Oliver Dlouhy Kiwi.com Interview


Full Show:

Snippet 1: Riding metasearch to growth.

Snippet 2: Kiwi’s on intermodal vs. multi-modal

Snippet 3:On adding urban services to increase frequency & reduce customer acquisition costs


Kevin: [00:00:29]  Okay. Welcome to How I Got Here, the inside stories behind travel innovation and startups. I’m Kevin May, I’m the editor-in-chief of PhocusWire. I’m joined as always by my co-host David Litwak from Mozio. This week we’re joined by Oliver Dlouhy, he’s the CEO and founder at Kiwi.com for those who don’t know , it actually started out as Skypicker but essentially Kiwi.com is a flight search engine. However, it does have a very big twist. It allows passengers to interline which is, for those who don’t know, it’s sort of connecting between specific flights, it does that, but these are for flights that aren’t officially connected. I’m sure Oliver will go into details about how that came together and essentially, the big problem that they were solving. Kiwi is consumer facing and it’s also B to B so it helps Online Travel Agencies and others and airports and it’s working with a lot of people, it’s done very, very well which is why we’ve asked Oliver to come along. It’s based in the Czech Republic but that’s pretty much enough for me, as we welcome Oliver as always, but, we always ask our guests, tell us how you got here Oliver and welcome.

Oliver: [00:01:38]  Thank you. Hi Kevin, Hi David, Hi everybody! So, how did we get there? It all started like 8 years ago when me and my then girlfriend, now wife, wanted to go to for a vacation to Portugal and yeah, we are both based in the Czech Republic and the tickets to Portugal were pretty expensive. It costs like €400 which back then for us as broke students was a fortune so we were looking for some low cost flights. Unfortunately, there were no direct low cost flights so we ended up buying a flight or booking a flight from Prague to Milan then from Milan to Porto then back from Porto to Eindhoven and from Eindhoven back to Prague. All of these flights were on different airlines so, one was on RyanAir and the other on Easyjet, another on Wizz Air and I think the last one was in RyanAir again and other thing was that it took like 7 days to find the connections so, it’s really going to well and we don’t spend too much time at the airport but still we had enough connection time to catch our connection. So we’re thinking, because this way we actually saved around 85% so the final ticket costs was around 80 euros in comparison to 400 by Air Portugal. We were thinking that no one was actually offering these connections. So, if we would be able to automate it and if we provide it to the end users to the final customers, maybe this could be a big gap in the market maybe we can really save lots of people to, I mean, lots of money to a lot of people and enable them to travel and that’s exactly how the idea was created and then we just now had to find investors, we had to find developers, we had to build it from scratch and that’s pretty much how we are here.

Kevin: [00:03:36]  Okay, thank you very much. So, of course the obvious thing to ask at this stage Oliver is were you surprised that there wasn’t somebody doing it already? I know you went through this process of trying to do it when you were doing it as you know, as travelers. But once you started digging and thinking this is an idea that perhaps we could tackle, as you looked around and saw how the industry operated and all these kind of things, did you not think a company, somebody hasn’t done this before?

Oliver: [00:04:05]  I was pretty surprised to be honest and initially when I spoke to a couple of other companies, the biggest OTAs in the market, everybody actually told me that they were on it, they are working on it and they are releasing it very soon. But still I’m thinking, you know, it does worth a shot because you know, these guys they were working for a couple of years already, they still you know, they don’t make any progress so I’m thinking that maybe they are just doing it wrong and I was actually right so basically, we took the approach which was different to what everybody else was doing. We took a little bit, I would say, more guerrilla approach and this way we have managed to build the engine completely from scratch so we didn’t use any GDS or any third party solutions but we have build a wall of content acquisition and booking engine completely from scratch and this our biggest trend, not only in the beginning of course but this trend enabled us to actually come up with the interlining but even going forward this turned out to be our biggest trend even for the standard, non-interlined flights. So I think it was a good bet maybe someone would say crazy bet but it’s paid off big time .

