Johannes Reck, co-founder and CEO
As CEO of GetYourGuide, Johannes
the long-term vision and strategy for the company he co-founded while in
college in 2009. At The Phocuswright Conference, he will take part in an
executive interview about the tours and activities sector alongside Klook COO Eric
In a series of interviews with executives participating at the event in Florida in November, PhocusWire finds out what makes them tick...
Tell us about your favorite vacation.
The trip I took last year to Indonesia blew me away.
It’s a spectacular destination with a rich diversity of accessible experiences,
a warm and hospitable local culture and incredible natural beauty.
there’s another reason Indonesia sits at the top of my own list: during a
private GetYourGuide tour of Bali’s rice fields, I proposed to my girlfriend.
I had the whole thing planned out intricately, but
there were plenty of curveballs — it started pouring rain at the worst possible
moment, for one — but thanks to a pep talk from our tour guide, I finally found
the courage to go get down on one knee in the rain and pop the question. (She
Why isn't the travel startup survival rate higher than
First, let’s be honest: tourism is a tough business to
break into. If GetYourGuide hadn’t had a bit of luck in stumbling onto tours
and activities in 2009, I’m not sure would have ever stood a chance.
It’s an inherently global playing field, which means
thinking on a massive scale is an absolute day one requirement. And the field
is dominated by huge, multinational corporations with near-limitless resources
and great brand loyalty.
Even the most confident founders I meet nowadays find
tourism daunting, and frankly I don’t blame them.
A more overlooked component to this issue, and one
I’ve been outspoken about, is how much more can be done to support startups
outside the United States. The U.S. is the clear leader in startup incubation,
but considering that the majority of tourism activity takes place beyond
America’s borders, there’s a real opportunity for non-U.S. startups to address
tourism’s global challenges.
However, if they’re going to meet the opportunity
ahead, they need access to comparable capital, talent and mentorship networks.
At the moment, there’s still a long way to go, but
there are glimmers of hope: Asian success stories like OYO, for one; the rise
in European startup funding levels this year, for another. I’m optimistic that
the next wave of travel startups will flourish like never before.
What are you like outside of work?
I’d like to think I’m pretty consistent in and out of
work. I can credit that to the fact that I started this company with my friends
as a passion project, together in a cramped, sparse workspace on the outskirts
of Zurich, generously provided to us by our university. We didn’t have much
money, space or expertise, but we had fun in spades.
We’re in Berlin now, we have a little more money and a
lot more knowledge, and our headquarters is thankfully bigger, but our hungry,
ambitious, underdog mentality remains the same.
And we’re all still friends to
boot: I still get together with Tao, Martin and Tobi regularly to catch up over
dinner and drinks. It helps us keep our shared passion alive and reminds us why
we started doing this in the first place.
What was your childhood aspiration?
I come from a family of academics and lawyers, and
always thought I was destined to follow in their footsteps toward a life in
academia or the corporate world.
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And for a time, I pursued that aspiration
actively. I enrolled at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology with the aim
of becoming a brain researcher, spent a lot of time in labs and seminar halls,
and earned an advanced degree in biochemistry.
If I hadn’t followed that aspiration so intently,
though, I would never have met my co-founders, all of whom were also enrolled
at the same university pursuing similarly technical fields: physics, computer
science and so on. What started as a student project went on to become the
first business plan for GetYourGuide, and the rest is history.
Who is the person you most admire within the industry?
Fritz Demopoulos, the co-founder of Qunar.com,
board member at GetYourGuide and my own mentor.
As an American-Austrian-Greek entrepreneur who built a
multi-billion dollar online travel company in China, Fritz has an extremely
unique story that I’ve learned a lot from. And despite all of his success, he
has remained very humble.
I can count on Fritz for advice on just about any
topic, business or personal — he listens well and gives incredible guidance.
How do you want to be remembered as a leader in your
Whether I’m speaking to our own team or with younger
founders I meet, I always stress that true leadership means empowerment, kindness
and sharing the credit.
I believe in hiring great people, framing the vision
and empowering the team with the tools and resources to relentlessly pursue it.
Then, when success comes, they can own it.
This creates a culture of real
ambition and accountability on our teams, and I’d like to be known as a steward
of that culture.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
I’m at my proudest when I hear about the travel
memories we’ve created for our customers. It’s incredibly rewarding to build a platform
that creates magical travel experiences for millions of tourists around the
world, and we’re just getting started.
What's your morning routine?
I’m an extremely avid long-distance runner! Most
mornings, you’ll find me out in the park in my neighborhood around 7 a.m.,
working on my form, technique and pacing to get ready for the next big race.
And it’s a pursuit I maintain no matter where I am or
who I’m with.
When I’m in London, I always go for a morning jog in Hyde Park
with one of our investors; when I’m in a new place, I like to make a point of
charting a running route past a few of the iconic local sights. It’s a great
way to stay fit on the road and get a quick snapshot of a destination’s unique
What would you tell your 18-year-old self?
Stay relaxed and have confidence in your abilities. If
you focus on what makes you happy and what you’re really good at, you can move
Describe the setting where you do most of your work.
I can work almost anywhere, whether I’m in the office
or on the road. I just need an internet connection and a few bars of mobile
reception, and I’m good to go.
At GetYourGuide’s new HQ in Berlin, my desk is nothing
special: it’s out in our open floor plan, near our HR and IT teams, and it’s
the same size as everyone else’s.
I don’t have anything remotely like a corner
office. I don’t believe in them. And nor does anyone else, for that matter. Everyone
has their own way of working, and it’s important to design a workplace that
accommodates a range of preferences, but it’s also important to create an
environment that reflects our values.
Two of ours are clarity and
commitment, and I believe that if our leaders are visible and deeply integrated
in our teams, it fosters a culture in which the best ideas win, no matter who
they come from.
Tours and Activities at The Phocuswright Conference 2019
Hear from Klook, GetYourGuide, Booking.com, Expedia and
TripAdvisor. Network with many others including TourRadar, Peek, Bokun, Airbnb,
Tiqets, Withlocals and ToursByLocals.