From Hollywood to Silicon Valley: Meet Julia Hartz of Mollyguard

BlogHer Original Post

For almost all nonprofits, bringing in income is a critical part of their nonprofit operations - whether it be a theatre company selling tickets to its show or an environmental organization raising money from its supporters to carry on its advocacy work.  Money enables nonprofits to deliver their programs and services.  And because the Internet and the Web have become more and more integrated into our everyday lives, more and more nonprofits do fundraising, event registration, and ticket sales online. 

As part of my ongoing interview series of fabulous women who work in the nonprofit technology world, I've been keen to interview founders (and co-founders) of web-based services and tools that support online fundraising and event registration, particularly those tools that serve small or medium-sized nonprofit organizations.  A colleague recently told me about Mollyguard and I took the opportunity to interview the co-founder, Julia Hartz. 

Julia is a recovering Television Network Executive who left Hollywood to start an online event registration service called Mollyguard (soon to be relaunched as Eventbrite) with her husband, Kevin Hartz.

So, how you did get from Hollywood to Silicon Valley?  

I’ve been focused on the media business and new media for sometime now.  I grew up Santa Cruz and went to college at Pepperdine University in Malibu where I majored in Television Production.  I interned throughout my college years in the Television & Film Industry (New Regency Films, “Friendsâ€? and MTV) and was very lucky to be hired right out of college at MTV in Santa Monica in the Series Development department.  I became a junior executive at MTV and worked on prolific shows such as “Jackassâ€? and “The Tom Green Showâ€? (ha!).  From there, I went on to become a creative executive at FX Networks and was very fortunate to work on incredible shows such as “The Shieldâ€?, “Rescue Meâ€? and “Nip/Tuckâ€?.  After two years of working at FX while traveling back and forth between San Francisco (where my fiancé lived) and Los Angeles, I decided to leave the Television industry for the Tech world.  I moved to San Francisco and joined Kevin, who is now my husband, in building our start-up, Mollyguard.

What is MollyGuard?

Mollyguard is an event registration service for event organizers to publish, promote and manage their events online.  We support an infinitely wide range of events from seminars to reunions to fundraisers.  Our service is unique because it is entirely self service down to the online money collection.  We use PayPal exclusively so that event holders can collect registration funds directly from their registrants instead of the money being held by us.

Why did you name it MollyGuiard?

Mollyguard is an obscure “geekâ€? technical term that served as an ambiguous name for the “think tankâ€? that Alan and Kevin created when they started working on PayPal based ideas.  I’m happy to tell you that we are changing the name in October to Eventbrite which coincides with a very big release of new features and an overhauled architecture of our site.

How did you come up with the idea for MollyGuard?

We saw Ticketmaster serving the market for large events and venues but found a strong demand by the underserved “long tail� of smaller events.

What was most challenging about the idea from vision to reality?  

I think the two most basic challenges for us were: 1. Making a great product that customers want to use and 2. Getting customers to find the service.

What most surprised you? 

The wide range of events and other registration related uses that our customers seek us out for is always surprising to us.  We have so many different events as far as theme, scope and purpose that I couldn’t say our service is used for a specific area of events.  For example, right now we are being used for the SAAB Owners Convention and we’re also being used for an Ashtanga Yoga retreat in Bali.

Why should a small nonprofit use your service?

The most obvious reasons would because we are the easiest to use and the lowest cost provider in the event registration industry.  We charge a very low per-ticket fee with no monthly or set-up fees.

Our service is also very simple, with no real hassle or need for external help.  Any nonprofit could find us, enter their event or fundraising details and be published with a live event/registration page within 5 minutes.  It’s that easy.

Our service is also customizable so that any arts nonprofit could really tweak their event pages to fit the specific need of each event or fundraising campaign.

You can read more about Mollyguard at the company's web site and you can keep up with the development details on its blog.   If you want to get a good overview of the online donation tool landscape, see Idealware's report and review of twenty-seven lower-priced online software tools.  The report includes some pointers for how to select a tool that matches your organization's needs. (Idealware's founder and director, Laura Quinn, was recently interviewed as part of this series.)

Contributing Editor Beth Kanter also blogs at Beth's Blog and Cambodia4Kids

Photo from Julia Hartz in flickr