SNIPPET 1: Riding metasearch to growth.

5:31 - 8:18

David: [00:05:31]  So, I remember one of the first times we met, Oliver, I asked you this question which was, I said your rise kind of reminded of how Zynga rode Facebook and they kind of figured out the Facebook algorithm and I, one of my impressions was that because you always managed to, not always, but a good percentage of the time manage to find the cheapest route, you would pop to the top of Kayak and other meta search engines and I asked you point blank I was like, do you think as other people are catching on your cash cow and your customer service is kind of  - excuse me - customer acquisition insights was going to be copied by others and how much do you think that’s the case? And how much do you think people are catching on, how much do you think that insight and meta search was core to your expansion?

Oliver: [00:06:26]  Yeah, so when it comes to meta search and that’s actually a great question, when it comes to meta search, these websites and apps you know, enabled us to grow so quickly. Without meta search it would be super difficult because one thing I forgot to mention is that we are pretty much bootstrap company. We only raised around €1 million in total from the very beginning and the company is profitable almost from the day 1 and without meta search and without Derek capable of bringing traffic and selling it to us, it would be super difficult to really break through. But when you’re asking about the competition, yeah, of course, you know, even it would be a total rocket science that which is actually, partially is, there will always come someone who will try to copy us and we already seen many companies doing that, be it the small OTAs, be it even the biggest ones. So, the key is to always in a way and not to get stuck with one single product but we are now trying to expand not just as I said, not just in the virtual interlining but we are becoming pretty successful even in the standard flights, even in the I would say more commoditized offering and this is mostly thanks to our system and engine that we have originally developed just to support the virtual interlining but it turns out to be so robust that it can support all of the other content and not just the flights. I’m talking about also ground transportation as David know very well, right? So, what we have built is a beast that can crunch all of the transportation data and provided to the customers in the best possible way to find the best and the cheapest connection from A to B. That’s what Kiwi.com is about and that’s what we are really, really good at.

Kevin: [00:08:18]  Now take us back a little bit Oliver, interlining is not new. It’s been around for many, many years and it’s through like minded airlines that want to be able to connect people . Now you’re doing it virtually, it’s unofficially interlining. Give us a sense, if you can, of the conversations that you’re having with airlines in those early days when they realized what you were doing, was there any kind of resistance from them or were they quite happy to, you know, let’s see what these guys can do because we’re not convinced they can do it. I mean, just give us kind of, how did that all kind of come about and the reaction that you got from the carriers?

Oliver: [00:08:58]  Yeah, so there’s like a handful of carriers that are really stubborn, that don’t want to implement you know, these new technologies, these new ways how to do that, our business model in the very beginning was really based on our capability of gathering the data even without the consent of their owner. So, even if the airlines did not want to share the data with us we had the ways, I’m talking about for example scraping or using third parties to get the data into the platform and to process it anyway. So these were the beginnings. Today, majority of the airlines actually have direct partnerships with us already. They are giving us the data voluntarily and we are very good partners. Of course, even now there are airlines which do not want to work with us. My personal belief is that these airlines are basically against building the customer value because if the customers are buying that content, if they are using it flying on that flight and virtually interlining, if there’s a demand for this content the airline should basically accommodate to what the customers want. But again, we have this capability of getting the content anyway so even if there are you know, very few and I’m talking about let’s say 5 airlines which are resistant, we have for them an airport anyway.

Kevin: [00:10:18]  Now, sorry, it’s kind of a follow up really. I mean, we would obviously be delighted if you would tell us who some of those airlines that were resistant are and if you cannot, were there certain types of airlines by which I mean were perhaps the locals carriers a little bit more amenable to what you were doing or was it the flag carriers that perhaps weren’t? Can you generalize in that way or is it very, very kind of a mixture?

