Humanitix is a force for true change, looking to use technology to bridge the gap between rich and poor. We sat down with founders Adam and Josh to discuss their vision.
The climate in Australia is focused more than ever on contribution, especially considering the CSR strategies by some of our biggest corporates. Equally, more and more Australians are going to events, festivals, conferences and concerts. Your start-up, Humanitix, plays directly into this concept. Could you tell our audience a little about your journey so far, and how you came to launch Humanitix?
Our journey has been a complicated, yet incredibly rewarding ride so far. We’ve created a tech-charity harnessing software to solve complex social problems, which is awesome in theory, but incredibly challenging to execute.
Adam and I became friends at university and, being idealistic university students, discussed the dream of having a career with purpose. We knew very little about social enterprise or the not-for-profit sector but shared a set of values that acknowledged the luck we’d been granted in life, which we agreed created a moral duty to give back.
We’ve created Humanitix to address the rise in global inequality and the growing gap between the haves and have-nots in the face of rapid economic prosperity and technological advancement. Adam and I share a view that technology is the most powerful tool for change available to humanity, and hence the not-for-profit sector needs to embrace it – which is what we are trying to champion.
So here we are today, transforming festivals, conferences, sporting matches, school dinners and all types of events into social good, improving accessibility to events while simultaneously redirecting resented booking fees into meals for the homeless, refuge for women escaping domestic violence, Indigenous education and more. We’ve created an ethical alternative for event organisers whereby at no extra cost, their events can change the world by simply switching to Humanitix.
We’ve won the support of some amazing organisations and heroic philanthropists, most notably the Atlassian Foundation which has just signed up as a three-year funding partner. The ticketing industry is a multi-billion dollar opportunity and this is just the beginning.
Just this week we’ve been announced as a top 10 finalist in the Google Impact Challenge, which means they will be granting us $250,000 as a finalist, with the potential to win one of three grants on offer following a pitch process in front of a judging panel. Alternatively, if we can get enough votes in the “People’s Choice” category, we will receive $1 million – so if you like what we are doing, please help us with a vote.
What were some initial barriers that you faced when launching the company, and how did you overcome them?
Ask anyone whose invested in technology startups and they’ll tell you it is high risk, costs more than initially budgeted, and requires patient supporters. We face all of these challenges as a tech-charity-startup, although we can’t attract investors as a not-for-profit, and very few philanthropists are interested in software as a tool for good, so the start was pretty lonely and financially challenging.
We had to sacrifice a lot to get it going, neither of us are millionaires, so we moved back in with the folks, cut back on personal expenses, and self-funded Humanitix – to do this, I stayed in my job in finance and shared my salary with Adam who worked full-time on Humanitix. This lasted 18 months and worked well because we’re best friends and trust each other like brothers. Adam did such a good job that things got too hectic for one person, so I quit my job and we were both on the hook volunteering for a while. This was the toughest part, because for a couple of years now we’ve been going nowhere financially, hitting our thirties and worrying about how we are ever going to afford a house or family in Sydney. What has kept us going is our clients – we continue to have some amazing, supportive event organisers who love the Humanitix concept, appreciate our best efforts and want to see us succeed. Hearing constant encouragement from your customer base is pretty special and gives us faith that we are onto something that will work in the long-run.
Our patience has started to pay off – in the past three months alone we’ve sold over $3 million in tickets and are growing rapidly. But growth presents new challenges, which is why we’d be super grateful if readers take a moment to vote for us to win the $1 million grant!
What have been some of the cause and effect results of those who list their ticket availability on the Humanitix site?
Great question – too many to detail which is awesome. All of our paid-for-profit events are transformed into tangible outcomes; a great upcoming example is Burgapalooza, a burger festival here in Sydney which is exclusively ticketing through Humanitix. As a result of the festival listing with Humanitix, we donated just over 5,000 meals to the homeless – it was a meal per ticket and it cost neither the organiser or the patron anything extra!
Another great example is the Women In Media Conference, which is funding approximately 12 nights of shelter for women escaping domestic violence. The coolest part is in both instances, we also saved the event organisers money because our fees are lower than their prior ticketing company – a win-win-win outside of previously “annoying” booking fees.
