TripAdvisor: Elevating People Functions to Business Partnership

Part 1: Aligning HR with Business Strategy

When Beth Grous joined TripAdvisor as Chief People Officer, the popular travel platform was growing rapidly, with 40+ locations around the world. Beth quickly moved to develop Human Resources (HR) as a strategic partner for business functions, so that the team’s initiatives would more directly support company objectives. In this first part of a two-part conversation, Beth talks with TCV GP Nari Ansari about how she re-oriented her team for business partnership. She also explains how her team manages the employee journey within TripAdvisor as strategically as the company manages its customer journeys, so that recruiting and retaining talent is both systematic and flexible for an increasingly diverse workforce.

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Nari Ansari: First off Beth, I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us. It was great seeing you at TCV’s East Coast CHRO event in New York with portfolio company people and talent leaders. We had some great conversations and wanted to share a few topics with a broader audience.

Beth Grous: Absolutely. Great to speak again.

Nari Ansari: Let’s dive right in, starting with TripAdvisor. What does the company do?

Beth Grous: I think most people who have traveled, or know someone that’s traveled, are familiar with TripAdvisor. We are the world’s largest travel platform. We help about 490 million travelers every month plan, book, and get excited about having the best trip of their life. We’re a global website, and we also have a mobile app that helps travelers browse more than three-quarters of a billion reviews and opinions on over eight million restaurants, accommodations, experiences, airlines, cruises, and so on.

Nari Ansari: When did you join? What motivated you to jump onboard?

Beth Grous: I joined TripAdvisor in September of 2015. I’ve been a review writing member on the TripAdvisor platform since 2006 so I was a long-time consumer of the brand and loved it. When I got the call about the job, I thought that it would be a unique opportunity for me to take the HR skills, experience and capabilities that I had, and intersect them with a consumer brand that I have a lot of passion for.

Around the same time frame there was an increasing recognition at TripAdvisor that with 2,500 employees, and the company growing globally, we really needed to elevate the people function to work in partnership with the CEO to execute more strategically against our business and talent priorities. And so that was very exciting for me as well, thinking about the potential impact I could have.

Nari Ansari: Absolutely. You’re titled Chief People Officer, so what areas fall under your responsibility?

Beth Grous: That’s a great question, because my job description is perhaps a little different than most heads of HR.

As Chief People Officer, I have all the traditional HR domains:

  • HR business partners
  • Total rewards (compensation and benefits) and HR systems
  • Talent acquisition (our recruiting engine)
  • Learning and organizational development
  • Equity, diversity, and inclusion

In addition to those more typical functions, I have a few other areas of responsibility, including our global real estate portfolio and office experience for our 40+ offices worldwide, and our social impact function, which is a combination of both our TripAdvisor Charitable Foundation and our employee volunteerism and giving activities.

Nari Ansari: Since you became Chief People Officer, how have you established the HR team as a business partner to the rest of the organization? What steps did you take, what lessons did you learn as you industrialized the function, and what advice would you have for other HR leaders of growing tech companies out there?

Beth Grous: When I joined, I looked around and I said, “There are some places where we have real strengths, and some places where we need to fill in some blanks.” Probably the biggest shift we made was to build out an HR business partner (HRBP) function – we wanted to shift a portion of our team from being more focused on tactical day-to-day priorities to taking a pro-active focus towards business objectives and working with their counterparts throughout the organization. That shift in focus meant that some people stepped up to develop their skills and to work differently. Other team members transitioned out of the organization and, also importantly, we had a few members join from the business side.  It was a significant shift to staff and organize this HR business partner team.

Nari Ansari: That’s an impressive shift. Tell us a bit more about the role and skill set of HR business partners.

Beth Grous: The members of our HRBP team are expected to have a deep understanding of the business—financials, strategy, and how each business function aligns and interacts to execute against those objectives. I encourage the HRBP team to frame their day-to-day work by asking the question: “How am I working with people at all levels of the organization to help drive the business forward?” Much of this learning happens on the job—and our business leaders are very supportive of sharing their expertise. It has been an important shift for us, because with this knowledge and understanding, they can then support the business most effectively: defining the right organizational structure to support strategy, ensuring that we are hiring and developing a diverse and talented group of employees across the organization, and aligning rewards, as some examples.

I am fortunate that I work for a CEO and with an executive team who greatly values the input of our people and human capital team on matters not just related to HR domain areas, but also matters related to the overall business. This has been exciting and fulfilling for me and my team.

Nari Ansari: That’s great. I think what’s top of mind for many company leaders and talent leaders is retaining exceptional talent. You talked a bit at our recent TCV CHRO event that TripAdvisor very methodically thinks through, manages, and monitors the customer journey and that you and your team symmetrically are methodically thinking through, managing, and monitoring the employee journey as well. Can you talk a little bit more about what that looks like for your 3,600 plus TripAdvisor team members today spread across 40+ offices?

Beth Grous: I’m going to make an obvious statement here. If you retain and engage more of your workforce, you have less of a need to recruit people…

Nari Ansari: Right.

Beth Grous: We recognize that those two things sit in a very healthy and logical balance. We also recognize that turnover in and of itself is painful. You lose institutional knowledge. It’s disruptive to teams. It slows throughput. It slows innovation. We’re only as good as the people that we have working in the right teams and right configurations to execute against our business objective. We think a lot about how to make TripAdvisor a great place to work, to encourage not only retention, but also to drive engagement and satisfaction. Just like our sales team thinks about the “customer first”, we think about how we can put our employees first. That also means that we are taking their views into account, so it’s not just about delivering “HR services” to our employees but having a dialogue with them. This aligns with our brand, which is all about transparency and providing honest and constructive feedback. For example, we know that what makes a company a great place to work likely means different things to different people. To someone early in their career, that might mean, “I get to have a lot of different experiences and I’m promoted pretty rapidly.” To someone in a different phase of life or with different interests or needs, that might be that an individual wants a lot of flexibility in terms of the hours when they work or the places where they work. We encourage flexibility, and we also have office spaces with many different places where people can get away from their desks if that helps them work more effectively. We think about our workforce just like TripAdvisor (and many consumer-facing companies) think about their customers, recognizing that one size doesn’t fit all. That does not mean that we can necessarily be all things to all people—but we try hard to listen, learn, and discern what’s most important to our workforce, and meet our employees’ needs, as long as it makes sense for the business. 

I believe that there are some things that transcend all employees, regardless of role, experience or tenure. Employees want to come to work at a place where they understand the business objectives, they understand the strategy, and they know their role, how their role ladders up to executing against that strategy. So as a company, we spend a ton of time being transparent about those elements – we do that through company town halls, through company meetings and through various forms of communication. Communication is so important, and I don’t think we can ever do enough of it internally! We’ve found it critical for our employees to understand the business context and importantly, how they fit into that context, so that they can be most successful—and therefore we can be most successful as a company.

Nari Ansari:  That makes a lot of sense. I do think that having a much more rigorous multi-faceted view of your employee base is becoming critical for companies of all sizes and in all industries.  And I also think open communication across the organization is important, particularly when it feels like change is the only constant these days.

Another trend – and transition – we are seeing is that HR is becoming more tech and data driven to deliver on human capital and business goals. We’ll talk more about this in a follow-up Q&A and address other topics that are top of mind for today’s HR professionals and tech companies, including HR’s role in successfully executing acquisitions. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us, and I look forward to our next conversation.

Beth Grous: My pleasure!