Oliver: [00:10:46]  Yeah, so, I would say that’s most of the airlines that have their business model based on direct traffic acquisition. So, this is pretty standout to the locals carriers but currently even with some of the biggest ones we have a direct partnership, so, if I would share one example of really resistant airline that would be EasyJet. These guys they are building their own interlining engine and although it is you know, much, it can bring like much less content that our engine, they only have partners with very few airlines as opposed to us who are capable of interlining EasyJet with those 600 carriers. They are still trying to suppress Kiwi.com. But again, we have their content. We are very competitive and we are able even to very nicely compete with their own virtual interlining efforts.

Kevin: [00:11:45]  Now just on that, I mean, from a kind of a broader context for the startups listening who you know, may face similar kind of resistance from established players when they are starting to talk to people in the industry with their idea. I mean, have you kind of tweaked to your approach when you’re talking to them? I’m assuming you’ve knocked on the door of EasyJet many times over the years. So, if you had to, how have you gone about kind of changing the message with them?

Oliver: [00:12:13]  Yeah, so we are always open to a win win partnership to compromise to a way how to make it work for both of us. EasyJet and I’m not saying EasyJet is the only one, there are a few airlines but probably EasyJet is the toughest one to work with. They just don’t want to, it seems to me that they want to come up with any compromise, with any let’s say proposal that would make it work for us, them, and most importantly, the customers. We are still very open to work with them and if someone from EasyJet is listening please drop me an email, let’s meet let’s try to fix it otherwise, we will continue anyway .

SNIPPET 2: Kiwi’s on intermodal vs. multi-modal

12:58 - 16:06

David: [00:12:58]  Well, certainly appreciate the blunt speech. So, it’s funny, you rewinding a second there, you mentioned ground transportation and obviously, yeah, I’m quite familiar with the multimodal, I wanted to dig a little deeper there because I think perhaps, that answer got a little lost. I think like the fundamental answer to your last question was you guys are continuing to stay both the lower cost than the most, you know, the cheapest and you know, the best option by adding these other forms of transportation. So, I know you’re combining buses with trains. I know you have a partnership with FlixBus combined at that. Can you speak a little bit more about how you view multimodal? ‘cause we’ve had several interviewees and I actually forgot who’s launched yet so far but Omio Go Euro, we’ve had Wanderlu and Silverrail and everyone seems to have a strategy for how they’re attacking multimodal market, so I’d love to hear you expand a little bit more on that.

Oliver: [00:14:02]  Yeah, so, from my perspective and we are at multimodal, I mean, more we are going into modal so, multimodal just to explain it, multimodal is being able to search all the modes of transportation in one platform. Intermodal is not just multimodal. But it’s also basically the interlining between all of the modes of transportation. So, in one trip we can connect a bus, train and a flight and later on even that ride to Airlink and city micromobility. This is what we call intermodal and we connect this in one single itinerary and sell it to the customer in one single transaction which is guaranteed, so even if the bus for example is delayed, the customer misses the connecting flight, we always cover it. So this is what we call intermodal just to make it clear to everybody. And when it comes to our strategy around that, Kiwi.com is a transportation company, we don’t really see us as an OTA, we don’t think that we’ll ever be able to compete for example with Booking.com or Expedia when it comes to accommodation or when it comes to packages but what we are good at is moving people from any A to any B anywhere in the world. So far, we’ve been focusing mostly on let’s say middle and long-haul transportation so from country to country or from continent to continent. So these are flights mostly but now integration of Flixbus and the other bus carriers and the same with the trains and in the future even on the ride to Airlink and City Mobility. We are aiming even just around the corner transportation from my place to the bar for example or to the job. So, basically we want to become the company that most people again, from any A anywhere in the world to any B anywhere in the world with one single transaction and one single platform.

SNIPPET 3: On adding urban services to increase frequency & reduce customer acquisition costs.


