Humanitix is the only tech-charity in the world that is disrupting the ticketing industry. Two Aussies, Adam and Josh, friends since university, started with a vested interest to have a hand in helping solve some of the social problems of the globe, in particular a lack of education in poverty stricken areas and third world countries. They have successfully created a not for profit that has surpassed most of their “for-profit” local competitors in the industry, in only 4 ½ years.
Let’s start with what is Humanitix?
Humanitix is a registered charity – 100% of their booking fees are donated to charities they support around the globe.
What do they do?
Their organisation is based around technology for ticketing events, where your booking fees are donated to education programs across the globe. Adam McCurdie and Joshua Ross wanted to spend their careers solving social problems and realised this was the most scalable and sustainable way to achieve such a major step forward for society.
Adam and Josh had been looking for the right charitable idea to start for 10 years. Once they discovered there were billions of dollars being raised in booking fees through for-profit ticketing agencies, they realised there was a window to direct this money into worthwhile causes to educate disadvantaged children around the world.
Ripe for disruption.
This realisation led them to discover that the ticketing industry was actually ripe for disruption. There was no one else with this model.
The fact that there was no one else with a not-for-profit event ticketing platform, it also meant they were somewhat learning the business on their own. The only companies they could look to for examples to learn from were for-profit businesses. The first steps they took to start were to volunteer in the ticketing teams at major festivals and to meet with a range of ticketing companies to see if they could license their technology so they could learn how to start selling tickets. Once they had done this they registered their organisation and began calling family and friends who were running 10 person yoga workshops, so they could test out their offering.
“As we tested our concept we just kept building with confidence with each little step we took”.
The boys knew they had a great idea because they were passionate about it and they believed in it enough to stand by it. Starting the organisation with no equity was a big leap of faith in their friendship. Josh stayed in the job he was doing at the time, for the first 15 months and they shared his salary, while Adam focussed on building Humanitix.
Naturally, there were dappled signs of doubt every now and then. The big one was, they didn’t know of any other tech industry that had successfully been disrupted by a not-for-profit model. Would event organisers value and support their concept? How would they scale the organisation without any for-profit investors? Would they be able to attract talent to a start-up with zero equity? And could they survive for the medium term on lower wages?
With all these concerns the boys decided to move back in with their parents and treat the first 18 months as a low cost trial to learn and not waste money.
Mixing with the competition
With other companies like Eventbrite “killing it” in event ticketing they knew they had some healthy competition. They used their respect for companies like Eventbrite and their platform to learn from. Although Eventbrite is a for-profit business they were still able to learn a lot from them. “Eventbrite is a great competitor –they are probably the competitor we respect the most. Having said that, we feel we offer our clients a lot more value on service, pricing, and a social impact perspective and…our technology more than matches theirs” says Josh.
Within Australia, and apart from Eventbrite, most of Humanitix competitors have outdated technology platforms. Aside from their unique value proposition as a charity, the boys knew they had to nail the technology area of their business for it to really take off.
Their big break came in 2018 , when the Atlassian Foundation supported them by giving a multi-year funding deal along with a lot of technical support and advice. In their own words, Josh and Adam describe this “as a game-changer, which also helped us to win the Google Impact Challenge in 2018”.
Thanks to the support from Google and Atlassian, Humanitix has managed to leapfrog their local competitors in regards to the features and user experience of their ticketing platform. This encompasses their design, integrations such as Facebook and Canva, and a raft of ticketing features that are world-class. This support has allowed Humanitix to match the sophistication of the technology platform used by competitors such as Eventbrite.
Josh and Adam sum up their position in the market as an easy choice, “if our software is better, and it costs nothing extra, why wouldn’t you want your events booking fees to support an Aboriginal child’s education”.
By this stage, not only did Humanitix have the support from Atlassian and Google, assisting them to continue to grow, they were also lucky enough to gain the mentorship from ex Wallabies Captain John Eales (remaining completely independent, but arguably one of the greatest captains Australia has ever had J).
After being named a top 20 Business of Tomorrow by Westpac, their prize included a range of incentives for growth, including 2 mentor sessions. The boys wholeheartedly admit they won the lottery with John Eales. John “loves what we are doing, believes in the cause and understands the potential scalability of our idea to change the world. He helps us with advice, introductions, write-ups and in any other way he can” say the boys.
Having an influential mentor and advisor who is associated with the Humanitix brand is a great business tool. Utilising the full value of this is a great way for them to maximise their branding and gather useful advice gained from other perspectives and experiences.
