My Week: Travis Katz of Gogobot.com

Travis was responsible for adding 70 million users to MySpace back in its glory days, but got itchy feet when things slowed down. Now he's celebrating two million users on his own travel planning website start-up.

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

I started Gogobot because I’m passionate about travelling. I know that when people go on holiday, they want to get recommendations from friends and colleagues first. Finding that beautiful little boutique hotel, getting lost in an amazing city, or discovering a secluded beach... that’s what people want to know before they go. Basically, Gogobot makes that ‘finding out’ process reliable – if your friend liked a bar somewhere in France, then you probably will, too. 

I’m absolutely in love with what we’re doing at the moment but I’m also constantly imagining the next evolution for Gogobot as a product. One of the benefits of being small is you can move very quickly – we can roll out new features and ideas to the website within a couple of days. 

I don’t actually do any of the coding – I personally work on concepts and think about which innovations could work best. We’re a 20-strong team and the company is growing incredibly quickly - right now I’m spending about 10% of my time on recruitment. Our user base has grown 400% since the beginning of 2012 alone, so we’re constantly working hard to get the best software engineers and designers through the door. 

The difficult thing is that there is a real war for talent in Silicon Valley. If you’re small, then you can’t compete with the likes of Facebook, Google and Twitter. They pay huge wages and the best people come to them. We have to offer things like a share in the company, and the opportunity to have a massive impact on the direction of Gogobot. If it is huge one day – and we already have more than two million users – then the rewards will be enormous for our people, too. 

I used to work at MySpace. There were 80 people working for the site when I joined and by the time I left there were 1,200. We added 70 million overseas users to the service during the four years I was there, and I was managing more than 500 people in countries all over the world. 

I once asked Rupert Murdoch how he focused his energy when he was running such a big department, and he said that with News Corporation, he looked at the numbers for each company division in the morning. Anyone who was doing well, he left them to it; anywhere that was falling behind, he gave it attention. You can’t be hands on with everything once the number of staff gets so high, so you have to be mathematical about it. 

There have been so many exciting moments since Gogobot got started. I think passing the one million user mark was probably one of the best highlights. That was this spring, only 15 months after we launched. We had other websites get in touch with us and say ‘well done – it took us five years to reach a million users’. So we knew we must be doing something right. Before that, just six months after we launched, we were named in the top 15 websites online by Time magazine. We hadn’t approached them or anything so it was great to be recognised like that.  

It continues to be exciting though: we’ve just moved into our new offices back in June. It’s a very cool converted industrial space, cement floors, exposed beams, high ceilings and lots of glass walls. Everyone sits in the same common space – I’m out there in the middle of the floor. Everyone can see everyone else and shout something out. That’s a great structure for a start-up to make information flow and keep everyone in the loop.  

My advice with a start-up is that you don’t just want people who are talented but who view their job as ‘work’. You need passion as well. They need to feel passionate about the product and the company’s vision. That way, they’ll go the extra mile and bring your ideas to life.

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