David: [00:16:06] How have you thought about frequency? We had Aaron from SilverRail on board and he was saying how, I think he said, Trainline, the average person opened up the Trainline app or what’s the Trainline website, what’s—sorry, 22 times a year, I think it was, I could be forgetting the exact stat and comparing that to the average OTA was you know, maybe 2 to 4 times a year and how this you know, really made it, it kind of highlighted the absurdity how more people weren’t focusing on this other forms of transportation. I know me and you have spoken a little bit about how, you know, transit apps and local mobility is kind of like the new you know, OTA that we should be—OTAs in general should be moving more and more into local mobility so, could you expand a little bit more specifically on the local mobility aspect?

Oliver: [00:16:53]  Yeah, so when it comes to frequency and I’m glad that you mentioned it, this is extremely important because the traffic acquisition for the OTAs is the costs are going through the rough and we at Kiwi.com are strong believers, in fact of staying on the top of mind of the customers by basically creating multiple touchboards. So, as I mentioned, we are also integrating ride hailing and taxis and city mobility. The reason we do that besides having the full transportation content and really the ability to move people from A to B is also to generate frequency. We don’t think that we will make tons of money on reselling Lyfts content or capacity. We might be actually even loss making on this content but we believe that you know, if people learn to use Kiwi.com, every single day or even multiple times a day to move around their city to go to their jobs etc. then once they are ready to book flight to the other side of the world we’ll be there and we’ll be on top of their mind. So this is basically our you know, general understanding of the ride hailing within the broader ecosystem of all transportation.

David: [00:18:15]  Any other services of ride hailing and transportation that you know, I’m just thinking how Priceline bought OpenTable and how this content tangentially related, any plans for anything else?

Oliver: [00:18:25]  For us, yeah, this is basically part of the broader monetization and bringing some extra value to the customers but we don’t think that we’ll ever be expert on any other service. Of course, we are considering for example configuring food delivery or accommodation is obvious and all of the OTAs are selling hotels but we want to bring these services only in a corporation with someone who is much better equipped to build their own product around these services. So, I can imagine working with Delivery Hero on the food delivery. I can imagine working with Priceline or Expedia, sorry, Booking.com and Expedia on the accommodation part but really, our key competence is in the transportation.

Kevin: [00:19:20]  Right, so let’s go back again a little bit for you mate, just kind of the formation of the company and those early few years, I mean, it was Skypicker originally, obviously, you’re no longer Skypicker so, first part of the question really is what was the thinking around changing the brand name and stuff like that and then I mean, you referenced earlier that you’ve raised almost next to no money and at least because you’ve been making money since the beginning but was there any temptation given that the venture capital market does seem to be fairly free and open with handing out money to travel startups, was there any temptation over to go after big pots of money in order to grow potentially faster? So, first part, changing the name. Second part, temptation to grab more money.

Oliver: [00:20:10]  Okay, so changing our name, so, yeah, as you have said, we started as Skypicker.com which was a dealer’s domain which was free which we bought the or registered in the beginning and after a couple of years, we noticed that this domain is not serving our purpose very well. But then we were already realizing that Skypicker is not just going to be only about flights so the “sky” might have been confusing. More importantly, the Skypicker, it was really hard to remember and people are confusing it with other brands. I’m not going to make a promo to the other brands but you can probably imagine which brands it was confused with. And before you know, misspelling it, we had Skytracker and this kind of stuff, so we were thinking about something much more universal and we were at the same time trying to find the words that means the same thing all around the world that is spelled the same way and pronounced the same way all around the world and we have actually after some research we have realized that there are only 5 or 6 words like that. One word is panda, another word is siesta, another one is kiwi and there are like 2 or 3 more of them and we liked kiwi the most because except for New Zealanders, kiwi is basically exotic to everybody so it really, it has very positive connotations and connection with travelling to most of the people except for the great and lovely country but small you know, of New Zealand. So—

Kevin: [00:21:55]  Sorry, sorry Oliver, just on that. I mean, before you come to the second part of the question I mean, it’s either a fruit or it’s a country in the southern hemisphere. I mean, were you worried about how it not being the new brand name being particularly aligned to what you were doing arguably?

