Get Your Guide COO Tao on Building a $2 Billion Dollar Travel Experience Giant

Between Two COO's with Michael Koenig

Jan 9 2024 • 47 mins

(01:20 - 02:44) The Travel Experience Market's Growth

(04:36 - 06:03) Peer to Peer Tour Guide Platform

(07:27 - 09:26) Learning and Customer Obsession Importance

(12:35 - 13:56) Creativity and Execution in Strategy

(16:11 - 17:06) Identifying Core Values for Company Culture

(21:48 - 23:03) Accelerating Digitization and the QR Code

(36:32 - 37:43) Investment Strategy and Flywheel Approach

(39:48 - 40:47) International Tensions and Investment Impacts

(43:17 - 44:43) Applying AGI and AI to Operations

(00:11) The Travel Experience Industry Journey

This chapter welcomes Tao, COO of GetYourGuide, to share insights into the burgeoning travel experience industry. I explore how GetYourGuide, a company that started in a dorm room, grew into a $2 billion enterprise, selling over 80 million tickets to travelers seeking unique experiences, such as private tours of the Vatican Museum. We look at the travel experience market as an untapped online frontier, previously dominated by offline transactions and now worth $300 billion. Tao recounts the founding story of GetYourGuide, from its original concept as a peer-to-peer platform for tour guides to pivoting towards professional activity operators, marking the beginning of its success. We also touch upon the company's recent $194 million funding round and discuss the increasing trend of travelers preferring experiences over material possessions.

(13:56) Adapting Culture and Surviving Crisis

This chapter begins by exploring the integration of culture with changing strategies, emphasizing the importance of a consistent culture that supports shifts without causing disruption. I discuss the development of authentic core values by sharing a story of initial failure and eventual success through a reflective process with the leadership team, highlighting the key role of core values in determining who fits within a company. The conversation then pivots to the impact of COVID-19, recounting the immediate challenges and strategic decisions made in response to the pandemic, including the choice not to lay off staff and to continue investing in the future. The chapter concludes with an optimistic outlook, noting a strong recovery and promising prospects for the years following the initial crisis.

(21:10) Travel Industry

This chapter focuses on how businesses adapted during the pandemic, particularly addressing the balance between long-term planning and immediate operational needs. We touch on innovative measures like salary sacrifices for stock options and government-subsidized work hour reductions. We highlight the insights gained from having co-founders with molecular biology backgrounds, which helped us stay ahead in understanding the virus's impact on the travel industry. Additionally, we discuss the acceleration of digitization due to the pandemic, using the QR code's newfound ubiquity as a prime example. This digital shift significantly impacted operations, especially for our partnerships with historical attractions and museums, which had to quickly adapt to digital ticketing and queue management. Lastly, we examine the surge in travel as restrictions lifted, debunking the idea that the spike was merely 'revenge tourism' and noting the persistent trend towards domestic tourism.

(31:53) Board Members, Funding, Global Network Effects

This chapter focuses on the strategy behind assembling a board of directors for a private company, highlighting the importance of selecting members who bring expertise and accountability. We explore the company's recent Series F funding round, which includes a mix of cash and a revolving credit facility, designed to provide financial flexibility. The significance of raising funds during a period when many tech companies struggle is discussed, emphasizing the company's steady growth and prudent financial practices that have led to a successful up-round without resorting to complex financial instruments. I share insights into the deployment of the raised capital, underlining the company's investment into a technology-driven flywheel model, which encompasses building customer audience, enhancing the product, and acquiring a diverse inventory to support their mission of expansion, particularly in the U.S. market.

(40:48) Travel and AGI Building Connections

This chapter begins with reflections on the value of a connected world and the peace dividend concept, emphasizing how less military spending can boost investment in other sectors like technology and education. I examine the impact of decoupling on trade efficiency and express hope for the role of travel in fostering empathy and cultural understanding. I share insights on the potential of AGI and chat GPT to transform operations in various fields, including machine learning, translation, customer service, and personalized recommendations. I highlight the impressive capabilities of AI in instant translation, which can facilitate global communication and commerce. Lastly, I recount the startling experience of near-zero revenue during COVID-19 and discuss how resilience led to recovery. To keep up with these themes, I encourage listeners to use GetYourGuide for their travels and connect with me, Tao Tao, on LinkedIn.


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The Mind of the Strategist

Amazon's Leadership Principles

Netflix's Core Values

Delivering Happiness

Turning on the Lights at the Vatican


Episode URL

Michael Koenig on LinkedIn