GC Fireside

Life After Going Public w/ Samantha Harnett

Samantha Harnett
August 17, 2020

What were takeaways from Eventbrite's IPO process?

The IPO process is hard work and requires a lot of project management, but it’s also very exciting and a fantastic crash course in better understanding your business.

Biggest takeaways for me were:

  • Find a project manager.  You can’t lead the legal component of the IPO if you’re also PMing the collecting of info and sharing of materials and due dates across teams.  We had someone on our finance team with some investment banking background and she was fantastic at keeping all of our teams coordinated and tracking.
  • Start with your company’s story and business metrics.  It can be tempting to move toward what the bankers want to sell, but it’s your team that will own the story during every quarterly earnings call.  It’s critical for the management team to own the core story and metrics.

What is your current legal focus?

Certainly privacy is important.  We are a global company and fortunately started very early on GDPR and built a company-wide structure and accountability system ahead of compliance dates.  Our AGC of Privacy and Product led the project across engineering, product, marketing etc.

We’ve used that same structure and process to prepare for CCPA. The keys are:

  1. Design a full project plan for the entire company
  2. Lead the full team and ensure everyone from product to engineering understands the process and is executing the plan
  3. Have a full view of what needs to happen and a non-negotiable end date.  It’s really about going beyond legal.

Beyond privacy, event creators use our platform to sell tickets so we also comply with regulatory structures including the Know Your Customer or “KYC” banking rules, OFAC and Anti Money-Laundering regulations. In addition, we need to maintain  compliance with broader payments regulations and to do that we rely on both internal legal owners and expert partners from outside firms.

One of our most interesting and complex areas of focus is the development and enforcement of our Community Standards, and whether to remove events from our platform based on a violation of those standards.  Evenrbrite is unique because as an event platform, we evaluate online content, as well as the risks associated with a live event.  Our mission is to bring the world together through live experience so we strive to balance offering a diverse and open platform with helping preserve the ability for people to gather safely.  This work is a constant calibration and is a partnership between the legal team and the content policy team.

Explain your current role.

My role has shifted from Chief Legal to Corporate Operations over the past year.  In this role, I  now oversee our global People team, Content Policy and Public Policy, as well as our annual corporate operational planning cadence. I think being public has demanded that all of our executives step up to take broader roles in leading the business and so I am very thankful to have strong Associate GCs leading the corporate, product/privacy and litigation legal teams.

Our legal team has grown a bit post IPO. We brought on another attorney to help with SEC Compliance, which is a must for public companies in my opinion.  We have a total legal team of 12 (9 lawyers) and an additional 3 non-lawyers on our content policy team.  We are now spread between 3 offices so it’s important to find new ways to stay connected and coordinated through weekly update emails, meetings and some fun gatherings whenever we can.

How do you build your legal team?

As I mentioned above, our total team is 15.  It’s been helpful to expand our team’s footprint to (start) to match our broader corporate footprint. In addition to our San Francisco headquarters, we have a lawyer in London and a growing team in our Nashville office.  This helps give us a broader and better perspective of the full business, and helps us to communicate with our business partners all over the world.

My primary management philosophy is that my team should be the experts, not me. I ask the members of my team who are experts in their respective areas to be the face of our team to the executives and the company.  I find that much more effective than them feeding information through me, which I likely wouldn’t relay half as well. I beleive that a GC is doing her job well as a leader when she is building a strong team of people who could one day do her job.

What is most important for your career?

As hard as it is, I think it’s really important to be outside of your comfort zone.  Right now, I’m enjoying learning how to be an operating lead, running planning, guiding the team to set and achieve targets.  Doing something new builds growth.  One of our board members describes it as the importance of “being at the cusp of your competency,” which I read as always pushing yourself to grow.