Oliver: [00:22:14]  That’s why we have .com so we are not the bird, we are not the fruit, we are not the country. We are Kiwi.com and Kiwi.com is all about transportation and travelling. There are other brands which  are seemingly unrelated. Look at Kayak for example. So, I think actually this kind of brand name, it has something in it and I’m really glad that we have chosen this path.

Kevin: [00:22:40]  Okay. So, the second part of the question was around, was there a temptation to go out and you know, vacuum up some of the millions of dollars that seem to be a wash in the industry?

Oliver: [00:22:54]  Yeah, so maybe you have noticed that earlier in this year we have on-boarded a new investor, General Atlantic, who basically bought out most of our previous investors. So, it was purely secondary money, none of the money went to the company, it was just you know to basically swap for the original investors who funded this 1 million into the company as I was saying before. So, with GA, of course GA they have big pockets and they are encouraging us to coming up with a plan, how to you know, efficiently and effectively invest more money. We are investigating a couple of opportunities so far nothing is closed yet, so, it will be difficult to comment on it but yeah, we are looking around possible for example MNAs or some other ways how to spend you know, higher amount of money but since the company currently is profitable, is growing and the business model is I would say validated and proven, there is no like imminent need to raise cash. So, it's opportunistically, basically.

Kevin: [00:24:06]  That’s great! It’s just you know, it’s a long time between the formation of the company and what happened earlier this year, I mean, was there any other times between then and earlier this year that you did, what tempt you to go and raise money?

Oliver: [00:24:21]  Well, I think actually, this is different maybe. I don’t want to generalize too much. This is different between let’s say essentially European entrepreneurs and the Western especially Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. We really wanted to and again, I think both of the approaches are valid and they make sense but we are really about delivering some value before asking for money, delivering some real value which is validated by customers willing to pay to us and not just you know, for the base service but also cover the margin we are charging them. This is potentially, you know, as a real valuable and sustainable service. If the customers are happy to pay even some extra for the service and this has been the whole approach of Kiwi.com from the very beginning. And since we are growing you know, very high, double digits, at the beginning even triple digits a year, there was really no reason to boost it even further because it would become unmanageable. The growth, even as it was now which I would say was pretty fast, it was really hard to manage from me and the rest of the management because we had zero experience with you know, this kind of a company and this kind of growth. So, I cannot imagine if someone extra money would boost it even further, how would we be able to manage it? It would be hard.

David: [00:25:48]  Quickly, many people might not know but you guys are based in Brno, Czech Republic, spelled B-R-N-O, and I remember that time I visited you I had to fly to Vienna and take a two-hour car service to Brno and you guys had several buildings and if I’m not mistaken you know, a couple of thousand employees in a Czech Republic city that I’m pretty sure most people listening to this haven’t heard of. A couple of questions, why did you choose Brno other than maybe the fact that you live near by there and why did you think that it’s a good place for you to build a tech company and how did you feel locating such a big company and not a major metropolitan area?

Oliver: [00:26:31]  Yeah, so, I don’t live so close to Brno. I live like 120 kilometers so I have 2-hour drive away from Brno but I went to Brno to study at a university and when I got dropped off the university that’s when I started a company and so, somehow we like the city. Brno is quite okay actually for starting a technology company because it has three universities that are producing 1500 to 2000 I.T professionals every year. So, and you know, the cost per I.T. person In Brn because are significantly lower in comparison to Prague, the Czech capital and when you compare it to London for example, it’s a fraction or at least it has been a fraction. Now we know it’s much more balanced as people are working remotely for western companies etc. so the competition is fierce but back then it was a logical step out of the two main cities in the Czech Republic. Nowadays, we still have most of our engineering in Brno but we also have like 6 or 7 other engineering offices all around Europe. For example, today I’m in Barcelona, we have our office here. Currently 25 people, we want to scale up to 45 until the end of the year. So, I would say that we have already took all of the best talents from Brno, so everybody good is already working for us and now we need to expand globally so we are starting it in New York but at the same time we are developing let’s say a remote collaboration framework that would enable us to hire anyone from anywhere in the world and to work with us remotely.

