GetYourGuide is an impressive and fast growing company. In this interview the Co-Founder Tao Tao shared some of his views about founding a startup and the challenge for corporations about using data-driven methods. And of course, he gave us a brief insight into the visit to GetYourGuide in February.
Tao Tao is co-founder and COO at GetYourGuide. From Eiffel Tower tickets to Grand Canyon helicopter flights, GetYourGuide offers over 25’000 bookable activities in more than 2’000 destinations worldwide via its website and apps in 14 languages. Founded in late 2009 with offices in now 10 cities worldwide, the company has raised 95M USD from KKR, Spark Capital, Highland Capital, former booking.com CEO Kees Koolen and Fritz Demopoulos. Tao studied economics and physics.
We are going to visit your company in February. What can our attendees expect during this visit?
You will be able to peek behind the scenes of our startup and get an idea of how we handle the immense growth. We will focus on the topics of recruiting, training and how we maintain our corporate culture. The attendees will be split up in a couple of smaller groups and get one team lead assigned to them who will answer all of their questions and open a discussion. The groups will visit the office to get a general overview. They will also be able to sit down with some of our new agents in order to learn how the onboarding experience had been for them.
It’s great to visit a startup-company. Which new and important technologies are you using? And, generally, what motivates you and your employees to work at a startup company?
I hope the people at GetYourGuide don’t work here because of our fancy technologies. We’re trying to transform the travel industry and turn our customers’ trips into amazing experiences. While doing so, we challenge everyone to also transform themselves. In this kind of fast-paced environment, you are constantly challenged to evolve and to become a little bit better every day. That’s not always comfortable and it’s not for everyone. Growth is a choice, and the choice starts with choosing to join and stay at GetYourGuide. Last but not least, we try to have some fun while doing so: our weekly Pizza Fridays are pretty legendary and it’s not because of the pizza. If you’re curious, check out our videos of what’s it like to work at GetYourGuide:
Join the Adventure
What was your greatest challenge in founding GetYourGuide?
There is a new greatest challenge every year, every month. In the early days, it’s about convincing investors that your little idea will change the industry. Later on it’s about hiring the best people without being able to afford them. Now, it’s things like maintaining our company culture across 12 offices worldwide.
In your speech you will focus on the subject of being a customer- and data-driven company. What does that mean? What is a data-driven company?
Maybe the best way to answer this is by describing what the opposite of a data-driven company is: a company run by HiPPOs, which stands for “highest paid person’s opinion”. HiPPOs are leaders who are so sure of themselves due to past experience and (possibly) successes, that they look at neither people’s ideas nor data to verify their gut feelings and beliefs. This both discourages new ideas and usually doesn’t lead to great outcomes. A truly data-driven company does two things: understand that the best ideas can come from anywhere and that a test-driven process is more important than producing a few “great” ideas. Then, there are other important details like making sure that everyone in your organization is data-literate. Discipline also matters.
“If you don’t live and breathe innovation and customer-first every day, why should anyone else in your organization do it?”
What is the most important aspect of changing the corporate philosophy in medium-sized businesses in order to become future-oriented as well as customer-oriented?
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a small or large corporation, corporate philosophy is leadership responsibility. Whether you’re the CEO of a DAX company or the founder of a small startup, customer orientation and innovation must come from the top. If you don’t live and breathe innovation and customer-first every day, why should anyone else in your organization do it?