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The statements, views, and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies. For additional important disclaimers, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Webinar: Evolving from SaaS to Marketplace: Key Lessons for Tech Leaders in Making the Jump

The opportunity set for SaaS is on the rise. The original SaaS model that revolutionized software is now enabling SMB and vertical SaaS companies to evolve from tool companies to market makers. Pioneers of these new SaaS models not only provide a tech platform to service providers, but also strengthen their position by extending into marketplaces. When these providers aggregate enough supply, they leverage their data and mindshare advantages to create two-sided marketplaces that enjoy powerful network effects. The result is a much stronger financial profile, deeper moats, and a significantly larger TAM.

TCV recently hosted an offsite focused on emerging trends that we believe are dramatically expanding the opportunity set and economic strength of vertical and SMB SaaS companies. 

We were fortunate to have Brian Rothenberg as a speaker. Before joining a leading new early stage venture firm Defy as a Partner, Brian was on the leadership team that took Eventbrite from startup through IPO – while evolving the company from a SaaS platform for event venues to a marketplace for live experiences.

In this conversation with John Burke, EVP at TCV, Brian explains the steps and structures necessary to accomplish this strategic transformation and reach scale. He also offers priceless tips on timing and managing relationships with original SaaS clients that leaders can apply as they focus on dramatically expanding their addressable markets.

To talk about SaaS opportunities and get a copy of the presentation, please contact John Burke or Katja Gagen at TCV.

The statements, views, and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit https://www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at https://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Reshaping Online Travel and Surpassing AU$100M ARR From Sydney

Silicon Valley does not have a monopoly on innovation. Great entrepreneurs are everywhere, and we have seen a strong software ecosystem emerging from Australia and New Zealand.

We recently profiled Rod Drury’s Xero journey building a global platform out of New Zealand. Meanwhile, another TCV company, SiteMinder, just reached an important milestone of AU$100 million ARR.

SiteMinder has methodically built a global SaaS leader in hospitality out of Sydney, Australia. Coupled with its impressive revenue milestone, SiteMinder has 35,000 hotel customers in 160 countries and is reshaping the hotel distribution value chain and online travel, itself.

TCV’s Dave Yuan caught up with founder Mike Ford to reflect on his journey.

***

Dave: Congratulations, Mike! Hard to believe you’ve grown SiteMinder to AU$100 million ARR. That’s an incredible milestone and a great foundation for things to come, but let’s start from the beginning. Tell us about yourself and how you got here.

Mike: I always had an interest in technology and commerce, having majored in both. This led me to consulting, where I worked on large business intelligence projects for the likes of SABMiller, AngloGold Ashanti, and Chase Bank, bridging technology teams with executive management and getting a good grounding in both disciplines. Being passionate about travel, I embarked on a year-long backpacking adventure in 2000 before I arrived in Australia and took on a three-month contract with a health technology startup to fund further travel. In 2006, I founded SiteMinder, and I am still in Sydney 18 years on, so, clearly, my adventures didn’t work out as expected!

Dave: Tell us about the SiteMinder creation story. What was the original insight? When did you know you had an idea good enough to quit your day job?

Mike: I didn’t quit outright and that was key. I consulted for my then-employer, two days a week, in order to fund the early months.

There were two major influences that led me to take the leap.

The first was the health tech startup I was working at. They were digitising paper-based claims sent from hospitals to medical funds for reimbursement, as paper-based claiming involved a long payment and reimbursement cycle. For hospitals, the digitisation of claims meant instant delivery, faster reimbursement, and a clear digital trail. At the core of the engine was a switch that converted data from different hospital systems into formats digestible by different medical fund systems.

The second influence was an investment I’d made in an accommodation business. Through that, I learned how hotel and other accommodation sales were rapidly moving away from traditional channels, such as wholesalers and brick-and-mortar travel agents, to online booking sites as travellers were increasingly turning to the internet to make their reservations. The shift in consumer behaviour drove a proliferation of last-minute booking sites in Australia at the time, such as Wotif.com and lastminute.com.au, which promised huge discounts if you booked close to the date of your stay. The issue for hoteliers was there was no means of centrally managing all of those websites and keeping their room rates and availability continuously up to date on each. So, they often chose to list on only one or two sites and miss out on others because they couldn’t manage them at scale.

I quickly realised that if I could connect hotel systems with different online channels, as I did in the medical funds world, I could synchronise hotel room rates and availability in real time. For hoteliers, the value proposition was they could get more rooms onto more booking sites to grow their reach online. At the same time, they could reduce overbookings and the operational overhead of manually inputting reservations. That value proposition helped us get a strong foothold quickly in the market.

Dave: What was it like to start a company out of Sydney?         

Mike: We were actually very fortunate to be in Sydney. As with banking and payments technologies, Australia was far ahead in terms of technological innovation in online travel. Where other markets weren’t yet embracing dynamic room rates and availability, there were many booking sites in Australia available for hotels to list on. The multitude of sites, combined with the sheer number of hotels out there, especially independent hotels, meant that conditions were ideal for our entry into the market.

Funding was a big challenge as the technology venture market was very underdeveloped relative to what it is today. The government in Australia also had a myopic attitude to how important tech and STEM jobs were to the future of the economy, so tech startups got very little support in terms of R&D benefits, and sadly that hasn’t changed. In spite of these challenges, more than 80% of our revenue now comes from overseas markets. We are a truly global business that has kept its roots deeply in the city of Sydney where it all started.

Dave: You’ve scaled past AU$100 million ARR. Was it all smooth sailing from there, or were there big doubts and moments of near death?

Mike: In the early days, moments of doubts may have been around survival. Later, they were more focused on growth or new market entry, but they’ve never quite ceased, and I suspect it’s no different for any founder.

If ever there was a near-death experience, it would’ve been pre-angel investment, when I was funding the business and paying my co-founder out of my own savings. On top of that, we learned a competitor was launching a month before us, and they had AU$100 million in funds and an existing product. We had AU$180,000 and a beta release. It was nearly a no-go decision, but I’m pretty stubborn and so we took them on, and they soon went bankrupt.

Dave: What were the big decisions along the way?

Mike: Very important decisions included:

  1. Who we were going to take money from and bring on to our board of directors. We turned down early interest from numerous VCs purely on the first meeting dynamic.
  2. Whether we were going to go global or dominate locally, and what the timing would be.
  3. What not to chase. There are so many opportunities, and you can lose focus quickly unless you’re very clear about what you are and are willing to let go of opportunities that may seem attractive but don’t provide long-term benefits.

Additionally, the most crucial decisions involve the people you choose for the journey and the timing of bringing on key talent. The outlook of a founding CEO, certainly in the formative years, can differ substantially from those of a professional CEO. As a founding CEO, you have grown the team and the business from nothing. You have loyal, committed, and talented individuals who have helped you get the business to a particular stage so the company culture is more familial. Yet, through high growth, it’s hard to stay on top of skills and challenges across the business, and you may find yourself in a situation where you either don’t recognise that such deficiencies exist, or you don’t take appropriate measures quickly enough to address them. Over time, you get better at identifying the skills you need for the future, ahead of the curve.

Dave: How has SiteMinder succeeded in a field that has gotten so much competitive attention?

Mike: I think the definition of success is different for everyone. There are many travel tech companies that I would consider successful, even if they may not all have the size and growth trajectory of SiteMinder.

It sounds cliché, but it comes down to the deliberate process of ensuring many ingredients come together in the right way, at the right time, and in the right sequence. We’ve had a focused and smart go-to-market strategy, plus we over-indexed on personalised support for our customers and doubled down on localising our products and service for many different countries. We’ve invested in strong operational centres around the globe to provide true round-the-clock sales and customer service, and we’ve hired smart people. I could go on, but at our core we are product-driven and customer-obsessed. That permeates our culture and is key. Even if your product is average, you can have early success if your sales and marketing are great. In the long run, you can only continue your success if your product is truly market leading.

Dave: As you look forward, what are the big opportunities for hoteliers? How might this translate into benefits for the consumer and traveller?