David: [00:28:26]  That plays perfectly into what I was about to comment and then kind of ask your opinion on. Mozio, we’re 73 employees and there’s only 3 American employees and we’re in 40 different cities around the world but you know, 8 years ago when we started I think we were also at the kind of you know, that time where people would raise their eyebrows about remote working but we did it out of necessity and frugality and realizing there is good town everywhere. So, I think there’s a trend towards being west discriminatory, “oh you aren’t located in Silicon Valley, New York or London” and there’s been a lot of success stories from that company you don’t want give a prop to and then to you guys in Brno, so I mean to say, do you have any like—it sounds like you’re moving more and more in that direction that completely remote, how do you think about that vs. it’s something we’ve just quickly, something we’ve noticed is that it’s fine if you’re completely remote and it’s also fine if you have all one office often in between situations don’t work. So, how do you feel about balancing remote work plus having offices? Do people feel left out?

Oliver: [00:29:34]  Yeah, so, we are a transportation company so we really encourage people and even subsidize their travels so for us, we are looking at this kind of hybrid type. The thing is it’s about I mean, actually, it’s 3 main things. First one is the discipline second is tooling and third is processes. So we need to hire people which have a discipline that even if they are not seeing their peers everyday or every week, they still deliver and are working hard and so, they do care what’s going on etc. second, processes. We are currently trying to build a framework that will allow us to work without any limitations remotely in comparison to being there in the office. So basically, all of the meetings, even though everybody is present in person are being recorded. There are summaries of the meeting and minutes from the meeting, you know, stored in the Cloud and we are encouraging everyone, even if they want to discuss, you know 10 minutes to just whatever issue they have to fill in the minutes from that discussion and put it on Cloud where it is searchable by anybody. And the third is tooling so we are now looking at for example augmented reality tools that would make everybody even on the other side of the world feel like they are sitting in the same room with the others, of course, this is going to take some time until the technology will be perfected but we’re looking at it already and investing you know, amounts of money into building this proficiency in a remote collaboration.

Kevin: [00:31:23]  It’s interesting PhocusWire as well is a semi-virtual company. We have a Manhattan office with Phocuswright but the rest of us will work from home. I’ve read that you have two and a half thousand, and it has probably increased since i've looked this up and you call people crew members which I thought was quite cute. Related to the, kind of the virtual kind of workforce, how have you gone about kind of creating a culture around the company? One, given that it’s grown so quickly, it’s two and a half thousand people but also that you’re all virtual beyond the tools that you were just talking about which kind of around efficiency and being good managers but how do you kind of create a culture as well?

Oliver: [00:32:06]  yeah, so in Czech Republic we have this saying, it’s something like fish mouse from the hat, so it means that you know, it’s all about the hat of the fish so even at the high level, we are really trying to hire the people who are in a 120% fit to the company. It’s extremely important because this is cascading you know, even to the lower levels of the company, it’s management and all the managers and so regular employees, we call them Kiwis. So, I think this is one important thing at the very high level people need to be 100% aligned and I would say that actually, it’s necessary that the people are even personal friends, not just work colleagues and if their reports see it they try to mimic this behavior and mimic this approach and then it cascades you know, across the whole company. That’s one thing. And another thing is that although we are growing quite fast we are still trying to keep this let’s say bank culture. So, anybody can talk to anybody. We are super transparent or trying to be at least super transparent about all the decisions so anyone at any position can actually command and argue with or even me or anyone from the management team about any decision we have made and I believe this is extremely important because if you just come and say, “this has to be done, don’t ask me the questions, just do it.” People become demotivated. You don’t get to buy and order people, so I think it’s extremely important to make people part of the decision-making. Although, sometimes we reprocess the decisions as the management so we don’t spend time or like let’s say complete bullshit but then we come up with a couple of  options and we make all the people part of the decision-making process which is creating lots of motivation and people basically understand what they are, what the objectives are and the work is much easier and motivating for them.

