“Our greatest challenge has been coping with rapid growth. At present we have almost a thousand employees in the Czech Republic, and if we add in our colleagues from our outsource centres around the world, the number comes to almost 2000.”
Competitive advantage? Data acquisition and how they’re calculated
It all started with a planned journey to Portugal in 2011. During the search for air tickets, the idea emerged to create an algorithm that would connect non-cooperating airlines. The main benefit for customers? Usually a significantly lower price, especially when travelling to remote destinations. Oliver Dlouhý and Jozef Képesi started to develop their own flight search engine. Time was of the essence, and with a helping hand from the JIC Starcube programme, Skypicker was born. It was also at the premises of the South Moravian Innovation Centre where both founders met their first investor. “The boys were exceptional in that they didn’t need a helping hand or guidance from anyone. From the very beginning they knew perfectly well what they wanted to achieve,” says investor Jiří Hlavenka, describing the main reasons he provided financial support for the start-up project. “I also liked their ambition to reach the global market. The value of the air ticket market is around a thousand billion dollars, so there was potential. Even if we only occupied one thousandth of the market, it would still be a billion dollars,” he says.
A few months later Skypicker sold its first few dozen air tickets. Today, after rocket growth, its sales volumes are of a completely different magnitude. Monthly turnover exceeds 1.5 billion Czech crowns with an average number of 8,000 orders a day. Moreover, it operates under a new name: in 2016 the company rebranded itself Kiwi.com, a name already renowned throughout the world. Its global success is also proven by Oliver Dlouhý’s inclusion on the prestigious list “30 Under 30 Europe 2018”, published by the American magazine Forbes. The list highlights the most talented European figures under 30 years of age in a number of fields – from entertainment through to finance and technology.
Everything revolves around finding and retaining talent
When visiting the offices of Kiwi.com in Brno, you cannot fail to notice several facts. The offices are full of young people from all over the world, and the work environment is innovative, superbly designed, and corresponds to the demanding work of the employees – developers whose work on the Kiwi.com website forms the core product, as well as customer service staff who are on call to customers 24/7, often answering queries during emergencies such as bad weather or political crises.
No wonder one of the company’s hottest topics is employees, and how to provide them with the best possible work conditions. “Of course, we’re dealing with recruitment issues, just like everybody else these days. And recruitment relates to corporate culture – its maintenance and, in certain respects, its tuning at a time of fast growth, the speed of which inevitably gives rise to quite complicated situations. Last but not least, ‘cultivation’ is also a topic that’s a constant concern – the cultivation of what we are, where we’re going, and how we need to behave to remain successful,” says Oliver Dlouhý about the current situation, adding in the next breath that flexibility remains key to Kiwi.com’s success: “for such fast growth, it’s necessary to set all the procedures in the company as simply and flexibly as possible, so that we can change and adjust them quickly whenever needed. With growth like this, the need for change occurs quite frequently.”
When ‘sky’s the limit’ no longer applies
One of the greatest challenges faced by Kiwi.com today is getting their feet back on the ground. The long-term objective is to create a ‘one-stop-shop’ and offer customers a personalised package of services they can use on their travels. In other words: in addition to flights, the package may also include accommodation, restaurants or attractions and sights at the destination. The most difficult task will be setting up the entire service, and tuning the system to optimally select the right services for a particular customer. And being able to offer all this at the right time with a single click. Still, Kiwi has already made several steps in this direction.
“We’ve recently launched combined flights and bus services. In general, we want to offer the best possible connection from point A to point B. When we started, we had the air tickets of just a few European low-cost airlines, today we have more than 650 airlines. At the end of last year we also added land transport – four European railway operators and our first bus services. We combine them all to offer absolutely unique travel itineraries,” says Oliver Dlouhý, outlining the direction of Kiwi’s future growth.
employees all around the world
First place in Deloitte Technology Fast 50
Central Europe list in the category Rising Star
flights searched every day
Kiwi.com was established as a start-up in Brno in 2012. Kiwi.com is an innovative worldwide air-ticket search engine focused on combining the flights of airlines that otherwise don’t cooperate, i.e. virtual interlining. The first tickets were sold by Kiwi.com in March 2013 in double-digit numbers, whereas today the company’s monthly turnover exceeds 1.5 billion CZK (60 million EUR), with an average number of 8,000 orders a day. In 2017 Kiwi.com became the fastest-growing technology company in Central Europe.
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