Ever felt frustrated by those booking fees that appear from nowhere when you buy event tickets online? What if you knew that little (or not-so-little) fee went straight to a charity that directly helps people with issues ranging from homelessness to domestic violence? Feels better hey – and it’s why Adam McCurdie and Joshua Ross founded Humanitix, the first not-for-profit ticketing platform that funnels those costs into causes. Intrigued, we chatted to Joshua to find out more.
What inspired you to start Humanitix?
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 creates a moral duty to give back. Having said all this, neither of us were typical ‘hippies’ – Adam was studying engineering and maths, and I had started a combined law and commerce degree.
We knew we needed some ‘real world’ experience, so Adam worked in management consulting whilst I spent 7 years in a hedge-fund. During this time we did some volunteering, but kept our dreams on the side-lines whilst we saved money and built our networks. About two-and-a-half years ago we had our eureka moment and came up with Humanitix.
Tell us how it all works.
Humanitix is the world’s first not-for-profit ticketing platform which redistributes the profits from booking fees to fund domestic violence shelters, meals for the homeless, indigenous education and more! Globally, booking fees add up to billions of dollars, and provide little social value to the events community. Furthermore, charities struggle to source sustainable funding and are always looking to promote their cause to new audiences – so we think it’s the perfect marriage of events and charities.
The major challenge with Humanitix has been the capital required to build a competitive ticketing platform. Adam and I made a decision from day one to make Humanitix a not-for-profit, and as a result we don’t have any investors. All our supporters, including Adam and I, have been donors to Humanitix. We have the economic model to be self-funding at scale, however to get it off the ground has involved enormous sacrifice. Our ethos is that we should pay our staff market-rate salaries, but 100% of the profits should go into the social cause. We obviously aren’t yet in a position to pay our staff market-rate and won’t be for some years.
Given the disruptive nature of Humanitix, and the non-traditional concept, we really struggled to get support in the first year or so. As a result I had to keep working at the hedge fund for the first 16 months whilst Adam worked full time on Humanitix. To do this without going broke we both moved back to our parents homes and shared my salary. By March 2017 it had grown quite a lot and I had to quit my job, so both Adam and I were full-time volunteering which was pretty stressful for our parents! The good news is from about August 2017 we started to gain significant traction and have since had a small group of philanthropists start backing Humanitix, which allows us to employ a team of staff here in Sydney.
We’re pretty excited about this year – we’ve got a lot of momentum with more and more events using our platform, and our developers are releasing significant improvements. In March we interviewed Nobel Prize winner Professor Yunus on stage at the Grameen Australia event ‘Symposium Z’ – we were over the moon that we got to meet one of our main inspirations in person!
The opportunity to change the world at scale is what keeps us going. It’s tough and every day is hard work.
What’s the process for events organisers, and for attendees?
Humanitix allows event organisers to build ticketing pages, sell tickets, capture attendee data and effectively run their event. Where Humanitix differs from the competition is that 100% of the booking fee profits are donated to one of Humanitix’s 30 partner charities, of which the event organiser chooses one. This doesn’t cost the event organiser or patron anything extra – it literally comes out of the market-rate booking fee that Humanitix charges. Instead of giving our profits to shareholders, we donate them to a cause of the event organiser’s choice.
The key benefit for event organisers is that for patrons we transform a heavily resented booking fee into a positive and tangible donation to charity. We believe this improves the brand equity of the event as well as the experience for the patron. We democratise the giving so that the event organiser can choose a cause that they believe will resonate best with their audience – we find this creates the best altruistic outcome, whereby the charity benefits not just from the donation but from greater awareness and engagement with their cause from a relevant community.
What kind of events have partnered with Humanitix? And which charities have benefited?
To date we’ve partnered with over 1,500 events, ranging from small community events to mid-sized music festivals and some pretty big conferences. Some of our largest events included a Westfield FFA Round of 16 Match between Melbourne City FC and Hakoah FC; the Hedge Fund Conference; a major Easter Egg Hunt (literally thousands of people) and a major concert touring from South Africa. In 2018 we’ve signed on some festivals that sell between 5-20,000 tickets, so we’re super excited for the growth ahead. For the month of March 2018 we donated over $15,000 from our booking fees to charities in Australia, so our donation run-rate is growing quickly!
What feedback have you had?
The consistent feedback from our clients is that they love the charitable concept and would make the switch tomorrow if our functionality was up-to-par. Through 2017 and the first few months of 2018 we were on a pilot platform, but as of early April we’ve launched a new feature-rich and highly scalable platform that’s already got hundreds of events on it. If people want to trial using our new platform, they can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll help with the build of their event.
Many of the world’s problems are being driven by technological change, and unless the charity sector can get on the front-foot with innovation we’re concerned it won’t keep up with the creation of new problems.
What drives you to keep going?
The opportunity to change the world at scale is what keeps us going. It’s tough and every day is hard work. It’s not a ‘set and forget’ type of operation – we need to keep hustling to gain support from philanthropists, improve the platform and keep our clients happy. Luckily Adam and I are naturally competitive – it may not be true for every day but we do for the most part love the uphill challenge! We are taking on some of the largest companies in the world, and all for the benefit of the things we care most about – that provides an amazing drive for not just us, but our staff too!
What do you hope to achieve with Humanitix?
We want to empower anyone in the world attending an event to support a cause that matters to them. Our long-term goals are to becoming the largest ticketing platform in the world, redirecting billions of dollars in ‘wasted’ booking fees into the things we care about – educating disadvantaged kids, protecting victims of domestic violence, counselling services for mental health, meals for the homeless and so on. Our big-picture goal is to drive innovation in the not-for-profit sector. Many of the world’s problems are being driven by technological change, and unless the charity sector can get on the front-foot with innovation we’re concerned it won’t keep up with the creation of new problems.