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Humanitix: Closing the education gap with a world-class event-ticketing platform, powered by Google Cloud

About Humanitix

Humanitix is a tech-charity with a pioneering approach—they run an event-ticketing platform and put 100% of the profits from booking fees toward education programs. Humanitix is on a mission to close the education gap for kids around the world and know that they need to run the world's best event-ticketing platform to do that. Thousands of event organizers now use the platform in Australia, New Zealand, and beyond. In 2018, Humanitix won the $1 million Google Impact Challenge prize. The same year, it won Westpac's Top 20 Businesses of Tomorrow.

Industries: Media & Entertainment
Location: Australia

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Humanitix gained 200% annual growth, boosted app development speed by 15x, launched a series of online workshops for a major conference organizer, and expanded into the US market with App Engine.

Google Cloud results

  • Triggered 200% yearly growth rates with Google Cloud development and scalability solutions
  • Enabled a team of five developers using App Engine to handle the workload of 70
  • Yielded one-day release cycles to adapt to fast-moving industry environment
  • Permitted unlimited scalability to handle ticketing demand spikes with App Engine

15x boost in app development speed with App Engine

In 2015, Adam McCurdie and Joshua Ross, two friends since high school, took a hiking trip together in Sri Lanka. Little did they know how far that experience would lead them. For years, they had believed in the power of education to change the world. It was time to turn their conviction into action. They founded Humanitix, an events ticketing platform that directs 100% of the profit from booking fees to education projects. The "charity for the tech generation" was born of a belief that education is not only a ticket out of poverty, but a key to unlocking the UN Sustainable Development Goals. (A view also espoused by UNESCO.)

"Winning the Google Impact Challenge allowed us to accelerate our growth with certainty, building up the team, transforming the platform, and simply growing. The biggest benefit was leading us to Google Cloud. In order to run our homegrown apps, we needed to live on the most advanced cloud solution. That meant Google Cloud."

Adam McCurdie, co-founder, Humanitix

Adam and Joshua had a passion for education, but they knew that success would require more than that. Their unique value, they decided, would be in the business and analytical smarts they had developed in their respective careers as an engineer and finance analyst. For Humanitix to be a game-changer, they needed to give event organizers a ticketing experience and performance that could not be matched anywhere else.

This vision for a metrics-driven charity led them to the Google Impact Challenge. It's a global contest that awards $1 million to non-profit innovators with the most powerful ideas for social and environmental impact. After a nerve-wracking pitching process, Humanitix won.

The Challenge marks the beginning of Humanitix’s journey with Google Cloud. It's a journey that transformed a small team of dreamers into a globally celebrated engine of impact, doubling in size every six months, and funding the education of tens of thousands of children.

"Winning the Google Impact Challenge allowed us to accelerate our growth with confidence, building the team, transforming the platform, and expanding," recalls Adam. "The biggest benefit was that it led us to Google Cloud. In order to run our homegrown apps, we needed to live on the most advanced cloud solution. That meant Google Cloud."

"We need the scalability that will handle the time we're bringing in a million dollars a day. And App Engine's auto scaling features enable this, particularly in ticketing. We have peaks and troughs in sales, so we can scale to zero one moment and handle a deluge the next."

Ryan O'Connell, CTO, Humanitix

Freeing developers to create innovative apps with App Engine

Humanitix began its life on a different cloud provider and ran into problems such as database reliability, unwieldy logins, and unpredictable customer support.

For Humanitix, winning the Google Impact Challenge was a natural catalyst for a switch to Google Cloud. It found a knowledgeable local customer-support team that ran through the advantages Humanitix could gain through migration. In particular, Adam says, Google engaged as a partner in the platform's humanitarian vision.

The results exceeded expectations. Today, the charity is able to develop apps on a one-day release cycle by using App Engine. That enables it to meet the real-time needs of event organizers and industry challenges. By freeing the team to focus on the creative task of building apps, App Engine has delivered an estimated 15-fold boost to development productivity.

Humanitix's team of developers is today able to carry out the work of a team 15 times the size, using on-premises solutions, estimates Ryan O'Connell, CTO at Humanitix. "To the outside world," he says, "we're accomplishing a rate and quality of app development, thanks to App Engine, that seems incredibly hard to accomplish with a small team like ours."

"From the start, we wanted to focus on building our own software to create great events and ticketing experience," Ryan continues. "We didn't want to be the best builder of infrastructure or the best content delivery network."

"When a major organization runs a flagship event, and they're worried about whether we can handle the crush of bookings, the fact we live on Google Cloud reassures them. One of the biggest things we've achieved over the last year and a half on Google Cloud is giving organizers peace of mind."

