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Josh Ross, CEO of Humanitix, on how the non-profit ticketing platform survived their industry grinding to a halt

Joshua Ross (Right) and Adam McCurdie, Co-CEOs and Co-Founders of Humanitix.

By Guest Author: Joshua Ross, CEO and Co-Founder at Humanitix

It was 2am. My eyes were red from hours of staring at the daily ticket sales. Our hockey-stick graph had been rising unstoppably over the past few years but had just plummeted down a cliff. I wasn’t surprised – events were suddenly banned all around the world because of the virus. As I stared at the dropping numbers, there was one big question on my mind: “Could we still fund the girls’ education?”

Humanitix started with the mission of closing the education gap for the 400 million kids around the world who aren’t getting fair access to education. We’re a charity with a unique twist – instead of asking for donations, we run an event ticketing platform and put 100% of the profits from booking fees toward our education programs, which are delivered around the world by partners like Room To Read.

Event organisers love that it doesn’t cost them any extra to give their event an incredible impact, and it becomes another reason for their guests to get excited about the event. A single dollar can fund a child’s education for a day. A single football match funded two years of education for disadvantaged girls. A party at a bar on New Years Eve funded a scholarship for an Indigenous Student. Every ticket counts.

Being a tech-charity makes for an unusual combination. We operate like a Silicon Valley scale-up, investing heavily in an incredible product and ticketing experience. The difference is that we're a charity and we can’t take on investors. This makes us work even harder to maintain a healthy profit margin so we can donate our profits to the kids.

So when the event industry stopped in March this year, we knew we had to find a way through. Kids were depending on it.

I was in San Francisco with my Co-founder and Co-CEO Adam McCurdie when events started getting cancelled. First, it was the big events – festivals and conferences with more than 500 guests. Then governments around the world restricted events to 100 people at most. Then 10.

The next thing we knew, we were rushing for a flight back to our headquarters in Sydney, Australia, scrambling to get there before the borders closed.

No events meant no tickets, no ticket booking fees, and no funding for our education programs. Adam and I put our heads together – we were heading back to face a crisis.

By the time we landed, we had a plan. There would be three phases to the event industry’s experience of the crisis.

First, was managing the heartache of so many cancelled events. While other ticketing companies slashed their staff numbers, our whole team worked overtime. Many were on the phone to event organisers late into the night, many of whom were in tears as they pulled the plug on events they’d been working toward for months. Their role had suddenly expanded from advisor to counsellor. Meanwhile, Adam and I fielded calls from government agencies, making sure they knew how tough event organisers had it.

The second phase was about getting events online. Event organisers had booked incredible talent, speakers and entertainers. Guests were still excited. We just had to connect them throughout the lockdowns.

Within days the Humanitix dev team was rolling out new capabilities for online events, including connecting to Facebook’s Virtual Events API. The connection was a hit, letting event organisers instantly share their events with their community online. Our team created guides on running digital events, and provided guidance to event organisers that had suddenly discovered the hope that comes with running an online event.

We knew that connecting with Facebook’s Virtual Events API would make a big difference. In 2019 we integrated with Facebook Events, allowing our event organisers to create a Facebook event from their Humanitix event with just one click. The extra reach on events meant that ticket sales grew massively, in turn driving donations.

In the six month period in which we connected with Facebook events, funding for our education programs grew an enormous 165%.

Finally, we recognised that lockdowns wouldn’t last forever. Humans crave connection, and events are perfect for that. Our job is to explore the incredible opportunities that will come with recovery. This isn’t the time for us to go dormant, it’s the time for us to make our product better than ever and get closer to our customers.

The event organisers we speak to tell us that with many events postponed by months, they’ve suddenly discovered that their tight deadlines have relaxed, giving them the opportunity to try new things. There is a huge amount of pent-up creative energy in the events industry right now. When events come back, they’ll be more incredible than ever, with more events blending their online/offline experiences to reach more people around the world. And many, many more of them will be on Humanitix, giving their events an incredible impact.

On all those tickets, booking fees will help close the education gap for kids around the world.

We can’t wait.


Josh Ross is Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Humanitix.
Humanitix is the not-for-profit ticketing platform that gives events impact. They make event management a breeze and give 100% of the profits from booking fees to education projects, such as literacy programs for young girls. It's an incredible feeling to announce in your marketing or at your event that you've funded the education of disadvantaged kids – and it becomes another reason guests flock to your events. Powering thousands of events, and backed by Google and Atlassian, Humanitix is making every ticket count.