Hearing constant encouragement from your customer base is pretty special and gives us faith that we are onto something that will work in the long-run… Because every event, ticket and patron is now promoting a charity like Women’s Community Shelters or Room To Read, we are creating mass-awareness for them.
Aside from our booking fees, we’re now the market-leading ticketing platform for accessibility for the disabled, which we’ve achieved with the help of our partners. We’ve built in an accessibility module on the back-end of the platform to help event organisers improve their events, and we’ve made serious ground on updating our marketing and ticketing pages with specific requirements.
The last thing we’ve been surprised by is the free marketing value we are creating for our partner charities; because every event, ticket and patron is now promoting a charity like Women’s Community Shelters or Room To Read, we are creating mass-awareness for them. Anecdotally, we are starting to hear about events and patrons to events going on to do more with the associated charities, which is an awesome second derivative impact.
You recently secured capital to expand the company and partnered with Atlassian. What was the experience like, and how did it feel when the deal was completed?
Atlassian is a special company, and the Atlassian Foundation is one of the most genuine and open-minded foundations in our country. The deal encompassed months of due diligence with their staff, and we’ve come out with multi-year funding which is a massive relief.
The experience was, to be honest, a little intimidating. We were sitting across the table from executives who had more business, technology and charitable experience than us, so we felt somewhat at their mercy, but fortunately we have a very engaged board and some seasoned advisors helping us. What was awesome is both parties were genuinely focused on constructing an arrangement which would enhance social impact, specifically with a goal to educate 10 million disadvantaged children.
There were a lot of technicalities to overcome given the funding came in the form of a donation as opposed to a loan or traditional “impact investment”. It’s a structure based on trust more than anything else, and if we can perform, hopefully Atlassian will keep backing us for years to come. We’re now in the running to receive $1 million from Google, which will empower us to take Humanitix global, so please help our cause and vote here.
You have created a platform that ensures normal transactions we have to make when purchasing tickets, have the effect of contributing to a charity organisation How has this been received by the not-for-profit and charitable organisations who have partnered with you?
An interesting question. A few of our partner charities are actively helping us grow and have turned around to ask: “given your mission is supporting us, what can we do to help?” Some of these charities include Yalari (Indigenous education), OzHarvest (feeding the needy), Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Women’s Shelter (Domestic violence shelter), Vision Australia (vision impairments) and Grameen Australia (ending poverty). We’d love to see other partner charities get more involved and suspect with time there’ll be higher engagement, particularly as donations increase with more events and ticket sales on the platform.
Receiving capital is often the launching pad to propel into other commercial areas. What does the next 12 months look like for Humanitix?
The industry is massive, and we want to be the best ticketing software on the market, so we think it would be a mistake to start offering other non-ticketing related services at this stage.
We’re continuing to double-down and invest in our ticketing software in three key areas: functionality/marketing tools for our clients; accessibility technology to further improve the experience of people with disabilities attending live events; and impact measurement to best promote each event’s social impact through redistribution of booking fees into partner charities. A couple of key examples include our seating map functionality that has just gone live (which is super helpful for venues and gala dinners), and a reporting dashboard that now clearly shares with the event organiser the impact from their event so they can share it on Facebook/Instagram/Linkedin. A recent example is Soft Centre which is a music festival we recently ticketed. Through Humanitix, it provided 18 nights of shelter for women escaping domestic violence and it got them a lot of positive reactions from the audience on social media.
What does a normal day look like now for the Humanitix team?
We’ve got half the team developing software, and the other half servicing our event organisers and dealing with new enquiries. For the bigger events, we often help run registrations on the day so it’s a really diverse job; one day we are out at a four-day camping festival, running the wi-fi and scanning operations; the next day we are at a major corporate conference running registrations and check-in.
And finally, what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to launch their own concept?
Brainstorm what skills are needed to reach your goal, be honest with yourself about what you lack, and work hard to get the right people around you. Don’t be greedy, better to share a successful venture than to control 100% of nothing!
Humanitix are finalists in the Google.org impact challenge – vote for them today!