Kevin: [00:34:26]  Tell me Oliver, I mean, it’s just in the researching and looking around a little bit more about you rather than the company. I mean, you were named one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 in the Czech Republic, I mean, what did that do to you as a kind of a founder and just your general profile within the country and the tech community. Did it help or was it just good PR to say?

Oliver: [00:34:50]  More people are asking me to lend them some money so I keep on explaining that all of my money are actually still at Kiwi.com so, it’s difficult for someone to understand, no, I’m kidding. It’s not that bad but I mean, for me, I didn’t really care that much. It wasn’t me who applied for that position so someone applied on my behalf. For me, actually the Czech PR is mostly about hiring the right talent. So, Kiwi.com currently after 8 years in operation we are quite well-known in the Czech Republic, we are probably one of the most famous startups in the country and that obviously helps to find the right people because you know, we are a sexy company and when we are competing now with, I don’t have anything against them, but with companies like Siemens or IBM or Honeywell you know, we are in a way sexier than them partially also thanks to these kind of initiatives and thanks to these PR buzzes. So, this is the only value I can actually see around being 30 under 30 or any other similar award.

Kevin: [00:36:13]  Just quickly on this subject. I’m just curious because you know, being thrust into the limelight can be quite, you know, it’s an interesting experience, but it can be quite daunting. When we’ve met before Oliver, you always seem a fairly humble, quiet, low-key kind of gentleman. I mean, how have you found being kind of thrust into the limelight, is it something that you’re comfortable with as a founder and as an entrepreneur?

Oliver: [00:36:38]  very difficult to say. I cannot say I completely like enjoy it but I think it’s just a part of my job and when I look at it from this perspective and at the same time given I really want to do my job properly and the best way I can, I just take it as a part of it and I didn’t actually want to think about it anymore. So, if there’s a chance to really promote company, even promote myself as sort of one of the faces of the company, I just do it including actually, including this interview. So, I think actually, as long as it’s helping the company, I’m very happy to do it and I don’t think about it.

David: [00:37:23]  So I wanted to rewind to something you said about 20 minutes ago, how you guys built a lot of your own connections, you never rely on GDS’s and we just, I think that we could go put out the interview with Philippe Chérèque who in addition to being the president of Amex GBT also helped found Amadeus and at one point I asked him a question saying you know, if you had to disrupt Amadeus how would you go about doing it? And you seem to kind of have done it and in your own way and obviously I don’t think you characterize yourself as you know, trying to disrupt Amadeus,

Oliver: [00:37:59]  No.

David: [00:38:00]  First and foremost, but you have duplicated a lot of what they’ve built and I’m curious if you could go a little bit more into that B2B strategy and how you thought about whether to work with the GDS or not and replace them.

Oliver: [00:38:15]  So, we definitely don’t aim to replace Amadeus or any other GDS’s and when you said we disrupted them, we might have disrupted a very tiny part of what they are doing, GDS’s are bringing lots of value to all of the parts of the supply chain so, we really took very tiny piece where we are, I would say, and they know it much better than they are and they are very, very slowly catching up if they will ever be able to. But from my perspective here to comment on the B to B part, the main objective here was to basically, incentivize the others to invest into the same technology. So, we have build it and we have seen that there is a demand in the market and there are a couple of companies investing in there. So, we’re thinking, okay, how do we prevent them from doing that? We cannot. Either we buy them, we don’t have money for that and why would we do that? Or we just you know, release it for everybody for free. So we decided that you know, I think we are really very value-driven company. So, we think that the way how to bring the most value possible is to have your services accessible to the widest specter of the users and that’s exactly what we have done with Tequila if you are referring to this product that we have launched the last year, this is our B to B platform but again makes accessible, makes our full content virtually interlining, standard flights, ground transportations, buses, trains, whatever you can think of, accessible to anybody who get—we will adjust and start using the API and again, I believe that this was the very good step from our side to de-incentivize the others from trying to build the same thing.