Mike: Many hoteliers are still stuck in their traditional ways and aren’t open to the possibilities that technology can offer in making a world of difference. This does vary between hotel segments such as independent versus chain, full service versus limited service, regional versus city, and even by country. The vast majority of hoteliers still struggle to navigate the changing online landscape and are overwhelmed by the extent of the choice out there.

It’s for this reason that we’ve created an ecosystem, not just of our own technology, but of all other technology players that can help hoteliers navigate the online world in search of guests. If hoteliers can connect with customers at every touchpoint throughout their buying journey, they can ultimately create greater guest experiences long before those guests set foot in their lobby and long thereafter.

Dave: If SiteMinder fulfills its mission, what role can it play in the changing online travel ecosystem?

Mike: SiteMinder currently connects to 700+ partners within the travel ecosystem, so hoteliers can hook everything they need into their property management system and harness the power of integration, openness, and choice. Essentially, our platform is the most comprehensive and effective way for hoteliers to bring guests to their hotels, without having to think about or manage technology. It gives them more time to spend on the guest experience, which is the part they really enjoy.

If hoteliers can choose any best-of-breed solution to optimise their opportunities in acquiring guests in an increasingly online-driven world, we’re doing our job.

We also play a big role in the value chain in online accommodation, specifically the supply equation, by connecting hotel room rates and availability in real time to points-of-sale such as booking sites. We enable those booking sites to gain traction in core markets, where they otherwise can’t access a supply of rooms to sell.

There have been middlemen aggregators in the past that have rolled up supply for booking sites yet we connect the room supply directly to booking sites or room demand sources, so there is no ticket clipping and dilution of margin between the supplier (the hotel) and the seller (the booking site). In doing so, we have streamlined the supply chain for hotel rooms, rates, and content.

Dave: SiteMinder’s opportunity is also unique as a SaaS company. Vertical SaaS is seeing a renaissance with SaaS companies taking on platform and network characteristics, meaning “SaaS as a Platform”. What does SiteMinder look like as a SaaS business model over time?

Mike: We started out with a distribution platform for hotels. Over time, we recognised the importance of the direct sales channel and expanded our platform to integrate a hotel’s own website, so they could manage both their indirect and direct sales channels.

Over the years we’ve designed our platform to be more proactive and have powered it with business intelligence that steers our customers and makes them aware of opportunities to improve their hotel business. For example, our platform makes hoteliers aware of changes in market conditions or demand, so they can maximise their guest acquisition capabilities in a rapidly evolving online landscape.

The next evolution is really exciting. We recognise that there are many great applications and tools out there for hoteliers, and they can all improve a hotel’s guest acquisition strategy. These may be upselling tools, airport transfer services or activity bookings, revenue management systems or anything in between. We know that one company will never build the best of all these things. Our brand essence has always been one of openness, so we’ve developed a way to seamlessly link a hotel’s property management system to all the different applications. In doing this, our customers will be able to use all the best-of-breed applications available out there in combination with our own platform. If we are successful in this endeavour, we will have the most open and connected platform the hotel industry has seen, with the greatest number of hotel participants (we already have 35,000 today).

Dave: Outside of SiteMinder, what in online travel gets you excited?

Mike: One important shift is the rise of tours and activities moving increasingly to online with dynamic inventory and pricing. Driving this is people’s desire to seek experiences, not just flights and accommodation. We’re seeing increasing demand among consumers to package their accommodation, services and ancillaries, so they can get the best experience out of their accommodation and the local destination.

Somewhat tangential is the rise of personalisation. For a more personalised experience, including destination advice, many travellers still use a brick-and-mortar travel agent to plan their trip. That said, we’re also seeing the growing dominance of online booking sites. Alone, neither of these options is ideal for at least one segment of the leisure travel market, so I think we will increasingly see hybrids where booking sites get better at offering deeper, more human advice and personalised service. This may even include speaking to a local human expert when booking online. We are already starting to see signs of that happening now.

There are also relatively new entrants like Google making a wave in the space with disruptive models that are attractive to hoteliers. I think the race is on for OTAs to create a seamless end-to-end experience for the consumer, including research and advice, flights, hotels, car hire, transfers, in-destination activities and experiences, restaurants and everything in between.

Dave: Thanks so much, Mike, and congratulations again! AU$100 million ARR is an amazing milestone that only a few reach. Savour it!

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The statements, views, and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies. For additional important disclaimers, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at
https://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


From Startup to Global Scale: Securing and Building the Company’s Culture Are Keys to Success of Tech Leaders

The days when technology chiefs could focus simply on hardware and software are gone. For technology leaders, aligning IT with long-term strategy and attracting and nurturing a winning team has become key in a world where customer expectations are growing, and the pace of change continues to accelerate.

Today’s technology businesses need to think strategically at the local, national, and global level. Many companies run business online or mobile first and are getting creative and competitive advantages from collecting and analyzing consumer data. This provides both opportunities and challenges: on one hand, companies can get access to global customers fast, yet they are also facing competitors both at home and abroad, not to mention threat actors who could be located anywhere and can come at you with sophisticated attacks. It’s your talent against theirs – with your enterprise and your customers in the middle.

At TCV, we’ve been focused on talent and culture as critical success factors for more than 20 years. Many of our investments have turned on building or sustaining successful cultures and nurturing them with the right people. For this year’s invitation only CTO/CIO Summit we decided to look at talent and culture together with the challenges of globalizing and securing the enterprise. We brought together over 40 technology executives, including founders, product leaders, TCV partners, and — of course — CTOs and CIOs, in Half Moon Bay, CA, for an opportunity to build peer relationships, learn from shared experiences, and discuss top-of-mind issues facing these leaders. We also mixed up the “talent” for the event itself, drawing not only on working CTOs and CIOs but also career IT experts with consulting and investing experience across multiple industries.

For us, the most important part of the two-day event was gaining a deeper understanding of both the challenges and opportunities technology executives need to balance, including:

  • Winning the Talent Wars and Creating a Winning Culture
  • Building a Globally Distributed Organization
  • Privacy and Identity Initiatives and Securing the Enterprise
  • Our agenda centered around best practices in scaling a global organization. Other topics we discussed included how to integrate acquisitions and best practices in managing a global workforce.

Here are the highlights:

Over dinner, Zillow CTO Dave Beitel spoke about how technology has transformed the real estate industry. Dave joined Zillow in 2005 and has seen the company grow, both organically and with 13 acquisitions in the last 12 years. Dave explained the importance of creating a strong culture across multiple locations and laying out paths to career development to motivate teams as organizations scale. He also provided advice on a common challenge that many growing companies face, particularly how to integrate offshore teams and make them an extension of existing efforts rather than adjacent resources. He also discussed with the group how to achieve success in scale with multiple office locations and different cultural identities.

Tim McAdam led the next day’s first panel with Victoria Schillinger, VP of HR at Alarm.com; Caroline Horn, Partner at Andreessen Horowitz; Michael Morell, Managing Partner at Riviera Partners; and Jonathan Schoonmaker, SVP of HR at FinancialForce. Their topic: winning the talent wars against today’s tech giants. The practical tips flowed freely, starting with university recruiting. Pick a few schools and work them, including both Ivy League schools and state colleges. Build relationships with influential faculty. Introduce your brand to younger students, not just seniors. When they become interns, give them meat to work on, not crumbs – having an impact is what they value most. If they turn down an offer, wait 2-3 years and call again – they may not be having the impact they expected at that big company they chose. Retaining key talent has to be proactive. Sit people down and map out how they will develop themselves and increase their impact by staying with you. Give them management opportunities so they can imagine themselves as leaders. Don’t expect diversity to walk in the door — look for talented, highly motivated people who come from completely different fields such as law or the military. And finally, the 90 days after a new hire starts are more important than the 90 days spent hiring them. Set them up for quick wins, build in plenty of touch-points, and make sure they’re comfortable in the culture.

