Already as a boy, Oliver Dlouhý wanted to do business. He sold blueberries at the Czech-Austrian border and collected cheap jukeboxes for pub owners in his hometown. In 2012, he established a company named Skypicker (today’s Kiwi.com) and started to develop a unique algorithm which, in last four years, has helped increase its sales by 7,000%.
And the competitive advantage? Acquisition of data and a method to count it
It all began with planning a trip to Portugal. In 2011, when searching for flight tickets, it occurred to him that he could create an algorithm to connect airlines that didn’t cooperate yet. And the main benefit for the customers? Usually a substantially lower price, mainly for trips to rather distant destinations. Oliver Dlouhý and Jozef Képesi started to develop their own flight search engine. There was no time to lose, so with the help of JIC Starcube program and financial support by various investors Skypicker was born.
A few months later he sold first dozens of flight tickets, but today – after the rocket growth – it’s about selling different numbers completely. Its monthly revenue exceeds 1.5 billion Czech crowns with an average of eight thousand orders placed daily.
And all this under a new name, as in 2016 the company rebranded and became Kiwi.com, today well-known all over the world. It’s become so globally successful that Oliver Dlouhý appeared in prestigious 30 Under 30 Europe 2018 by Forbes which lists the most talented people from Europe under 30 years of age in a number of industries, ranging from entertainment to finance and technologies.
It’s all about finding and keeping talented people
During a visit to the Brno offices of Kiwi.com it’s hard not to notice several things. The offices are full of young people from all over the world and their perfect design is innovative and adjusted to the demanding work of the employees, both developers, whose work on the Kiwi.com website forms the core of the product, and customer services staff, available 24/7 to the travellers who are often in crisis situations caused by unfavourable weather or political situation abroad.
It’s no wonder that one of the most important subjects in the company is its employees and efforts to offer them the best possible work conditions. “Of course, we deal with recruiting, just like most companies these days. And recruiting is related to the company culture – to maintain it and tune it in some ways during a period of rapid growth – because more demanding situations emerge as you grow. Last but not least, refinement has been a very important subject for us; refinement of who we are, where we’re going, and how we behave in order to remain successful,” Oliver Dlouhý describes the current situation and adds that flexibility is still a key ability of Kiwi.com.
“For such a rapid growth it’s necessary to set all the company processes as simple and flexible as possible, so that they can be quickly changed and adjusted if needed. And with a growth like this it’s needed quite often.”
When “the sky is the limit” is no longer true
One of the greatest challenges Kiwi.com has to face these days is to get its feet back on the ground. Its long-term goal is to create a one-stop-shop and offer a personalized set of services for the customers to use when travelling. In other words, in addition to the flights the package could contain accommodation, lounge, restaurants or tourist attractions in the given destination etc. The hardest part will be to set the entire service correctly so that the system of service selection for each customer works as best as possible and offers all this at the right time and through just one click. Kiwi has already taken several steps in this direction.
“Not long ago, we launched a combination of flights and buses, and in general we’d like to offer the best possible connection from one place to the other; it all began with flight tickets for several European low-cost airlines and today there are over 650 airlines. At the end of last year, we also added land transportation, such as four European rail carriers and first bus connections. We’ve been combining all these in order to offer absolutely unique travel itineraries,” says Oliver Dlouhý on the future growth of the company.