Travelocity and kayak.com founders speak at Wilkes event

Wilkes-Barre – No, travelocity and kayak.com founder Terry Jones is not confused with the comedian of the same name in Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Name. “My real name is Terrell, but I don’t like him,” Jones said.

No, Jones didn’t come up with the idea of ​​a travelocity mascot gnome. “It was after I left,” he said, “but he looks a bit like me.”

Since then, Jones, the founder of two companies that have helped transform the travel industry and other start-ups, will be the next speaker in the Allan P. Kirby lecture series at Wilkes University on October 21. .. Lectures begin at 7:00 p.m. at the Dorothy Dixon Darte Center on the Wilkes-Barre campus.

The title of the talk is “On Innovation: A Powerful Idea to Build a More Innovative Organization,” and judging from his resume, Jones is uniquely placed to comment on this topic.

“I thought I was going to graduate from college and go to Vietnam. I had a few draft numbers, but I was rejected because of my eyes, ”Jones said. Thanks to his university roommates, he had the opportunity to travel the world for a year thanks to TWA Airlines connections. This allowed him to enter the travel industry. “For six months as a manager, I said ‘let’s start’. “

So they did.

Iron Curtain During the era of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev’s efforts to break the Cold War, few companies were given the green light to undertake a trip to Eastern Europe and Russia. This led to the development of a computerized ticketing system. It’s still a new idea in the industry and has been sold to American Airlines for the next job and promoted to Chief Information Officer.

He therefore helped develop travelocity, a new business idea made possible by the deregulation of the Internet. “It was like the third startup I worked for,” Jones said, but it was a startup within an existing business, a concept often referred to as entrepreneurship. “I’ve been doing this for six years,” he added, but chose to leave when the US IT department bought travelocity.

Around this time, the company invented a gnome. Jones said it was a good idea. Not only does this give travelocity a recognizable icon, but although it is computerized, it is a personal service and the company idea that “you never travel alone” has been reflected.

From there, Jones entered the world of venture capitalists, preparing to support his next startup, kayak.com. He helped run for eight years before selling to Priceline. The difference between travelocity and kayaking seems small, but it was a big innovation.

“Travel and most ecommerce sites turn about 5-7% of the people you see on your website into sales. In fact, it’s pretty terrible, ”Jones said. Understanding what was going on, it turned out that people were using travelocity to find the flight and airline they wanted to use and to go directly to that airline to complete the transaction. Kayak said, “We’ve created a site that takes you to this site when you click on what you need.”

Better yet, I had selected the flight, day of the week, time and everything else in the kayak, so I entered my name and credit card number to go to the page to complete the transaction. “At that time, few sites did that. “

Kayaks also worked hard to make this version of the mobile app quick and easy to use when the smartphone app was still quite clunky. “Speed ​​Makes the Difference” for modern consumers who are obsessed with being able to do it all from their cell phones.

Since then he has done other startups, including a flop, but Jones has built his career as a speaker. “I’m going to discuss the very good principles of innovation,” Wilkes said, and the concept of changing when everything seemed to be going well was difficult for successful business people to understand. He said that could have changed. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and all the changes it has imposed.

“The two things that I think are the most important are the culture and the team,” he said. “Culture has to understand that it’s doing a lot of experimentation to see what new ideas are good, and it will fail. In the corporate world, failure is not admired. As a leader and as a business, you have to be prepared to kill a project, not a person. “Therefore, failure shouldn’t be a permanent black mark on an employee’s work record.

In business, “the sources of delivery are much more powerful than the sources of discovery,” he said. In short, focus on making something successful and forget about looking for new ways of doing business. “You repeat quarterly income over and over again. When the world goes on and it doesn’t work you’re a buggy whip guy.

He cited Dyson, which started as a vacuum cleaner company, but realized that the technology to move large amounts of air at high speed could have other business. “So they got into all kinds of air care, office air treatment and washroom hand dryers. They revolutionized basic technology.

To build a strong team, Jones said, “It’s not about hiring your best friend, it’s about hiring the best. Travelocity was looking for the best engineers in the world. “And the last question you ask them is, ‘Who is the smartest person you know, and you go on. this Man. “

Jones emphasized everything about “innovation” and “confusion”, “two sides of the same coin” (and the subjects of two separate books he wrote). “The only reason you call it a mess is because you didn’t. You ask “How did the startup do it?” “Instead of” How can you do it? “..

Jones gave an example: after Uber started changing companies, he was asked to speak to limo associations across the country. Uber has long argued that it is not an auto services company, but a technology company that develops apps that connect drivers and passengers. Members of the Limousine Society asked, “What should I do about Uber? I said, ‘Get the software! “

He tells many similar stories of companies looking to change before their core businesses are buried in external turmoil: automakers announcing the switch to fully electronic vehicles, oil production. The process of moving the shell from building a car charging station to building a fully automated customer self-storage business asking for something to collect and allowing the robot to do the job.

“We have to listen and see where the trends are,” he said. “You must be asking yourself, what does this lead to?” “

If you would like to attend a conference that is to be broadcast live, you can register below. wilkes.edu..


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