Ted Coons continued the conversation with a focus on talent and culture, talking with Kameron Kordestani, a partner at McKinsey & Company, and Otto Berkes, CTO of CA Technologies, about building a globally distributed company. Both speakers separated the “artifacts” of culture – posters, slogans, logos – from its essence: ways of working that make the organization succeed. People who embody those essentials should be made ambassadors to new acquisitions or newly built development centers, so that people new to your culture can experience it live. When new team members absorb it, they should be given broader responsibilities in the combined company – this leverages their talent and inspires their original team. Particularly after M&A, the acquired team needs to understand its role and contribution to the combined entity; this should happen quickly and positively. Pay for travel if you can; people in far-flung organizations form bonds faster when they meet in person. Both Otto and Kam warned against sticking too closely to integration playbooks, particularly when the acquired technology is new or different. Sometimes a talent-rich team should not be integrated rapidly. Don’t compromise on security or safety but take time to observe how they work before you impose on a new team – the last thing you want to do is spoil an acquisition by how you integrate it.

TCV EIR Jonathan Shottan, Manmeet Singh, Co-founder and CEO of Dataguise and Pablo Jensen, CTO of Sportradar pulled back the curtain on Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California’s new privacy laws. Simply put, GPDR is about What, Where and Why: What private data do you have? Where is private data stored? Why do you need to process that private data? Both the compliance challenge and market opportunity of the new regulations are huge and what unites them is the challenge of identifying the vulnerabilities. Many companies mistakenly believe they are compliant, because they encrypt and segregate various types of customer data physically or in the cloud; but when they bring data types together for analysis, they create “PII” – personally identifiable information. The new laws also require companies to delete data if customers demand it, but that’s likely to create havoc with legacy database applications built on relational technology. And how do you delete older data stored on physical media? Enter data masking, at production scale, to stand in for deletion and encryption. First movers — with enough IT spend on decoupling, segregating, and masking data — may even competitively enhance their brands as “more secure” than others.

After lunch, Ted Coons and Charles Beadnall, CTO of GoDaddy, delved into the transformation of GoDaddy’s culture, a process that started back in 2013. Engineers loved the company’s mission of providing small businesses with a home on the internet, but deterrents included fly-over geography, aging facilities and sensationalist marketing. With a new CEO – and marketing campaign – GoDaddy began recruiting heavily. The challenge was forming a new culture that welcomed both existing employees and a flood of new developers in ways that produced better products, faster. Charles employed a version of the 80/20 rule: if he could populate 20% of a department with more diverse people who modeled the right behaviors, they would tip over the rest. The company hired people based on referrals, recruited many female graduates from local universities and placed experienced diverse hires in senior IT roles. Charles also drew in Ph.D.s from MIT and spent time with teams around the globe to transform a culture while keeping the company focused on growth.

Matt Robinson led the day’s final session on securing the enterprise with Amir Ben-Efraim, co-founder and CEO of Menlo Security; Rob Fry, VP of Engineering at JASK; Robert West, Managing Director at Deloitte LLP; and Christian McCarrick, VP of Engineering at Auth0. Matt first asked the panel how CIOs and CTOs should differentiate among today’s legions of security providers. Recommendations included assessing your vulnerabilities so you’re asking the right questions, getting referrals from peers, and anticipating the inevitable consolidation among security providers. Not every company needs an industry giant – those companies were startups once, and today’s upstarts may have superior technology. The panel then discussed prioritizing among today’s proliferating threats. Getting governance in place is critical – if no one fully owns the security portfolio, priorities will be set for the wrong reasons. If the role falls to you as CTO or CIO, you must be (or become) a good storyteller to convey the threats to your company and build consensus on addressing them. It’s also vital to recognize that malware will get inside your systems, but it won’t be the end of the world if you’re prepared. Ultimately the biggest weakness of all security systems is the human element. Education and training are essential and need to be on the agenda regularly. In addition, Amir argued that companies should hold vendors to a higher standard, aiming to receive 100% efficacy to keep companies protected.

We are grateful for all the valuable insights our speakers shared with attendees and the TCV community we strive to create. We look forward to exploring new topics and connections during our next TCV event.

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The views and opinions expressed are those of the CTO/CIO Summit speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”).  This summary is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed.  Not all companies discussed above are TCV portfolio companies.  Any TCV portfolio companies discussed above are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/.  For additional important disclaimers regarding this document, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.

 


Travel Tech Company Sojern Announces Financing Round Led By TCV

SAN FRANCISCONov. 13, 2018 — Sojern, the travel tech company known for its traveler path-to-purchase data and innovative travel marketing and distribution solutions, today announced that growth equity firm TCV has led a $120 million financing round in Sojern.

Sojern looks to build on its years of rapid growth and successful execution—recently marking 13 consecutive quarters of profitability—to accelerate solutions development for its clients, which include 93 percent of the world’s Fortune 500 travel companies and thousands of independent hotel properties and local tourism providers. As part of the transaction, TCV general partner Woody Marshall joined Sojern’s Board of Directors. TCV brings extensive experience in the travel and marketing tech spaces with investments in Airbnb, Expedia, Orbitz, HomeAway, TripAdvisor, SiteMinder, ExactTarget, Act-On and Ariba.

Sojern offers a scalable model for driving bookings through a blend of programmatic display, video, social, mobile and native advertising tailored to reach travel audiences as they move through the process of planning and researching an upcoming trip. The company has closely followed trends in travel marketing, acquiring Facebook and Instagram Marketing Partner Adphorus in late 2017, testing into connected TV, and making its real-time audiences available to top clients via a programmatic in-house offering.

“At Sojern, we aim to know all the world’s travelers and move them from dream to destination. Our teams dig deep into the traveler path-to-purchase so we can help our clients win the competition for bookings. We’ve used those insights to drive $13 billion in bookings so far, with the goal of transforming digital marketing into digital distribution,” said Sojern CEO Mark Rabe. “With this new partnership with TCV, we’re excited to continue driving efficiency into the ~$100 billionbeing spent by travel brands around the world.”

Woody Marshall said, “We have been watching Sojern’s rapid rise in the travel technology space for several years, and we were impressed with Sojern’s leadership position in the space and its unique, scalable model for influencing travelers worldwide. Sojern’s ability to both conceptualize a better marketing experience for travel organizations and their steady execution over the past decade, as well as their innovative business strategy, strong executive team, and inspiring company culture made them a natural fit for us.”

About Sojern
Sojern (www.sojern.com) is a leading provider of digital marketing solutions and real-time audiences for the travel industry. Sojern has specialized in traveler path-to-purchase data for more than a decade and has delivered $13 billion in bookings for clients to date. Recognized as a Deloitte Technology Top 500 Fastest Growing Company for 5 years in a row, Sojern is headquartered in San Francisco with 13 global locations.

About TCV
Founded in 1995, TCV provides capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry. Since inception, TCV has invested over $10 billion in leading technology companies and has helped guide CEOs through more than 115 IPOs and strategic acquisitions. Investments include Airbnb, Altiris, AxiomSL, Believe Digital, Dollar Shave Club, EtQ, ExactTarget, Expedia, Facebook, Fandango, GoDaddy, HomeAway, LinkedIn, Netflix, Rent the Runway, Sitecore, Splunk, Spotify, TourRadar, Varsity Tutors, and Zillow. TCV is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, with offices in New York and London. For more information about TCV, including a complete list of TCV investments, visit www.tcv.com.