Starting a Charity – What is involved?
Starting the organisation has been a leap of faith, mixed in with a fervent desire to make an impact. For anyone considering embarking on the same path, Adam and Josh recommend testing your idea as much as you can, and as early as possible and then just getting started. Dive in, Josh says “your first iteration will be wrong so don’t over-invest in it”.
They believe, there is no education for entrepreneurship and the vast majority of learning is done on the job. Improving your business skills and abilities from books, talks and even degrees is a good upskilling process, but during the first few years these things shouldn’t take up more than 10% of your time. Building a product or service, selling it, and managing other people and competitors needs to happen fast and will (and should) consume most of your time.
Raising funding for their charity has been one of the major challenges they have had to overcome. They applied for the NSW Governments ‘Minimum Viable Product Grant’ and met the conditions needed. This grant has allowed them to now employ close to 20 people in their organisation.
Funding your not for profit can seem like a daunting barrier if you are considering starting a not for profit or charity. Josh and Adam self-funded their organisation for 18 months to prove the concept. They feel as though their partnership allowed them to do this and their advice to others considering a not for profit or charity would be to “get some runs on the board” before asking for grants.
Marketing their organisation organically and via paid promotions has also helped build the awareness of their message and purpose. Social media campaigns and their affiliation with Google and paid advertising has greatly assisted them in times where they have needed exposure.
Trust and sacrifices
Reading this it would appear Josh and Adam have sailed through setting up and growing their organisation. However, they will be the first to admit this is never the case when starting out.
Mistakes we wish we could have avoided:
Chasing partnerships and potential clients which were a major waste of time. As well as investing time in some people who we trusted to be genuine and turned out not to be.
“These things are bound to happen when you’re a start-up and desperately trying to get your concept off the ground – it’s part of taking on risks,” says Adam.
The biggest challenge:
COVID -19 has obviously been a big challenge thrown in unexpectedly for this organisation. Completely out of their control and having a massive impact on the events industry.
The only other challenge they have had to overcome so far is – Humanitix. It sounds odd that their concept itself has been their biggest challenge, however, Josh and Adam confess the first two years were a rollercoaster of emotions and effort. Working at 200% intensity in an attempt to create something from nothing was at times an insurmountable task.
Both Josh and Adam admit there are many sacrifices when starting out and also along the way. Their biggest one has been the financial sacrifice of self-funding for the first 18 months.
Work-life balance and ultimately being happy
During the first two years, the work-life balance for Josh and Adam was not well managed. As mentioned earlier, getting Humanitix off the ground took up every moment of their time. That was the only way they could really make an impact on the industry. However, they now make time for socialising, family, friends, and fitness. Although they do confess they are actually very content to throw 110% at Humanitix. When asked if they were happy, it was on overriding “yes”. “We feel pretty damn lucky honestly, to get to work on our passion. It’s a lot of fun, so we aren’t sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves”. Enjoying what they do every day, now more than ever is a great testament for the saying “do what you love and you will never work a day in your life”.
When asked what is the one piece of advice they would give to others they were in agreeance. If you are planning on partnering with someone it is vital that you make sure you have trust and openness between you, but most importantly a similar work ethic. One person should never work harder than the other. It will likely fuel resentment and a fallout to follow. Also, they advise, “don’t try to perfect your idea academically – start selling it to real customers as quickly as possible, the rest will follow.”
Naturally, we had to ask Josh and Adam: How big a role does your accountant play in your business success?: “As a registered charity it’s a vital risk that we have our financial affairs in order. From a compliance and risk perspective, it’s crucial. So we are super appreciative of the expert support on this front
Humanity is still alive
It is always so exciting to write and tell these client stories. There is always so much to learn from someone else’s experience in business. Although it is especially refreshing to tell the story, of how two friends shared a passion to make a change, turned it into a workable platform, and now live their lives doing what they love and at the same time – helping those in need.
Humanitix has been an audit client with Bishop Collins Accountants since 2019. Under the guidance of our Audit & Assurance Team and Director Martin Le Marchant and Associate Director Martin Sabanos. Our Audit & Assurance team specialise in the Not For Profit industry. If you are in the NFP or charity sector and need some expert advice please do not hesitate to contact us.
We have included links to all the mentioned grants, awards, and companies involved in the growth of Humanitix, throughout this article.
You can read more about Humanitix or book your next event through them by clicking here: https://www.humanitix.com/au/