Travel Tech Essentialist #88: Design
Everything should be made as simple as possible. But not simpler —Albert Einstein
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1. The business power of design: Airbnb’s redesign
In Newsletter #82, when referring to Airbnb's summer release, I also included a tweet that I thought was funny: "If you're ever worried that an announcement is too small, just remember that Airbnb added house categories and called it the biggest change in a decade". I still think it’s funny, but I regret including it, as it goes against two of my principles:
Think about why it could work instead of why it won’t
Practical optimist instead of pessimist and skeptic by default
Airbnb has some of the best designers and data scientists in the world, and they understand how elegant and simple design changes can impact user behaviour. Design can be one of the most important levers of growth. If Bryan Chesky thinks that these changes are "the biggest in Airbnb's history", he is probably thinking about the potential they have to change entrenched consumer behaviours. That's what's big, not the changes themselves.
Daniel de Mello wrote a great post in which he argues how Airbnb's seemingly small design changes have the potential to deeply impact Airbnb’s business and likely the travel industry as a whole. For example, the traditional travel Job To Be Done is: Give me a place in [City] from [Date] to [Date]. Airbnb’s design changes propose a new JTBD: help me find the best experience no matter where. This change that bets on a new JTBD could indeed have transformational business implications, such as growing long tail revenue and putting pressure on hosts to provide a better experience. Read + Daniel de Mello
2. Simple by design: BlaBlaCar
In 2017, Joe Zadeh, VP of Product at Airbnb, was visiting BlaBlaCar’s office and was asked what makes a good Product Manager. His answer: “A PM is a 10x simplifier”. From that moment on, BlaBlaCar VP of Product & Design Benjamin Retourné became obsessed with simplification and with convincing others to join his obsession. He shared the learnings and the achievements of BlaBlaCar’s product simplification journey in this great post 1 year after Joe Nadeh planted the simplification bug. Read + Benjamin Retourné
3. Successful design is not necessarily beautiful: Amazon
Jason Brush was the Global head of UX design for WPP’s flagship digital agency POSSIBLE in 2018. That year, he wrote an article describing the design theory behind Amazon's successful design, which is neither simple nor beautiful (two things we expect of good design). Instead, it focuses on simplicity of experience, process, and functionality. Jason pointed out that Amazon’s design succeeded because it makes use of 4 key principles that all great shopping experiences embody. Worth a read because these principles apply to the travel shopping experience just as much . Read + Jason Brush. (Interesting side note: Jason Brush has a new job as of October 2021: Principal UX Designer at Amazon :-)
4. Get on board NOW!
Tomorrow I will be shipping Drop #1 of Travel Tech Essentialist Talent Collective. The goal is to make this the best place to hire high caliber travel tech talent in the world. A brief update since I launched it 13 days ago:
46 professionals have signed up with expertise (manager through C-Level) in Sales, Product Management, Data Science, Growth, Engineering. Partnerships, Business Intelligence, UX/UI, Operations, International Expansion, Business Development, Design, Community, etc…They come from Airbnb, Expedia, Booking, Trivago, Tripadvisor, eDreams, Four Seasons, Hotelbeds, Accor, Amadeus, Despegar, and many other startups and companies.
8 companies ready to hire are now on board.
🚀 If you are actively looking or passively open to hearing about new opportunities, sign up now and get introduced to great companies as soon as tomorrow.
🔥 And if you are hiring, join now to start meeting world class candidates with a deep travel tech experience who are open to new opportunities.
5. What do Europe’s leading founders have in common?
Mosaic VC analyzed 197 founding CEOs of European unicorns, to uncover patterns in their backgrounds and previous experience to search for trends in successful founder backgrounds.
The most common traits founding CEOs of European unicorns are most likely to have:
Prior experience as a founder (~65% were repeat founders)
No previous industry experience in the sector of their unicorn business (~55%)
A Master’s or PhD degree (~55%)
More than 10 years of work experience before founding the company (~35%)
And this is who and what European unicorn founders/CEOs tend not to be:
Very unlikely to have worked for another unicorn (only ~10% had)
Very unlikely to have worked for a FAANG or Microsoft (~5%)
Unlikely to have skipped college, including dropping out (~10%)
Unlikely to have studied at a small set of highly represented universities. The top 5 alma maters accounted for only ~15% of founders in the sample
Unlikely to have a technical background (~35% of founding CEOs are technically oriented)
6. Airbnb’s culture of experimentation
Airbnb’s success is due as much to its design-driven focus as to the strength of its data science team. Lenny Rachitsky, former product lead at Airbnb, wrote about the 5 biggest things Airbnb got right in fostering a culture of experimentation:
Hiring data-minded people early — and often
Aligning around a measurable north-star metric
Embedding data scientists into your teams
Humanizing the data
Building tooling that makes it easy to run experiments that you trust
7. Hotel of the future: less brand, more people
Hotels are in a period of significant evolution and opportunity. From OTAs to commoditization, changes in the travel and hospitality industry are challenging hotels to move beyond brand identity and deepen their relationships with travelers. Outstanding hospitality will be enabled by technology but will still require a thoughtful human touch. Deloitte has identified five integrator types that present new opportunities to evolve hotel brands and services to meet changing customer expectations for their hotel experiences. Read + Deloitte (53 page deck).
96-year old Azriel “Al” Blackman is celebrating his 80th work anniversary as an aviation maintenance technician with American Airlines. Blackman started working in 1942 as an apprentice in the sheet metal shop, making $0.50 per hour. As of a few years ago his shift would start at 5AM, but most days he’d arrive at work before 3AM. During his 75th anniversary celebration, Blackman said: “when you like what you do, it’s not work.” RESPECT.
9. A new generation of budget airlines aims to disrupt flying
The pandemic provided a rare opportunity for new carriers to establish themselves in smaller markets that had been abandoned by the major airlines in recent years. Startups like Breeze, Avelo and PLAY represent a new generation of low-frills carriers that aim to disrupt the status quo by using technology as a differentiator — in addition to low fares and convenient routes. Read + Axios.
10. Funding and M&A
Travel Tech Essentialist job board
There are currently 79 exciting jobs posted in the Travel Essentialist job board. Just a few of the amazing jobs seen on the board:
Laya Technologies, Growth Marketing Manager (Remote)
Airbnb, Senior Market Manager (Paris)
Expedia Group, Senior Partnerships Manager - French Speaking (London)
Kantox, Sales - Currency Management Specialist, Travel (Barcelona)
Browse more open roles (or add your own open roles) at Travel Tech Essentialist Job Board
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Have a great week,