When Google announced plans last year to grow its prominent advertising-focused Manhattan offices to host nearly 3,000 employees, Beah Burger-Lenehan was already commuting there from Philadelphia. There are others, she said.
Whether they have a spouse here, fit into the Sixth Borough phenomenon or just plum think Philadelphia offers enough to balance the daily trip, this city has for years had its residents who tried to balance the professional opportunities of New York with the personal ones of Philadelphia.
Now, like former Googler Michelle Lee and others, Burger-Lenehan has found the right professional fit in Philadelphia to complete the full migration here. In taking over a new role as Vice President of Product for Center City online ticketing platform Ticketleap, Burger-Lenehan has come back home.
“There are [other] Google employees who went to school or lived in Philly and would love to come back,” she said. “I’m looking forward to welcoming back some of that talent as the tech opportunities here continue to grow.”
Burger-Lenehan, 29, left a product manager role with Google, where she was working on the next generation of the company’s ad server for publishers. In her half decade there, she also worked on search quality.
“It was a five year master class on how to build for scale,” said the Glen Mills native and Haverford alumnae, who now lives in Lansdowne.
That education might come in handy. After a decade of steady growth (and modest talent spin off) outlasting many another online ticketing tool, Ticketleap is clearly at a juncture of change.
- Its founder Chris Stanchak departed and Tim Raybould took over leadership, just before company CTO Keith Fitzgerald was poached by PeopleLinx.
- After a rebranding and retooling, Ticketleap the platform looks as good as it has in years, but it still has functionality that needs to be trimmed and cleaned and it’s still a relatively small player in a fierce industry. It has goals to settle on.
- IPO-chatter continues as Eventbrite is still considered the startup darling, and there are no shortage of other social media-minded competitors. (In 2012, Eventbrite did $600 million in gross ticket sales, and Ticketleap did $55 million.)
- The firm was at 25 employees earlier this year, now is at 27 and plans to be at 30 in the coming weeks, said Burger-Lenehan.
To be clear, Ticketleap doesn’t have to best anyone to be successful, as ticketing has a strong, easily understood revenue model, but its long term viability depends on its product, now largely led by Burger-Lenehan.
Which means, after leaving the region for Google’s Mountain View headquarters in 2006, Burger-Lenehan is back with her clearest challenge yet. One that she says she’s excited to tackle.
“I’m 29 now and plan to grow old here in Philly,” she said.
In the spirit of coming back, Technically Philly asks why Ticketleap was the right fit to move away from Google and in the process we find out what her first word was.
Why is ticketing a good fit after years in search and ad-servers?
I’m really excited about working in the event space. Among the types of things you can buy or sell, I can’t think of anything cooler than events — I’ll take a ticket to a whiskey tasting or a Phillies game over a gift basket any day.
You joined Ticketleap at a time of big change — Stanchak leaving, Raybould stepping up and then Fitzgerald leaving.
We’ve taken the opportunity to dust off, reaffirm, and update our company values and strategy. That’s been a totally awesome process for me. For instance, one day in March, the entire TicketLeap team sat down, cracked open a few beers, and talked about our company values — it was a refreshingly honest and energizing experience.
I’m really proud of the team we have here. It’s fun to come in to a company that already has a great team, powerful product, and a ton of experience in its corner — and now we get step back, take it all in, and use it to build an even better solution for event creators.
You tell us Ticketleap had a team you believed in so it felt like the right time to leave Google. How does Philadelphia factor into the decision?
My husband and I actually moved to Philly more than three years ago. We had been living in the Bay Area, where I was working for Google. In order to live in Philly, I had been commuting to the Google office in New York. It was actually pretty manageable, but I always wanted to be a part of Philadelphia’s tech community, not New York’s, which, I would argue, is actually less of a community because it’s so diffuse. So when the right opportunity presented itself, I grabbed it.
What did you know about the broad technology community before taking the Ticketleap job?
Even though I’ve been living in Philly for the past three years, I must admit I was pretty out of the loop when it came to the local tech scene. I had been keeping a eye on a number of companies in the area but I definitely didn’t appreciate the diversity and character of the tech landscape here. I had the unfortunate impression that the good companies just got slurped up by buyers in New York or California and disappeared sometime thereafter. That’s false. While it has happened here, and everywhere, there are a number of great reasons to start something in Philly and to stay in Philly. I’ve always loved that RJMetrics 2011 blog post on the topic.
If your former colleagues ask you about Philly, how will you describe it?
I say, “if you have to ask…” That’s only mostly a joke. I think a lot of folks in California and New York can’t really imagine life elsewhere, and that’s fine. But I have and will continue to defend Philly for its scrappiness, accessibility and depth of character.
What will be your mark of success while at Ticketleap?
I want to see events powered by TicketLeap that wouldn’t have existed if we didn’t. My intent is to build a product so easy to use and on-point that it enables more people to organize great experiences and share them using TicketLeap.
Any particular moment come to mind when you knew you wanted to be working and living in Philadelphia?
I used to do a two hour one-way SEPTA-Amtrak combo commute almost every day. Now my biggest commute conundrum is whether I should get a monthly SEPTA pass or go all in on biking to work now that the weather is improving. I remember one morning on Amtrak reading the news that Cliff Lee left millions on the table with the Yankees to join the Phils. I was rolling over the Schuylkill, barreling toward Yankees territory, and watching the sun rise over the Philadelphia skyline. Boy did that feel tragic. It took me a while longer to find my role in Philly, but I like pretending that moment somehow cosmically connects me to Cliff.
OK, we have to ask: what’s up with the “Beah” name?