Even if you don’t know who Renaud Visage is, it’s pretty likely he’s helped your social life.
As well as answering to one of the most satisfying names I’ve ever heard, he’s the CTO and co-Founder–along with Kevin and Julia Hartz–of Eventbrite. Yep, that Eventbrite.
He kindly joined me on Skype to chat about how he conducted a long-distance relationship with his co-founders, about the value of the live experiences and how coding and photography aren’t such different pursuits.
When Eventbrite was in its infancy, Renaud was based in Paris and Kevin and Julia were working from San Francisco. Renaud would code while his co-founders were asleep, and they’d have a little time to go over everything when evening rolled around in Paris and the sun rose in San Francisco.
“It’s like having a 24-7 shop really with only three people. It was pretty cool. I think as long as you’re aligned and you have clear responsibilities, you don’t overlap too much.
I think it works out if you’re all motivated and really into the product which you are building. You’re going to make it work wherever you are.”
And make it work they did. Eventbrite now has eight offices in various worldwide locations and over one million events were organised through them last year. Their initial idea was to provide a platform for small to medium-sized events and their user base has grown from early adopters in the tech industry to … well, everybody!
A large factor in their growth Renaud reckons, is the fact that this generation –the oft-maligned Millennials– are more interested in paying for live experiences than for stuff. “Part of our success has been to be positioned well when that phenomenon started and to be the key player[…]matching the image and the expectations that these type of people have of everything being easy to use, well-designed and intuitive.”
As the company began to scale, it became important to preserve the reliability of the core product, while trying to add new strings to its bow.
“I think the challenge for any fast-growing company is how do you stay innovative, stay fresh but still maintain the quality that your current users have.” While the core events management product hasn’t changed, Eventbrite now also serves customers looking for events in their own locale.
I asked him about the challenges of hiring people to maintain that kind of evolution and quality within a growing company. Eventbrite are interested in hiring “people who can make things happen and make them happen quickly. But we’ve hired many different kinds of people over the years, we hired a lot of people who were very specialised as well in certain areas.
At the beginning, I think you can get by with people who are very generalist, I’m one of these people who can do a bit of everything and I think not really in a deep, fully-understood fashion. Making it work is an art.”
That art is what has set Eventbrite apart from other startups. Renaud and his co-founders cracked a potent formula with their mix of a reliable product, the inherent virality of live events, and a global service that has a local feel. Renaud also credits having founders who have such different personalities and abilities.
“I see a big trend of two or three technical co-founders. They like to program, they get together to build something but then in the end they don’t have the necessary business skills I think to make it over the long term.
So I would say [to entrepreneurs to] keep looking until you find the perfect match and then give it a try for a few months to see if you can actually work with this person. It’s never a given that it’s going to work out so treat it as an experiment and if it doesn’t work out, no harm’s done.”
He contends that meeting his co-founders was a happy accident, when they were introduced through a mutual friend. But those are the kind of flukes you can encourage through networking.
“You can’t start early enough to be networking, and it doesn’t mean schmoozing at events all the time, but keeping in touch with people you meet over the years, thinking about the potential, like how to establish connections between people.”
And Renaud is someone who likes to make connections. When I ask him about his photography – he’s an avid, and accomplished photographer, having had his work featured in magazines such as Forbes and Glamour – he relates it to his day job.
“I think it has similarities with programming – you try to make sense of some kind of chaos. When you program you have all these options to do something. There are many ways to solve the same problem, and when you’re out there trying to make sense of the world and finding the lines that you will make into something when you photograph. I think it’s the same kind of filtering and decision-making that goes into creating both – pieces of equal art-form.”
When we sign off from the call I’m left with the feeling that Renaud is dedicated to the art in all his pursuits, whether that’s programming, photography, or just ‘making it work’.