Kevin: [00:40:09]  Tell me Oliver and before we get towards the end, I mean, what would you say has surprised you most about the journey you’ve taken so far? Is it the growth? Has it been the way it’s been adapted and the profile that the company has raised? Is there anything that you can kind of identify or has it been a number of things that you thought, “oh okay, that’s perhaps not happened how we invisioned it would ”?

Oliver: [00:40:39]  I’ll be completely honest with you. When we were starting the company 8 years ago, we were broke, me, our CEO and co-founder and the others in the company. So, it was much more about the money. Of course, we wanted to build something meaningful but we wanted to basically, we wanted to start earning some money to cover our you know, basic needs etc. and we were actually thinking that within 3-5 years we will exit the company and start enjoying you know, all the proceeds coming from this exit. So, what surprised me or at least what I didn’t expect was how much you know, I did change during the process. So today, after 8 years, I had the opportunity to sell much bigger stake with the GA. I sold only 0.5% basically just to payoff my mortgage and I let the rest of the stake and the rest of the money within the company not because I believe that it will grow and then I will capitalize on it much more. Of course, it will grow and I might you know, sell it for much more money but basically, the reason was complete opposite or very different. The reason is that what motivates me as you know, the hanger, the uncertainty. It’s so great to know that if I screw it up I might end up you know, not on the street anymore but in much you know, worse condition than I’m at now and it’s extremely motivating for me to really think about the company you know, all day, all night. Sometimes I wake up at 3am with some ideas that are coming from maybe some dream or nightmare. I’m noting it on the paper. I never thought, just to answer your question, I never thought that I will be so motivated and so completely engaged and something that looked you know, very intangible to me back then as the company is. So, does it answer your question?

Kevin: [00:42:49]  Yes it does. I just got one more really. I mean, you’ve been very open with this, it’s been terrific. Could you be happy to identify one time when you screwed things up?

Oliver: [00:43:03]  Everyday.

Kevin: [00:43:03]  Oh, okay.

Oliver: [00:43:05]  Yeah.

Kevin: [00:43:06]  What’s the biggest one then?

Oliver: [00:43:09]  Okay, so probably the biggest one would be the focus so, the last year we have actually started to invest in and building the holiday packages product which was probably one of the worst decisions we’ve made. We felt extremely strong in the virtual interlining. We felt that this is going to grow unlimitedly. So we started investing into something completely different. Back then you know, we thought that this is the right way to go. Today, if I could turn back the time I would have invested much more in our core capabilities you know, reinforcing our core business, making it stronger, protecting it more from the competitors. I think that we have realized that you know, before the disaster came, so we have kill the project and now we are back focusing on one single thing. But basically, to answer you question in one word, the focus this is the biggest mistake, not just probably me but many entrepreneur site.

Kevin: [00:44:26]  Okay, great. Thank you.

David: [00:44:28]  Very cool. Thanks a lot Oliver. This has been wonderful. We are out of time today but I think Kevin would agree with me that this has probably been one of the most transparent interviews that we had down to exact percentages, which problem airlines there are but, yeah,

Oliver: [00:44:44]  I told you.

David: [00:44:45]  Yeah, I know you did. So this has been How I Got Here, stories of innovation in travel and transportation and next week we’ll have another. Thank you very much Oliver, we appreciate it.

Kevin: [00:44:56]  Thanks Oliver.

Oliver: [00:44:56]  Thank you David. Thank you Kevin.



Coming Soon!
Coming soon!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here