PRESS CONTACTS:

Sojern

Scott Thornburg

+1 (415) 816-8844

scott.thornburg@sojern.com

TCV

Katja Gagen
+1 650-614-8264

kgagen@tcv.com

 

 


The Guts and Glory of Category Creation

Customer Success is an established concept these days. Harvard Business Review has written about it. There are how-to guides online, and “Customer Success” even has its own Wikipedia page. Customer Success Manager positions, are among the fastest growing in the titles in the US. Customer Success is definitely a “thing” now.

The rise of Customer Success didn’t happen organically. Nick Mehta and the rest of the Gainsight team put the Customer Success category on the map through a deliberate and inspired effort.

In this Q&A, TCV GP David Yuan and Gainsight CEO Nick Mehta share lessons on the pros and cons, and the key success drivers of building an entirely new category of enterprise software.

 ***

David Yuan: Let’s start with the basics. What is Customer Success, and what made you think it was a big enough problem space in which you could create a large company?

Nick Mehta: Most companies today either already have or are transitioning to a subscription-based business model, so that means retaining and providing value to your existing customers is more important than ever. That’s where Customer Success comes in—when you’re proactively engaging with customers, you’re able to stay ahead of customer churn and even discover other opportunities to provide more value and upsell. And you know all of that ends up increasing renewal rates and ARR. It’s really cool to see more and more businesses recognizing its value.

David Yuan: And why did you think it deserved its own category? You could have fit in a number of existing categories. Why try to create your own?

Nick Mehta: Yeah, Customer Success has been confused with customer support, customer service, professional services, or account management, but really, it’s a mash-up of those functions. Early on we didn’t know what to call it. Honestly, if you said “Customer Success Manager” to somebody back then, nobody would have any idea what you were talking about. But we knew we were looking at a new discipline for the next generation of businesses—something that’s at the intersection of customer support, service, customer analytics, customer machine learning, etc. They do share some similarities, but the fundamental shift is going from reactive (waiting for the phone call) to proactive (owning the customer’s outcome).

We could have attached ourselves to a category like account management and become a boring old company that’s somehow related to customer support. Many people actually tried to push us into those types of categories. Fortunately, we stuck to our gut because we knew none of those were a fit.

David Yuan:  To be honest, category creation is a little bit a of a flashback to the 1990’s when Ariba and i2 spent gobs of money making procurement and supply chain sexy. Hmm, must have been an interesting discussion with investors…

Nick Mehta: Yeah, people didn’t like it. Not only because of the potential expense with creating awareness, but also because they thought Customer Success was too much of a niche. That putting ourselves in the category would box us in.

David Yuan: Were they wrong?

Nick Mehta: Yes and no. It was certainly an obscure area, but we truly believed it could get big. So we went down that path and became very passionate about building the Customer Success company—we decided to go all in.

David Yuan: So how did you define scope? Define it tightly and you have 100% market share and no TAM, define it broadly and you have big TAM and you compete against everyone. In picking scope you get to pick who you compete with today and potential in the future, as well as who may view you as a strategic acquisition. Was this all in the plans, how intentional was your scope?

Nick Mehta: Really good question and we still wrestle with it. I think we embraced the concept early on of focusing on a very specific market (subscription) and persona (Customer Success). Many people said “your TAM will be limited” because of this. But the reality is that that market and persona have grown radically. So I think the lesson is there is a tradeoff to focus but it’s less of a tradeoff if the “niche” has a big tailwind behind it.

David Yuan: And how did you actually put on a name on the category. Customer Success actually feels really nature–simple and non-technical, yet distinctive.

Nick Mehta: We actually had a lot of debate about naming it because there were existing categories that we could have slotted into. Friends of the company suggested we call it “customer artificial intelligence.” Others told us we should call it “customer insights” or “customer machine learning.” But none of those fit for our vision.

We noticed Salesforce had a team of “Customer Success Managers” that had like 80 people in it and were starting to hire more, and when we saw this new job and description it made sense to us. There was also a small community of folks who met in online forums and around local offices in the Bay Area who really resonated with this Customer Success message.

David Yuan: It’s one thing to put a category name out there—most companies attempt to do that, but most are unsuccessful. How did you turn a Gainsight term into the category label?

Nick Mehta: We said to ourselves that we were going to create and really own the industry. We facilitated the creation of a community. With their help, we created best practices. We described what a Customer Success Manager does, how you pay them, and who they report to. We even published a book about the entire discipline. And we’re still helping define roles and titles based on the trends we’re seeing.

At first we wanted to do what a lot of enterprise software companies do: host a conference with our customers. The problem was that we didn’t have any customers, so a conference would have been depressing!  So instead of doing a company event, we decided to do an industry event. We focused on Customer Success Management, not our company per se. We said, let’s connect with other players in this still-young industry. We called the event “Pulse.” It was the most important thing we ever did as a company. When we sent out invites, we thought we’d get maybe 50 people to attend. Instead, 300 showed up the first year. Just to show you how fast this industry has grown, this year, our sixth year, we had over 5,000 people show up.

We’re not that big of a company, but our conference brand—Pulse—has become very big. We even expanded globally. We have a conference in London and we’re planning to continue that, and we’re hosting our first Pulse in Australia later this year.

David Yuan: Why do you think Pulse was so successful?

Nick Mehta: In order to create a category, we needed to create a community, and Pulse helped do just that. Fundamentally, in a new profession, people want to meet others “like them.” So Pulse has become in some ways like eHarmony for Customer Success.

David Yuan: Is it as expensive as it sounds?

Nick Mehta: Yeah, don’t do this if you’re bootstrapping. I don’t think it’d be possible since it’s not cheap. We raised $156 million in venture capital from investors who believed we could create this new marketplace. We were fortunate to receive their support because it allowed us to really distance ourselves from the little competition we had.

David Yuan: You’ve cultivated this community, so now what?

Nick Mehta: We try to put ourselves in the shoes of the people in the Pulse community. The terms “thought leadership” and “content marketing” have often been cheapened into thinly-veiled advertisement and we tried to change that. We strived to focus on the issues on the minds of people in Customer Success – from compensation to org models to career paths. We built a job board and an online university to help serve the career needs of our community.  At the end of the day, it’s fundamentally about the people.

David Yuan: How do you hire in an industry that’s so new?

Nick Mehta: Trying and failing. That’s the challenge. There is no playbook or existing job description to follow. So in the early days, we really focused on our value of “Shoshin” (Beginner’s Mind) – people that were creative and willing to learn.

David Yuan: You’ve said that you don’t sweat the competition. Why not?

Nick Mehta: In a new market, it’s not about the competition. It’s about creating the market. Our competition is inertia and ignorance.

David Yuan: Why don’t you have more competition?

Nick Mehta: In some new markets, the “friction” to get started is very high. In our example, you need to build a complex product AND a new profession!

David Yuan: You’ve put a lot of attention on your company’s culture. What have you done and why is it important?

Nick Mehta: When you’re creating a category, your culture is doubly important – it’s the framework for your company AND for your community. One of our core values is Childlike Joy, which basically means we want people to embrace their inner kid and bring the kid in you to work. We really lean into our community with that. We’ve done all kinds of fun things. We wrote a children’s storybook for CS professionals to explain to their kids what they do at work. We also do a lot of things with music, like create a Customer Success version of a Taylor Swift song, a rap song, a musical, and even carpool karaoke with Aaron Levie from Box and Keith Krach from Docusign. We also had Vanilla Ice at one of our Pulse conferences. Actually, there was a time that if you googled Gainsight, it literally listed our company as a musical artist in the hip-hop/rap genre. #lifegoal

David Yuan: Ha! I’ll have to check it out. Vanilla Ice, that’s when you know you’ve made it. You’ve come a long way from ‘nerding’ out at Harvard, my man!

Nick Mehta: Yeah!

