Kevin Hartz is CEO and co-founder of Eventbrite. Since the company started in 2006, it has handled around £1.8 billion ticket sales for events worldwide.
Where did you study in the UK?
I came to University College, Oxford in 1991 for a Masters degree in British history and graduated in 1992. British History was my passion at Stanford University where I did my Bachelor’s degree, and where better to study it than Britain’s oldest university? My dissertation was on King George III, the monarch on the throne when Britain lost its American colonies.
Why did you choose the UK as your place of study?
As I said, it was partly the subject. However, I was also attracted to the depth of study and the tutorial system with its individualised learning. America has some wonderful universities but they tend to concentrate on providing a breadth of education. At that stage, I was looking for depth.
What are your memories of studying and living in the UK?
The calibre of talent, intellect and the wonderful personalities of the students and professors.
Would you say that anyone you met while studying in the UK helped inspire your career?
My tutor, Dr Leslie Mitchell. He’s the leading British authority on 18th century history and he was an inspirational tutor. He was a great mentor to have, not just because of his immense knowledge and experience, but also because of his focus on academic rigour and discipline.
What path did your career take after graduating from Oxford?
Well, the obvious question is how a historian ended up in technology. If you think about it, history and technology both depend on the intellectual challenge of questioning the status quo and uncovering new things. The internet revolution was taking off when I returned to the US and I joined Silicon Graphics as a product manager.
Do you feel that your experience of studying in the UK was influential in the longer term for your career or personally?
Studying in the UK gave me a more global orientation, which is critical to technology businesses like ours that operate on a worldwide scale. I would also say that the UK’s reputation for academic rigour, and Oxford’s in particular, opened many doors. Thirdly, history at Oxford is around pattern recognition; the old saying that history repeats itself is true in business. This observation has helped me navigate the cyclical nature of the technology industry.
Do you feel that your home country has benefitted from the knowledge and experience you gained from studying in the UK?
The world is a much smaller place today through technology and a global perspective was essential as we were building up Eventbrite. Graduate school in the UK gave me the opportunity to understand the British and European perspective and, because of the international student body, I also had the chance to interact with people from countries around the world I had never visited.
Do you think countries benefit from student mobility?
Yes. The United States is a very large country and I think studying and living abroad in a place like the UK helps the American student to gain a broader perspective of the world beyond the Americas. Of course, it helps that the main language spoken is English so you feel at home fast. At the same time, the UK’s proximity to mainland Europe means that students find it easy to experience various countries, languages and cultures just by crossing the Channel. That’s something that is significantly harder to do when you study only in the US.
Have you maintained personal or work related contacts from your time studying in the UK?
Yes, my tie to my college remains strong. I attend the Oxford/Cambridge boat race dinner each year in San Francisco. The event was actually one of Eventbrite’s first clients!
Have you returned to the UK since graduation?
Yes, many times. We have an office in London and I visit at least once a year.
Do you have a favourite memento or souvenir from your time studying in the UK?
My fresher photo from University College. And my love of doner kebabs!