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Organizers of this month’s Telluride Mushroom Festival had spent two years looking for a new ticketing platform when, in 2021, they received a call from an Australia-born startup. The company was establishing its U.S. headquarters in Denver and recruiting local events that might be interested in its unique selling points. Would—the mysterious solicitor wondered—lower booking fees, seamless purchasing from a single website, and donations to charity be attractive to fungi fans? The festival soon signed on. “Humanitix just ticked all the boxes,” says Matt Guertin, the festival’s co-operations manager.
Humanitix was founded in 2016 by Adam McCurdie, who earned his degree in mechanical engineering, and Joshua Ross, a former hedge fund analyst. The duo saw the astronomical profits being hauled in by technology companies—Google’s parent company, Alphabet, made $76 billion last year—and believed such mammoth proceeds should be serving humankind. “We were both very inspired by social enterprise and ways in which technology could be producing better outcomes for the planet,” McCurdie says, “and whether or not technology charities could ever be a thing.”
The founders decided to test their idea in the ticketing platform space because it seemed ripe for disruption. In other words, everybody hates ticketing platforms: Attendees hate the exorbitant booking fees they have to pay to score seats to their favorite events, while venues and promoters hate having to wait until after their happening to collect their admission revenues. Eventbrite, the mushroom festival’s previous provider, didn’t release the organizers’ ticket money until weeks after the celebration ended, which made it difficult to pay vendors. Humanitix, on the other hand, disburses ticket sales as they come in. And although Humanitix still tacks booking fees onto transactions, its charges are about 20 percent lower than Eventbrite’s, McCurdie says. Plus, the company donates all of its profits. So far, Humanitix has given more than $1 million to children’s charities, including Room to Read, which bolsters literacy and equality in education in low-income communities.
The Telluride Mushroom Festival isn’t the only entity excited by what Humanitix offers. The nonprofit’s roster now includes 36,000 clients around the world, a growth trajectory that led the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) to offer nearly $900,000 in incentives to lure Humanitix to Colorado, beating out Texas and Pennsylvania. In return, Humanitix, which officially opened its office here in late 2021, pledged to create up to 136 new jobs in the next five years, a number that could increase to more than 200 in the next eight years. “I think it was just nice to see a company come in and see that Colorado was aligned with those more value-based opportunities,” says Michelle Hadwiger, director of global business development at OEDIT.
One of the existing entities focused on good works is the Centennial State’s annual celebration of spores, which is organized by the Telluride Institute, a nonprofit that has disbursed about $4.25 million in donations since its founding in 1984. Partnering with Humanitix for this year’s mushroom festival (August 17 to 21) will generate an additional $10,000 to $20,000 for Humanitix’s charity partners, according to McCurdie. “As a small nonprofit ourselves,” says Telluride Institute executive director Tucker Szymkowicz, “we understand the importance and necessity of nonprofit financial support and appreciate that our ticket sales will go toward supporting other good work.” As long as others share his viewpoint, Humanitix’s business should continue to mushroom.