David Yuan: Awesome, thanks Nick. Really proud of what you’re doing at Gainsight and appreciate your sharing some of your learnings!

Nick Mehta: Awesome! Thank you for having me.

###

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in the transcript above are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). This transcript is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The companies discussed above are not necessarily TCV portfolio companies and are not necessarily representative of any TCV investments. For additional important disclaimers regarding this document, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.

 

 


Match Play: Lessons in Leadership

On the heels of the final rounds of the 50th US Open Tennis Championship, TCV’s General Partner John Doran sat down with George Mulhern, former tennis pro and CEO of Cradlepoint to discuss lessons learned on and off the court. In addition to being CEO of Cradlepoint, a global leader in cloud solutions for 4G/5G-enabled networks, George has been instrumental in driving economic growth in the Northwest region as a venture capitalist. Throughout his 20+ year career, George has drawn on his experiences on the tennis court to succeed through the highs and lows of the ultra-competitive tech industry.

Key takeaways include:

  • How to develop a competitive mentality that keeps you focused
  • The right attitude for responding to adversity
  • Why the mindset of your company’s culture determines long-term success

***

John Doran: It’s not every day I get to talk with a fellow tennis player about what the game can teach tech founders and CEOs. How far did your tennis career take you?

George Mulhern: I went to college on a tennis scholarship and then played for a short time on the American Express Satellite tour, which is like the minor league of professional men’s tennis. That was far enough to know that I would have to make my living doing something else.

John Doran: What did tennis teach you about competing in the technology business?

George Mulhern: One of the most important competitive things you learn in tennis is to never give up when you are behind. You can turn around a match completely, like a major pivot in technology, if you keep your head and adjust your strategy and tactics. It truly is not over until it’s over. An equally valuable lesson, one you usually learn the hard way, is to never let up when you are ahead. If you lose momentum it is much tougher to get back on top, and you also give a big shot of confidence to your opponent. The same is true in business. You can never rest on your past successes. Every day is a new game and you have to approach it with the intention and intensity to win.

John Doran: Pro players often talk about knowing their competition and anticipating how a certain player will try to compete against them. Do you see parallels in your business life?

George Mulhern: My experience was that no matter how much you study your competition before a match, it is impossible to completely predict how they will behave. It is more important to have keen situational awareness, flexibility in your own game and the agility and willingness to rapidly adapt. Then you’re ready no matter what the opponent comes at you with.

John Doran: In tennis, top players often try to balance their strengths and stamina and stay in a match with a view to turning around the momentum. Has there ever been a time when you would conserve energy against an opponent in a long match?

George Mulhern: The context for those comments is that players today are achieving a level of conditioning that is unprecedented for tennis. They’re hitting harder and running more for every ball. So you can win a match by outlasting the other player, not just outplaying them. The same is true in technology. If you are investing enough time and effort into that level of conditioning, you don’t need to conserve your energy. Your competitor should run out of gas before you do. By conditioning I mean ensuring that you have, or are acquiring, the skills and capabilities your company needs to sustain success for as long as you stay in business.

John Doran: It’s often said that success in tennis is as much about the mental side of the game as it is about physical talent.  In your world now, as CEO, having a strong mental game is fairly pivotal as well. How do you keep your mental game sharp in the tech business?

George Mulhern: There are all kinds of distractions when you are playing competitive tennis: fans, competitors, weather, injuries, illness, even the last shot you missed. You need the mental toughness to put all those things aside and focus on what is most important, which is the point you are playing right now. It is the same in the tech business. The distractions are different – there is always the latest shiny object grabbing at your attention – but the challenge is the same. You have to stay focused on the key value drivers of your business.

John Doran: On the WTA tour, I understand that coaching is now allowed during matches at certain times, giving the coach a potentially bigger influence on the outcome of a match. Can you share any feedback that you took from your tennis coaches over the years that you still use today?

 George Mulhern: My college coach, whom I now think of more as “Yoda,” taught me it’s not about who has the best strokes or shots. It’s about a simple decision you have to make: (Yoda voice) “Winner, do you want to be?” If you do want to win, then the challenges of becoming a winner don’t feel like a sacrifice. They energize you. You are more than willing to put in the hours of practice and conditioning. You embrace the need to change something in your game if that’s necessary, and you summon the courage to fight until the last shot of the match even when you’re tired and it starts to feel hopeless.

John Doran: Applying the coaching metaphor to your business experience, what kind of performance feedback is most valuable?

George Mulhern: Direct and honest is the best. As you rise in an organization, more people will tell you how great you are. You have to find the folks that will tell you the things that aren’t so positive and nice to hear. As you move into higher levels of leadership you need to grow a thicker skin, but with some permeability so you can accept critical feedback and not over-personalize it. It’s just business. You use the feedback to improve and move on.

John Doran: One of the commonalties about this generation of top tennis players, especially in the men’s game, is the ability of the top players to continually improve and add to their games, allowing people such as Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic to stay on top for so long. In the business and technology world, how do you ensure you’re making the necessary improvements to your game to stay ahead of the competition?

George Mulhern: My first year of college tennis, it really hit home to me that I had to get better every day, because there are a whole bunch of other guys out there who certainly are. It is the same in technology. Every technology company’s culture has to instill a sense of urgency and willingness to embrace and adapt to change. Your existing competitors are striving to improve, new competitors are starting up, and they all want to take your market share. At Cradlepoint we say, “stay humble and hungry, or you will be.”

John Doran: Even the greatest tennis players of all time have lost big matches throughout their careers. What can business leaders learn from that? How do they recover?

George Mulhern: It’s one match. Learn from it, adapt where you need to, and get over it. People in your organization will take their cues from you and react the way you do, so don’t run around like your hair is on fire. Just go to work on finding the path to the next success.

John Doran: Did any of the great tennis players of the past inspire you in ways that affected your success in business?

George Mulhern: One of my life lessons came from a tennis idol of mine – Arthur Ashe. When he was asked what it takes to become a champion, he said “start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.”  Whenever I am faced with what seems like an insurmountable challenge or problem, I remember that quote.  If you just take that first step, the next step becomes clearer, and then so does the next.

John Doran: Thanks so much for your insights, George.

###

 

 

TCV is an investor in Cradlepoint.

The views and opinions expressed in the transcript above are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). This transcript is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified above, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this document, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/

 

 

 

 

 


Klook Gears Up for Next Round of Global Expansion and Innovation with US$200 Million Series D Funding

HONG KONGAug. 7, 2018 — Klook, a world-leading full-service in-destination booking platform, today announced it has closed US$200 million in Series D funding, bringing its total financing to date to US$300 million. This makes Klook the most-funded company in the tours and activities sector globally. Investors in this round include Sequoia China, Matrix Partners, Goldman Sachs, Boyu Capital, TCV, an Asia-based sovereign wealth fund, OurCrowd, and some family offices. Sequoia China, Matrix Partners and Goldman Sachs also led the Series C in October 2017. The investment further strengthens Klook’s position as a global player in the travel sector, and accelerates its expansion in the US and Europe, including product growth and technology innovation.

Founded in 2014, Klook is one of the world’s fastest-growing booking platforms, covering attractions, tours, and local experiences as well as local transport and railway services around the globe. It offers travelers more than 50,000 activities and services provided by over 5,000 industry partners in 200+ destinations worldwide. Since closing its US$60 million Series C fund last year, the company has opened offices in London and Amsterdam, and now employs more than 600 people across 16 offices around the world. Its robust growth is driven by the rise of independent travelers and an increasing consumer appreciation for travel experiences. The company is on track to achieve US$1 billion annual bookings in 2018.

