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Briteling Blog

We’re pretty stoked that nvite, a community-focused event platform known for their customization and design prowess, has officially joined Eventbrite. Their team of six moved across the country (with dogs in tow) and are busy settling into our San Francisco headquarters. We sat down with them to hear more about the journey that led to Eventbrite. Read on for the details from Martin Ringlein (CEO and co-founder), Alex Giron (Creative Director and co-founder), Evan Dudla (Senior Product Engineer and co-founder), Brandon Vaughan (Senior Product Engineer and co-founder), Katie Harris (Product and Customer Success Manager) and Brian Singer (Product Development Lead).

You’ve worked together as a tight-knit team for many years. What’s the secret to success?

Marty: We all wear multiple hats. The team is made up of designers who can code, engineers who can design, and we all have experience in research, information architecture, advertising, marketing, communications, data science…really the whole gamut. This team of six can honestly do what a team of sixty can do. Over time there’s so much trust built up so communication is more efficient. I can just say to any of them, “You know that thing, that does the thing?” And they will actually know what that means and be able to create it.

Alex: Having worked together for so many years, we really know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. After I kick off a design and we all start running with it, I can sense when someone is about to get stuck and will jump in to give them a hand.

The Daily Kitchen huddle (left to right: Marty Ringlein, Katie Harris, Evan Dudla, Brandon Vaughan, Alex Giron and Brian Singer)

What led you to the idea for nvite?

Marty: The idea for nvite was actually born out of another company I co-founded with Alex, which was called nclud. As a design agency, we worked on a lot of client projects that included events. So we would throw events and branded parties and because we were a design agency, we always created our own event pages. We originally used another platform for registration, but then realized we could pretty easily build those capabilities as well via web forms. A turning point came when Twitter really took off and Brandon — who had been building the web forms — had an epiphany: “what if there was a simple button and all you had to do was click it and you were automatically RSVPed for an event?” I remember thinking, “that’s one-click social RSVP and I’m pretty sure you just invented it.”

Marty Ringlein (left) and Alex Giron (right) have worked together for 13 years

One day we were looking at the data that came back from Twitter and one component was a URL stream which went to an avatar. Someone on the team said, “why don’t we just put that on the event page, once someone registers, like a guest list. A social guest list.” So we did an event that had both one-click social RSVP and a social guest and it was a major success. We then knew that this was something we could formally productize and bring to an expanded market.

How did you come up with the name nvite?

Marty: Our design agency was called nclud so we called it nvite — also without the “i” — so it would match the branding and make sense that this thing made that thing. We bought the domain name, created the Twitter handle, and then got to work.

How did the nclud days prepare you for the work ahead on nvite?

Alex: In the early days of our agency we were known for leveraging emerging technologies with design to create new web applications. Having the opportunity to work directly with big brands like Apple and Oracle really taught us a lot. We learned how to build big web applications at mass and scale, and we did it for a long time. But we were always doing it for our clients and nvite was the first time we decided to do it for ourselves.

Left to right: Marty, Brandon and Brian work on a new design flow with Evan at whiteboard

Brandon: Knowing that the next thing you’re going to touch, you’re going to push yourself a little further than the last. nclud was a very rewarding environment to work in and absolutely prepared us for what was to come with nvite.

Was there a pivotal moment when you were building the nvite product?

Marty: Govfest. They were a client where we reached over 1,000 people so it was a real “rubber meets the road” moment and forced us to grow up. For the first time, we had to have a working product behind the prototype because it was for an actual customer and they had actual needs. This was the first time we saw evolution start to happen.

Left to right: Katie, Brian, Marty, Evan, Alex and Brandon.

Evan: The first ticketed event we did was a conference called Level Up. It was for a small organization in upstate New York and I think that was when we realized, okay, we have this product, but how do we turn it into a business? How do we make money and pay ourselves? We all went up to Saratoga, New York and saw first-hand what it is like to actually experience an nvite event as an attendee. It was definitely a pivotal moment and also the event where we laid the groundwork and tested some pretty big product ideas including how to push a social experience.

Katie: A turning point that comes to mind for me was our work with Adobe. They were the first nvite customer to ask for a custom event page. We had already built a super flexible platform that easily allowed customers to incorporate their own branding and design, but this was next level. We all huddled and said, “Do we want to do this?” And we did. Then Design ATL pushed for the community pages. They had people organizing a dinner series and needed a place for all of those events to live under one branded umbrella. These two components are a huge part of nvite’s product today — our bread and butter really — and were both important stepping stones on the journey that led us to Eventbrite.

Left to right: Alex, Marty and Katie meet to discuss customer feedback and insights.

What was the first time you had to really scale?

Brian: It was during our work with EdTechTeam. They grew with us, and they grew globally so it became necessary to not only figure out how to scale the product, but how to scale it quickly. Whenever we had a new client or a new project, we’d work to push the product and ourselves a little further than the last one. We were always thinking about how to take it to the next level, beyond just getting the job done.

Katie: EdTechTeam is a great example of an organization that hosts and organizes a ton of events. They needed a lightweight tool to post a large volume of events and we were getting by using a very manual process to do it. Through a lot of trial and error, we figured out we could meet their needs a lot quicker by implementing a templated approach. In 2014 they hosted 49 events. They started working with nvite in 2015 and hosted 87 events that year and 108 the year after that. We found a way to not only grow our own platform, but to help a customer grow their business exponentially.

From an engineering perspective, what are the elements of nvite that make it so fun to work on?

