Filip Filipov, vice president of product management
Filip Filipov is vice president of product management at Skyscanner, where he leads a range of teams focusing on the supplier side of the marketplace.
In a series of interviews with executives participating at the event in Amsterdam in May, PhocusWire finds out what makes them tick...
What book do you recommend to others and why?
Ray Dalio’s Principles – a strong account of how one can
codify decision-making frameworks that are consistent and hold true in
different situations. The book is almost a never-ending list of work and
personal principles. It might be challenging to remember and apply all of them
all the time, yet, even if the reader picks up 10 to 15 to remember, the
benefits are tremendous.
Another book that I’d recommend is The Four by Professor
Scott Galloway. He writes at length about the top four companies in the world - Amazon, Alphabet, Facebook and Apple - and gives predictions on how they will
develop over time. Also, he is incredibly funny, and his writing style is
energizing. Also - 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari. The
collection of essays gets you thinking about where we are headed as a society
and the changing nature of our world.
What do you do to alleviate stress?
I started meditating in February, using an incredible app,
called Calm. It has had an astonishingly soothing effect on my daily stress
levels. I highly recommend at least one daily session, if not two. I’d suggest
getting the help of a coach or an app, especially if you are a beginner. I also
started doing yoga, since my wife, who is a certified yoga instructor, recently
opened her own studio.
If you weren't in travel industry, what company would you
like to be part of and why?
Apple - if I can pass the interviews.
I think they have had a consistent stance on important issues – such as
privacy, product development and innovation. I admire the excellence they
strive to achieve in everything they do. From an industry perspective, I think
the next few iterations of global trends will focus on self-care, health and
well-being – so if I couldn’t get to Apple, I’d look at starting my own company
in this area.
Why isn't the travel startup survival rate higher than it
A combination of a few things. The essence of most travel
startups is to be some sort of a marketplace, which collates information from
suppliers and distributes it to users. The fundamental nature of supply, which
is highly fragmented, the low frequency of purchases and incredibly low
margins outside of accommodations mean that you need to get to a massive scale
to be able to amortize product development and marketing costs across a large
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Travel startups that manage to survive the stage to scale are hugely
successful – I will put ourselves in that category, Ctrip, Airbnb and a few
others that have five-plus years already behind them.
What are you like outside of work?
I am being told that I am an extrovert, but I believe
outside of work I am more of an introvert who spends time with my family. My
wife and I are first-time parents of a now toddler. I also read – probably a
book or two a week in addition to all the news pieces that pass through my iPad
What was your childhood aspiration?
I wanted to be a lawyer, but I abandoned that ambition. I
studied political theory in college and even worked for the United Nations in
Latin America. An (un)fortunate mistake while entering my LSAT (U.S. law school
entrance exam) that shifted all my answers in a section by one helped me see
the significance of chance, and I thought I wouldn’t take the test again. So I
joined the crowd and became a strategy consultant in New York, changing the
world one PowerPoint at a time and crunching Excel at weird numbers of the
Who is the person you most admire within the industry?
It’s hard to pick a single person, as this industry has seen
great leaders and thinkers. Most of them remain within travel, and they have
become great mentors and friends to me. I have certainly been supported and
inspired by a few, who have guided me from my first days within the industry –
Stephan Ekbergh, Timothy O’Neil-Dunne, Montie Brewer and naturally, Gareth
Williams, who gave me an opportunity to join and influence Skyscanner. There
are a ton of others, of course, and I am humbled by their continued help,
advice and inspiration – hard to list all of them.
What travel industry development or brand do you wish you'd
thought of first?
It goes without saying, my first choice will be Skyscanner.
Then again, I am lucky to have joined later in its development and now, I help
along the way. Outside of Skyscanner - industry development – ride-hailing. As
a product (not a business model), it hit the right convergence of mobile
devices, internet connectivity, payment advances and location services.
brand, I believe Airbnb has evolved into a strong brand that makes you feel
part of a community. While they don’t get all things right all the time, I have
a lot of respect for trying to have a clear philosophy on decisions of how to
What is your proudest professional achievement?
I am proud of a lot of the things I helped start and develop
at Skyscanner. Our bet on NDC from the very beginning has proved to be right
now and having the courage to stay with the problem seems natural now, but the
choice was not obvious five to six years ago.
I took a moment to reflect on a
speaking opportunity – the first travel conference I attended in 2010 was WebinTravel, and I was impressed by the scope and scale of the event, which Yeoh Siew
Hoon continues to develop and improve. In 2016 I had the privilege to speak at
the main conference for the first time, and I was thankful to have that chance.
What's your morning routine?
I am trying to get into one right now, so there is nothing
that is set in stone yet. More or less – wake up, coffee, news, light workout
(if timing works out), play with my son, meditate and listen to a podcast or
audio book on the way to work.
What would you tell your 20-year-old self?
Travel for fun more. Take care of your health. Spend more
time with your friends and family.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t
learn from your resume alone?
I try to pay forward. I have been fortunate to have people
who have supported me so far, and I do spend time to talk to young folks or
companies and just generally try to help, regardless if that benefits my
current employer or not. That’s hard to quantify – maybe you should ask someone
who has known me for a while.
What gives you energy?
Spending time with my family, reading a good book, writing
my musings on travel and tech.
Describe your typical working environment.
I am not necessarily a fan of open offices, as they could be
distracting, so if I am doing deep work, I probably have a noise-cancelling
headset on and looking at some sort of a screen. I like taking notes by writing
– not via keyboard though.
What one mistake do you witness others making more than
Recently I thought about it and here’s a menu, instead of
- As human beings, we confuse luck with skill and vice versa.
If things turned out exceptionally well, we attribute this to our skills. If they
didn’t work out, we attribute that to bad luck. The truth is somewhere in the
middle, with a big skew towards luck – being at the right place at the right
- Instant gratification. We are a generation who receives
everything at a push of a button on a screen. Most overnight successes are 10 years in the making and pretty much nothing beats hard work.
- A lot of folks mistake activity for output – being busy
doesn’t mean you are adding value, making an impact or simply being productive.
Executive Roundtable: Direct and Connected: Is NDC Ready for Take-off?
Skyscanner and Hopper
discuss airline distribution at Phocuswright Europe 2019.