Klook will continue to expand its global footprint, with plans to open an office in the US by the end of 2018. The company will also be adding more US and Europe-based curated activities and services onto the platform to fulfill an increasing demand from Asian travelers for diverse and unique in-destination experiences . Simultaneously, Klook will look to bring more US and European travelers to Asia, supporting the company’s long-term vision of serving travelers worldwide to easily discover destinations that are both popular and unique.

Klook has been a pioneer in driving travel innovation, developing travel operator solutions such as the Merchant App and QR-code based e-voucher redemption. Klook’s technology solutions have been widely recognized and adopted by its merchant partners including world-renowned attractions, mass railway transit and other offline service operators. Klook will continue to collaborate with its merchant partners to further provide frictionless, real-time booking experiences for modern travelers.

“Our mission is to empower travelers to build their own unique journey,” said Ethan Lin, CEO and Co-Founder of Klook, “This round of funding marks an important milestone for us. The funding and extensive experience from our new investors will let us to further solidify our merchant portfolio and provide travelers with even more activities and destinations to explore around the world.”

“We are committed to using innovative technologies to help digitize the tours and activities industry,” said Eric Gnock Fah, COO and Co-Founder of Klook. “The new funding will help us deepen our partnership with merchants through more technological solutions that bring new sources of customers and optimize operational efficiencies.”

“By leveraging their strength in digitally transforming their suppliers of tours and activities and tapping into the new generation of mobile-first travelers, Klook is emerging as the clear leader in the online tours and activities sector,” said Neil Shen, Founding and Managing Partner of Sequoia China. “We look forward to seeing Klook help more and more travelers connect to suppliers, and become a key source of inbound demand for Asia and beyond.”

“TCV seeks to invest in companies with exceptional management teams that drive technological innovation,” said David Yuan, General Partner at TCV. “Klook is at the forefront of transforming the travel industry and we’ve been impressed with the team and the company’s growth. We are excited to help them advance their global strategy and expansion.”

About Klook

Founded in 2014, Klook is one of the world’s leading travel activities and services booking platforms. Klook gives travelers a seamless way to discover and book popular attractions, tours, local transportation, best foods and must-eats, and unique experiences around the world on its website and award-winning app (‘Best of 2015’ & ‘Best of 2017’ by Google Play and Apple App Store). With Klook’s innovative technologies, travelers can book after arriving in their destinations and redeem the services by using QR codes or e-vouchers. Each day, Klook empowers countless travelers to indulge in their wanderlust and spontaneity through over 50,000 offerings in more than 200 destinations.

With a team of over 600 across 16 offices worldwide, Klook’s services are available in eight languages and 36 currencies. It has raised a total of US$300 million investment from world-renowned investors including Sequoia Capital, Matrix Partners, Goldman Sachs, Boyu Capital, and TCV. Get inspired by Klook at www.klook.com or the company blog. 

About TCV

Founded in 1995, TCV provides capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry. Since inception, TCV has invested over $10 billion in leading technology companies and has helped guide CEOs through more than 115 IPOs and strategic acquisitions. TCV’s investments include Airbnb, Altiris, AxiomSL, Dollar Shave Club, EmbanetCompass, EtQ, ExactTarget, Expedia, Facebook, Fandango, GoDaddy, HomeAway, LinkedIn, Netflix, OSIsoft, Rent the Runway, Sitecore, SiteMinder, Splunk, Spotify, Varsity Tutors, and Zillow. TCV is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, with offices in New York and London. For more information about TCV, including a complete list of TCV investments, visit https://www.tcv.com/.

To download photos and other press materials: https://goo.gl/fN1Bz6

To learn more about our investors, please visit:               

Sequoia Chinawww.sequoiacap.com/china/en/  

Matrix Partners: www.matrixpartners.com.cn  

Goldman Sachs: www.goldmansachs.com  

Boyu Capital: http://www.boyucapital.com/

TCV: https://www.tcv.com/ 

OurCrowd: www.ourcrowd.com/

For media enquiries, please contact: 

press@klook.com

SOURCE Klook

Related Links

http://www.klook.com


TourRadar, #1 Online Travel Agency for Multi-Day Tours, Announces US$50M Series C Funding Round Led by TCV

VIENNA & TORONTO & BRISBANE, Australia — TourRadar, the largest OTA in the multi-day touring market, announced today a US$50m Series C, marking the largest tech funding in Austria in 2018. The round is led by TCV with existing investors Cherry Ventures, Endeit Capital, Hoxton Ventures and Speedinvest. TCV is one of the largest providers of capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry backing industry-leading companies including companies including Airbnb, Expedia, HomeAway, Netflix, SiteMinder, Spotify, and Zillow.

In connection with the funding, Erik Blachford, a venture partner at TCV and previously President and CEO of IAC Travel, has joined TourRadar’s supervisory board.

TourRadar intends to use the funding to expand its team globally and will invest in the technology platform to provide a personalized user experience for customers in new and existing source markets.

TourRadar markets multi-day tour and river cruising experiences from over 600 operators globally serving well-known and hundreds of specialty operators that otherwise rely on local agents. TourRadar supports operator partners through instant bookability, tour review functionality and campaigns including World Touring Day.

Founded in 2010, TourRadar has grown rapidly by providing consumers with easy access to the fast-growing multi-day tour category, with a total addressable market value estimated at $55 billion. Travelers of all ages are increasingly seeking authentic, off-the-beaten-path experiences when they travel, and TourRadar offers more than 25,000 tours in 200 countries on its platform.

TourRadar was founded by brothers Travis and Shawn Pittman, both native Australians. Travis, an engineer, is TourRadar’s Vienna-based CEO. Shawn, the company’s CFO, came from a successful career in investing. Both are avid travelers with many countries on their travel résumés, and a vision of connecting people to life-enriching travel experiences through multi-day touring.

“The experience and knowledge in the online travel sector that Erik Blachford and TCV bring to the table is exactly what we were looking for as we embark on this exciting next chapter at TourRadar,” said Travis Pittman, CEO and co-founder at TourRadar. “This stage will well and truly bring our vision to life and we’re excited to do this with their guidance.”

“Multi-day tours are the last frontier in online travel,” said Erik Blachford, a venture partner at TCV and former CEO at Expedia. “TourRadar has staked a claim, and I am looking forward to helping Travis and the team realize their vision.”

“We are thrilled to partner with Travis and the TourRadar team,” said John Doran, general partner at TCV. “We have been continually impressed with their unrivalled passion for travel and their vision to inspire the global travel community with the most convenient way to access the broadest choice of authentic multi-day tours across the world. We are delighted that Erik Blachford will join the board and look forward to supporting the entire team as they continue to build their business.”

For further information head to www.tourradar.com/press or contact:

About TourRadar

Based in Vienna (Austria) with service centers in Brisbane and Toronto, TourRadar is the world’s largest online travel agency for multi-day tours. For more information visit https://www.tourradar.com. In 2017, TourRadar was named one of the top three startups in Austria by Trend Magazine. TourRadar is looking for talent to join their team: https://www.tourradar.com/careers.

About TCV

Founded in 1995, TCV provides capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry. Since inception, TCV has invested over $10 billion in leading technology companies and has helped guide CEOs through more than 115 IPOs and strategic acquisitions. TCV’s investments include Airbnb, Altiris, AxiomSL, Dollar Shave Club, EmbanetCompass, EtQ, ExactTarget, Expedia, Facebook, Fandango, GoDaddy, HomeAway, LinkedIn, Netflix, OSIsoft, Rent the Runway, Sitecore, Splunk, Spotify, Varsity Tutors, and Zillow. TCV is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, with offices in New York and London. For more information about TCV, including a complete list of TCV investments, visit https://www.tcv.com/.

