Steve Hafner, Co-founder and CEO
Steve Hafner leads Kayak which he co-founded in 2004 and sold to Booking Holdings (then Priceline) in 2012 for $1.8 billion.
In a series of interviews with executives participating in the event in Florida in November, PhocusWire finds out what makes them tick.
What travel trend are you watching closely right now and why?
I’m keen to see if ride-hailing companies can turn a profit. Their regulatory and social burdens are increasing, while their access to capital is becoming more expensive. Plus public investors are a demanding bunch. I'm also interested in Airbnb’s future IPO and the sustainability of OYO’s aggressive expansion.
What do you make of current state of travel startup funding?
I’ve said for many years that there’s too much capital chasing too few good ideas. 2019 was no exception.
Have you had any "wow" moments in the past year where you read something and thought WTH?
The WeWork train-wreck certainly had me scratching my head. They were weeks away from securing another $9 billion to fund their continued shenanigans.
It's been fun and a bit sad to watch since then. The WTH is not limited to their management, but also to SoftBank's investment and oversight approach.
What one mistake do you witness others making more than anything else?
Believing their own hype. Reality is far more unpredictable and hazardous than most executive teams appreciate.
When did you realize this would be your career?
May 1999, when I first worked on the Boston Consulting Group project that became Orbitz. Travel is just too big a business and too structurally ripe for innovation to ignore. Plus there's something so magical about a great trip.
what other industries do you think travel could learn from and why?
I stay focused on consumer internet trends. I'm fascinated by the virality and engagement of social and messaging apps, and their move into the e-commerce mainstream. I also envy how well Apple, Amazon and Google have woven their disparate assets into awesome consumer platforms. Booking Holdings is well-positioned to do the same.
If you could teach everyone in your company one concept, what would have the biggest positive impact?
I strive for simplicity in everything that I do, and seek the same from my colleagues. I have a profound dislike for consultantese and complicated processes and diagrams. Let's leave the Powerpoint and Google Suite presentations behind and focus on getting stuff done.
How do you stay inspired?
It's really easy. I use our products and see their shortcomings. And then I look across other consumer tech and see how much better we can be. Working with great people helps too - gosh, we have a lot of them at Booking Holdings.
You have built and sold companies, what's left to do?
I hope no one enters the travel business to buy and sell companies. That's boring. Our goal was always to help people experience the world because it makes them better people. There's still so much left to do to further that mission.
What's the maddest thing you've ever done either professionally or for fun?
Breaking my jaw in Miami the night before Kayak's originally scheduled IPO roadshow was probably it. I had to explain to our board that we had to shelve the process for 10 weeks because my jaws were wired shut.
Then Facebook bungled their IPO and we were left in registration for another year. Oops.
Distribution at The Phocuswright Conference 2019
Hear from Booking.com, Expedia, Kayak, Marriott, TripAdvisor, Wyndham, Sabre and CWT. Network with many others including BCD Travel, Koddi, Amadeus, MakeMyTrip and Ctrip.