Evan: What I think is really powerful about the nvite platform is that someone who is more design-centric and doesn’t necessarily know all about databases can still dive in pretty easily. The way we’ve built it lowers the barrier to entry in terms of who can work on it. It’s a full JavaScript stack and the backend is Node.js; we’ve moved from largely building our own infrastructure to adopting more managed solutions. We started out with a handwritten JavaScript front end and then moved over to Angular JS. We’re slowly adopting React and are now incorporating Docker and and GKE (Google Container Engine). We’re always looking at different ways that we can leverage and expand our technical stack as we go.

Brandon: We don’t look at the technology as something that’s necessarily set in stone. As we constantly look at new clients and assess their unique needs, we see how we can innovate and really push the boundaries on what we deliver from not only a design perspective, but from an engineering perspective as well. This has been integral in helping us move the product forward and as we’ve done that we’ve evolved our tech stack as well. What’s unique about this team is that all of us always bring a flexible mindset to the table. We’re constantly thinking how can we iterate and innovate at the same time, while still providing the stability that’s so important to our customers.

How do you make the product so easily customizable for people who aren’t technical?

Brian: We strive to put ourselves in the context of an event organizer and then really think about the design components from an engineering perspective. The product is extremely flexible and adaptable, but making it flexible is not the challenging part. The real challenge comes with making it both flexible and user-friendly for our range of customers. We need to constantly balance what a customer says they want in terms of functionality versus what they probably actually need.

Left to right: Brian, Product Development Lead and Evan, Senior Product Engineer and co-founder. Below: Kevin and Katie get some work done in the lobby

What are the top three challenges that nvite solves for customers?

Katie: A lot of the organizers we work with have these incredible communities they’ve built. Our platform lets them leverage their brand equity and create — and replicate — a super professional-looking experience without requiring resources they don’t have. We do a lot of the heavy lifting for them. It’s not only a great marketing tool, but it empowers their communities to do more as well. It’s an incredibly simple UI making it’s easy to navigate and master.

What kind of companies should be using a platform like nvite?

Brian: There are a lot of companies that understand their brand is what fundamentally sets them apart from competitors and how they show up in the world is critically important. nvite’s event pages and community pages are specifically designed for companies that want to present a consistent brand image across all of their customer touchpoints.

Katie: The brand is a critical component to the relationship between the event organizer and their audience. If I see that it’s Nike putting on a running event, I’m going to be more inclined to sign up because I know and trust their brand.

Left: Katie (with everyone’s favorite new “Barkling”, Kevin. ) and Marty meet with Tamara Mendelsohn, Eventbrite’s VP of Product. Right: Brandon, Senior Product Engineer and co-founder.

Brandon: There are a lot of brands that have marketing departments, but don’t actually have budgets around their events. nvite is a tool that provides them with a cohesive, brand experience. But with the design sensibilities that we bring to the table, they’re not only getting a platform. They’re getting agency-style support that helps them customize the experience. It’s a two for one deal.

Marty: One of our big “ah-ha” moments was realizing that the relationship between the attendee and the organizer should be under the organizer’s brand, not ours. We made a pretty major decision early on to devalue the nvite brand wherever we could and to focus on designing a product for our customers’ customers. nvite helps foster that relationship.

Before you officially joined Eventbrite, nvite was an integration partner on Eventbrite Spectrum. Why did you want to take it to the next level and join the team?

Marty: When we were building the API integration, we realized the full magnitude of benefits that nvite could bring to organizers by layering our product on top of Eventbrite. It became pretty clear that nvite didn’t have to own every aspect of a customer’s event and that we could focus on what we had become really good at, which actually opened up a new sales channel for us. Once we figured out how to make money outside of a ticket sale, everything changed. When customers wouldn’t switch to nvite because there was a feature that Eventbrite had that we weren’t willing to build ourselves, we could tell them, “hey you can keep that feature and still pay for the custom parts of nvite.” It was a win-win.

What’s your favorite part about working out of the “Briteland” in San Francisco?

Alex: What’s great about joining a company like Eventbrite is that you get to meet amazing people that are working on solving similar problems to you. It’s really all about access…access to data, access to more organizers, access to different perspectives and teams to help us improve the product.

The team brainstorming with Pat Poels, Eventbrite’s VP of Engineering and Tamara Mendelsohn, Eventbrite’s VP of Product (with Katie’s dog, Kevin, standing in for her).

Brandon: It’s a big thing for any startup to recognize how powerful it is to have teams behind different aspects of a product. A core strength of our own team is that we can really do everything, but that comes at a cost. Being able to lean on the various teams across Eventbrite is incredibly valuable.

Brian: It’s been really interesting to go to All Hands meetings with the Engineering team and hear the current challenges they’re tackling or some of the times they’ve failed. It’s validating to hear that some of problems they’ve already run into or are currently running into are ones we have too, or are actively working to avoid. The camaraderie and collaboration have been really awesome and rewarding.

Evan: The move to San Francisco has been awesome in that it physically brought all of us together. This is the first time that the six of us are all working out of the same office, which is cool.

The team that plays together, stays together. Left to right: Marty, Alex and Brian try their hand at Donkey Kong. Brandon and Alex have a longstanding ping pong rivalry. They wouldn’t share the overall score, but you can catch them playing every day at 3. Kevin is their biggest fan.

Marty: We’ve always been in events. We started out building and designing for ourselves, and then went and found people with events we liked and started building and designing for them. Working alongside people who have tremendous amounts of experience in this industry is not only a fantastic opportunity, but a lot of fun. It’s been an awesome journey so far and we’re pretty excited about this next chapter.

Welcome to Eventbrite, team nvite! We’re thrilled to have you all onboard.

nvite and Eventbrite Make it Official: Meet the Team Behind the Design-Driven Event Platform was originally published in Briteling Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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