Contacts

TourRadar
Katie Stanwyck, +1-416-660-4659
katie@tourradar.com
or
TCV
Katja Gagen, +1 415-690-6689
kgagen@tcv.com


Hiring for Leaders: Your Company Won’t Scale if the Leaders Can’t

By Jonathan Shottan

Companies that scale quickly share many of the same problems. Institutional knowledge becomes fragmented or lost as people leave. Decision-making authority changes or becomes opaque. New cultural norms are developed. Personality conflicts arise as the old guard and new guard merge. Collaboration becomes even more essential, because almost everyone is involved in creating new functions and establishing new processes.

But if the conditions during scaling are similar, the results vary widely. Some companies thrive through it, while others struggle. I’ve seen both in my career, working at Pinterest, Facebook, and other startups, and cultural differences don’t explain it. Leadership does. There is universality to the qualities exhibited by the best leaders at successful companies. If you’re hiring or promoting from within during a period of high growth, these are the qualities that you can and should identify. Leaders with these qualities naturally maintain momentum, exceed their objectives, develop and attract top talent, and amplify the best aspects of your culture. They are best suited to thrive on constant change and they are instrumental in driving success for the organization. Colloquially, they are the 10Xers.

From my own personal experiences leading teams through scale at Pinterest, Facebook, and other startups, I’ve identified a set of three attributes to consider when vetting leaders during the hiring or promotion process:

  1. Leaders That Scale Take A Position…

What is it: Leaders who can scale companies successfully know how to take a position. I know it sounds simple, but not everyone can do it – especially during times of pressure. A position is an informed stance amid a swirl of uncertainty, which galvanizes others to understand it, respond to it, and imagine how it would work. As such, it speeds the organization toward decisions and action.

Why is it Important: A position is not an opinion, because everyone has plenty of those. A position is also not a point of view because again, everyone has a perspective from which they view the world. A position is a singular proposal for addressing a particular issue. In taking a position, you may actually diverge from your own opinion or perspective, in order to take a position that’s more provocative and therefore more productive. Taking a position creates urgency and gets the conversation moving toward an agreement on next steps.

This is critical because as organizations grow, people can get stuck in paralysis by analysis. They’re not sure of their status yet. They may be afraid of making the wrong decision, or making the right decision, but in the wrong way for the culture they find themselves in.

Leaders who take a position dissolve all this. Though it may sound like a paradox, taking a strong position at the outset of a meeting is a unifying force, not a divider. Everyone else now shares the same task: testing the position, modifying it, figuring out whether and how it would work. It’s easy to focus because a hodgepodge of opinions and questions has been replaced by a proposed solution. Even if the stance is only a straw man, it sparks a productive conversation. And if the position becomes a North Star that everyone can navigate by, you’ve just taken a great leap forward.

How to Hire or Promote for it: First of all, you want candidates with a wide range of knowledge and interests, not superficially, but down to details. These people tend to be polymaths. They are familiar with a wide range of fields, technologies, cultures, and customers, and they can see the big picture intuitively. They can also explain it from multiple angles. They love to share their data or historical knowledge if it will enlighten or empower others. Typically, they can formulate their position as they walk into a room, because that’s how their minds work: synthesizing many factors into one proposition and pitching that proposition at the right level for others to understand and react to.

During the interview pick a big hairy sector, such as transportation or education, and ask the candidate “How do you think this sector will change in 10 years? In 50 years?” Ask about the candidate’s hobbies, pick the one you’re most familiar with, and ask the candidate to talk about it at length; you’re looking for what it says about them, their passion, and their personality. What was the last book they read? What is the next book they want to read? Do they play a musical instrument or a sport? Ask them to analyze the strategy of the organization they’re working for now, both pro and con, to see how many different perspectives they incorporate into their analysis.

  1. Leaders Don’t Get Stuck On A Position…

What is it: The second trait for leaders who scale is effortlessly moving off their own positions when the time is right. They do this because they understand that the position is a means to an end. If you’re familiar with the expression “strong opinions weakly held,” you understand this trait already. In many ways, it’s the flip side of the first trait. Strong opinions weakly held means that leaders readily evolve their positions in the face of new information or through an ability to read a room. They understand that a stronger position is forming – and this was the reason for taking a position in the first place.

Why is it Important: Why does this matter for scaling an organization? Because you need everyone to share their ideas, even if they’re shy. Being inclusive of thought accomplishes this. It also draws out sharper analysis from bolder or more informed members, because they trust that they’re not going to hit a wall if they voice partial or even complete disagreement with a leader’s opinion. Getting to a new, better, shared position makes everyone feel connected to the outcome. Now it’s time for action.

How to Hire or Promote for it: Testing for the ability to gracefully move off a position can be fun for you and the candidate. Before the interview, pose a real-world business problem within an area where you have lots of data but there are many ways to solve the problem. For example, if you’re at a ride-sharing company you could ask “How would you build a driver loyalty program?” Once the candidate states a position in the interview, begin to challenge it constructively, as if you were colleagues in a meeting. Probe for the thinking behind it. Share new data and see how they change their position. You’re not just looking to see if they’re open to revisiting their conclusions. You also want to see if they can continue to effectively articulate their position in the face of resistance — without getting stuck on it.

  1. Leaders Embrace the Outcome…and Adapt Appropriately

What is it: Unless you’re the CEO you don’t get to make the final decision most of the time. That’s when leaders need to have a third critical trait: they embrace the outcome of the conversation that just concluded. If the board decides to cut marketing hiring by 50%, the leader of the marketing department could respond in a variety of ways. The one you want is understanding and expressing the consequences of that decision to the department, in a constructive way.

Why is it Important: Psychologically, this leader has an innate ability to assume best intent. If a management decision goes against such individuals, or their organizations, they don’t take it personally. Quite the opposite, they default to a position that the people above them or around them share a vision for success and that the decision was necessary. Today is not forever, and marketing will be hiring again in the future. The focus now is making the current strategy succeed, rapidly. A good leader will take a positive, proactive position on how to do that.

This natural aptitude is an invisible bulwark against confusion and fatigue during times of rapid change and growth. Why? Because leaders with this trait are consistent in message, countenance, and style. When the environment is constantly changing, people look to their leaders. If the leaders are showing up as constructively positive in good times and bad, their teams will adapt a similar penchant for consistency and there will be fewer productivity troughs.

How to Hire or Promote for it: There are two approaches that can help you identify candidates who will naturally embrace an outcome, turn it positive, and lead their team to success with it. The first approach is to ask the individual to describe a time they disagreed with a boss or peer, and how they responded. You’re not looking for surface answers like “Of course I had to go along” or “I won.” You’re looking for the ways the candidate turned the adversity into opportunity – graciously.

The second approach is to actually put the candidate through adversity as part of the hiring process. If you gave them a homework assignment before the interview, change the terms before they can present their work. Substitute in an interviewer they didn’t expect to talk with. Pick something on their resume that could potentially be a deal-breaker and ask them to reframe it into a deal-maker instead. Again, you’re not looking for pat answers. You’re looking for the natural inclination to embrace what’s happening and turn it positive.

 

The Most Important Deliverable You Have

In my own career I came to realize that vetting for and then fostering leadership attributes on my teams was more important than any other deliverable I had. I am also aware that this knowledge can get crowded out when your company is on pace to grow 10X in two years, because you’ve got so many high-priority problems to solve. Fight the tendency. Sure, you don’t want to be distracted. But you still have to get leaders in place who can scale. Making this a priority benefited my teams tremendously. Individuals with the traits described above were resilient culture carriers who instilled confidence, trust, and good-will in the organizations they were involved with. They were best suited to manage constant change and rapid growth, and most responsible for the ultimate success of the organization.

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Jonathan Shottan is an Executive-in-Residence at TCV.

The views and opinions expressed in the blog post above are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). This blog post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified above, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this document, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.