ticketing platform which powers millions of events around the globe each year. Before joining the tech world, she worked in series development at MTV and FX, on shows including *The Shield* and *Rescue Me.*
What is something you’ve learned that you lean on daily?
The importance of getting enough sleep—especially during busy times. This week, for example, I’m making some tough decisions and trying to communicate the context around them—it would be easy to burn the candle at both ends. Instead, I’ve made it home every day in time for dinner with my daughters and I’ve gone to bed when they do, at 8:30 or 9 p.m. I’m still tired, because I’m navigating this mini-watershed moment and that takes a lot of emotional energy. But getting enough sleep helps me stay centered.
I think about this a lot in terms of my team, too. The week we acquired Ticketfly, I sent them a message every night at 10 p.m. saying, “Pencils down. Go to bed, or do whatever you want to do, but let’s not pull all-nighters.” I had this spidey sense that at some point, we would need the energy. Sure enough, we ended up negotiating until 3:30 a.m. on the final night. I think the fact that we were mindful about being rested made all the difference in the world.
What one piece of advice would you give someone starting a company?
Don’t do it unless you have an insane amount of conviction. That doesn’t mean being sure the product will work, but it does mean believing fully in the mission. If you start a business saying, “Let’s see if this works, and if not I’ll do something else,” why bother? Because it won’t be easy. To weather all the ups and downs of starting a company, you have to embody a growth mindset and have the fortitude to keep going.
We started Eventbrite because we genuinely believed in the power of live events to bring people together and build community. And we knew that a self-service, category-agnostic platform could democratize the events space. But at the time, people were like, “What are you talking about? Small events are not valuable.” We had to be relentless to help other people understand and believe in our mission, and it would have been impossible without conviction.
What small change has made a big difference in your life?
More reading and reflection. I’ve been on a book odyssey as of late, letting the insights from one book lead me organically to the next. It started with Katharine Graham’s autobiography, Personal History. That led me to re-read The Outsiders by William Thorndike, because Graham is covered in that book. Then The Outsiders made me think of Mindset by Carol Dweck, so I re-read that, too.
It’s important to carve out time to be reflective, to think about personal development and what it means to build a great company. I’ve already noticed I’m better able to speak the truth, and that’s building more trust within our team. My initial instinct is to make everyone feel great about themselves all the time, but I’ve realized that vague, unattainable feedback isn’t a kindness. I can show someone I care by giving them feedback that’s specific, honest, and actionable.
What don’t you know that you wish you knew?
That’s an easy one—I wish I could speak Spanish fluently. Eventbrite has almost 100 people in Mendoza, Argentina; it’s grown into a multidisciplinary hub of creative and technical teams. I spent some time down there recently, and I wished I could speak the native tongue, rather than have everyone else working overtime to speak English.
What books are on your nightstand right now?
Deep Thinking by Garry Kasparov, which is a little detour from my odyssey. It’s about machine intelligence, human creativity, and how the two can coexist.
Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan was amazing. She’s such a wonderful writer. She talks about grieving her father’s passing while raising two teenage girls. She’s hysterical, and so real and raw.
I also read Brotopia by Emily Chang very quickly.
When did you realize you were wrong about something?
I’m dead wrong whenever I let fear take the wheel. Usually those decisions are about people—not making changes fast enough, or not taking bigger risks. But it’s the fearless decisions that I try to focus on.
This week, for example, I made a decision where I pretty much locked fear in the trunk of the car. It was something that, by all accounts, I should have been afraid to do, and I did it anyway because it was the best move for Eventbrite. Fear has a way of diverting attention and knocking you off your path. So I constantly ask myself, “What am I afraid of?”
What unit of time matters the most and why?
A week. Every Sunday, I think about how to arrange my week so I can both serve my goals for the business and carve out meaningful time with my family. I do these nerdy time audits and compare the intentions I set to how I actually spent my time.
I like having a plan for every day, but I’ve also learned that you can’t predict the future. You never know for sure how a week will go. As long as I’ve prepared as much as I can, then I’m able to roll with the punches. As they say, “the show must go on.” Whatever happens, I just try to be as efficient as possible, because that gives me more time with Kevin and the kids. I don’t want to look back and realize I didn’t properly prioritize the most important things in my life.