Adam McCurdie, co-founder, Humanitix

Unlimited impact growth underpinned by unlimited scalability

Humanitix sees its global growth as unlimited, as it gains partners around the world who share its humanitarian ethos. In addition to the Google Impact Challenge, Humanitix has won funding from the Atlassian Foundation and the New South Wales Government, enabling further expansion.

For an organization on a boundless growth trajectory, scale is of the essence. And for scale, Humanitix depends on the computing power of App Engine: "We need the scalability that will handle the time we're bringing in a hundred million dollars a day in ticket sales," says Ryan. "And App Engine's auto scaling features enable this, particularly in ticketing. We have peaks and troughs in sales as events go live, so we can scale to zero one moment and handle a deluge the next."

According to Adam, the autoscaling capabilities of Google Cloud are one of the chief selling points of the Humanitix business model.

"When a major organization runs a flagship event, and they're worried about whether we can handle the crush of bookings, the fact that we live on Google Cloud reassures them," says Adam. "One of the biggest things we've achieved over the last year and a half on Google Cloud is giving organizers peace of mind."

Beyond scalability and app development, Ryan identifies a key "unsung hero" in the Google Cloud arsenal: Firebase Authentication. Humanitix uses this to authenticate users of its apps so that it can give them a personalized experience across their devices by securely saving their data in the Cloud. "The Firebase Authentication login is one of things that made the biggest difference compared to our previous provider,” says Ryan. “We realized there was no need to build our own authorization system or roll it out ourselves, because Google Cloud security is already so well built. It would be like trying to reinvent the wheel.” The login authorization tool for Humanitix visitors has been so powerful and intuitive that it has yielded a 10% improvement in operational efficiency.

Flexible approach to future development with App Engine versatility

Even amid a long-term vision of global impact growth, the team avoids even mid-term planning for execution. That's because it needs to constantly adapt to shifting industry trends and customer requirements.

"The only certainty is we'll keep on growing," Ryan says. "One of the advantages we have is we pivot quickly, all the time. We don't have features that are locked in stone, even six months down the line. Our focus is what will make the biggest difference to event organizers two weeks down the line."

This agility depends upon Humanitix being able to release daily on App Engine. And there's another key to the picture. App Engine allows the team to roll back instantly to any previous version, giving the team the confidence to experiment and innovate.

"For every new feature, we do end-to-end tests," says Ryan. "Even then we may miss something, and if that glitch goes out to the world, we can roll back quickly with App Engine and have the previous version up in under a minute. That gives our developers confidence to push forward with innovation."

Humanitix staff

Surviving the COVID-19 challenge by instantly deploying new features

The ability to pivot quickly with new features is serving Humanitix and its customers well in the age of coronavirus, which hit the events industry particularly hard. With super-fast app building on App Engine, Humanitix has built a virtual events hub where organizers can deploy their online event on the Humanitix website, using a custom ticketing and access system.

Adam recalls one emergency situation in which a major conference organizer canceled its live event due to lockdown. Humanitix built an instant solution to host the conference online. "It was a great success," says Adam.

The success went beyond one conference. After the event, Humanitix helped the organizer set up a series of online workshops for 50 to 100 people throughout the year, demonstrating how a creative approach can enable new paths in crises.

"Allowing event organizers to seamlessly transition with Google Cloud to an online experience," says Adam, "was critical to supporting them during this insanely difficult time."

Deploying AI solutions to carve out the future of events

For Humanitix, business success equates to multiplying impact. That's why it's looking to adopt more Google Cloud solutions as it expands its humanitarian footprint.

Managing thousands of events opens the floodgates to a wealth of data. Humanitix is considering Google Cloud products such as AI Platform and BigQuery to harness this data and bring more pinpointed service to event organizers and fans.

"We could use Google AI services to help people find an event they might be interested in or connect with people who go to the events they like or connect organizers with other organizers," says Ryan. "The possibilities are endless."

More broadly, Adam sees COVID-19 changing "the way humans gather and share an experience" in ways we can't predict.

"The events industry will definitely evolve with this crisis," says Adam. "That's where it's really powerful to have Google Cloud solutions at our fingertips to pave new directions for the way people celebrate togetherness."

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About Humanitix

Humanitix is a tech-charity with a pioneering approach—they run an event-ticketing platform and put 100% of the profits from booking fees toward education programs. Humanitix is on a mission to close the education gap for kids around the world and know that they need to run the world's best event-ticketing platform to do that. Thousands of event organizers now use the platform in Australia, New Zealand, and beyond. In 2018, Humanitix won the $1 million Google Impact Challenge prize. The same year, it won Westpac's Top 20 Businesses of Tomorrow.

Industries: Media & Entertainment
Location: Australia