Shane Corstorphine is SVP Growth at Skyscanner, the world’s travel search engine. Shane originally joined Skyscanner as Chief Financial Officer, where he was instrumental in multiple investment rounds, including from Sequoia Capital and a $192m investment round in January 2016, before becoming SVP of all regional marketing, taking Skyscanner to in excess of 50 markets each with at least 1m users. Skyscanner now has more than 80m monthly unique users with no single market being larger than 15%. A truly Global business.
Playing a pivotal role in growing Skyscanner from c.100 to 1,200 employees, Shane is also an advocate of the “fail fast” approach in the workplace and the importance of growth mindset. Shane has been an advisor to online startups for more than 15 years and continues to advise and invest in both start-ups and scaleups.
Shane is an enthused speaker on all things digital, as well as start-ups and scaling businesses for growth.
Where did your passion for digital come from?
Initially, it was born out of financial constraints! A year before I qualified as an accountant, my plan was to take all my learnings and apply them to setting up my own company. I was living in London, had saved £5k and while I toyed with the idea of spending it on a jeep wrangler, I opted for setting up my own company instead. The male grooming industry caught my eye since it was growing at 19% a year then, with online businesses growing at 40% a year, and I saw potential with expansion of products in this market. Also, the capital required to set up an ecommerce business was relatively small so it was an attainable business for me to start after the stock market downturn in 2001.
It was such a brilliant, yet full on, time in my life. Having secured the domain metro-sexual.com, I was responsible for everything, from teaching myself HTML and Dreamweaver in order to build the website, through to being a one man head of SEO, sales, finance, recruitment, IT and everything else that starting a digital business threw up. Although the business continued to grow, I decided not to continue with it for personal reasons. What had become evident during this period was that I really cared about sharing all my learnings and thus began mentoring online digital start-ups, which is still a passion of mine today.
What’s your favourite thing about the industry?
The internet industry is a relatively level playing field. There is so much opportunity and anyone with a good idea has the potential to make a success of it. The best can win even if they haven’t got the most money.
That said, there is an increasing monopoly from giants such as Google and Amazon – this is making it much more challenging and worrying for all kinds of digital businesses, from media and news to travel and retail.
Where do you see your company in five years?
I have been at Skyscanner for seven years and seen so many changes during this time, as we have scaled the business. Yes, despite our incredible journey from a start-up to a global business with eleven offices worldwide, I actually think the biggest opportunity is very much in front of us, which is hugely exciting. Sadly, consumer’s trust in the wider travel industry is damaged, if not broken. They want a positive, reliable, stress-free experience when searching and booking a trip. Our culture here at Skyscanner is genuinely, firmly and consistently about putting the traveller first and therefore our product will always be traveller first. We want to take the trust that consumers have in our brand – we were voted the best comparison site and the most trusted in a survey from consumer title Which! in 2018 – and build on it, to make Skyscanner a one-stop shop for travellers’ ease. We want to help travellers – and for them to know we can help them - with all their requirements, from browsing destinations, to booking flights, hotels, cars and trains; inspiring them with recommendations through to organizing their itineraries with our Trips function.
What’s your role and what does a typical day involve?
I have a dual role – one is a member of the exec team and that requires constantly thinking about, and ensuring the future of, Skyscanner. The second part is as SVP of the regional marketing offices. We have 25 squads managing 35 markets, working to create the best and most local traveller experience in these markets. One of our key goals is to win market by market so my role is to look at how Skyscanner can be scaled, by asking such questions as ‘how do we grow in 50 markets by 50%?’ and ‘how do we grow in multiple markets without requiring tens of thousands of staff?’
There’s not really a typical day at Skyscanner. As we have offices in Miami through to Singapore, meetings can start early and finish late in UK time. I’m based in the Edinburgh office but, like the rest of the exec team, we spend a fair amount of time flying around to take temperature checks and support our teams in our other offices.
Any new products or services coming up for Skyscanner?
Skyscanner is a tech company that operates in the travel space, rather than a travel company with some tech. That means we have over 600 engineers working on and testing product changes every day, currently running around 200 distinct experiments a month. Within these experiments we are then running about 800 “versions” or “iterations” which people use to refine their idea / pivot on their learnings and retest – so there’s a lot going on! Recently, we launched rail as a search and book function on our app; we launched user-generated content and also, Trips, a function to help organize your itinerary across single or multiple trips. As a continually innovating company, we are always looking at our core product and how we improve it and offer the best possible experience to travellers. In the future, you will see more around the trip planning function, as well as an increasingly enhanced user booking experience for hotels, car hire and flights
If you could give one piece of advice to an emerging business/startup, what would it be?
To focus on retention of customers rather than solely on acquisition and, in turn, allow you to build a sustainable business as quickly as possible; one that is not dependent on fundraising for survival but instead fundraising for growth.
Founded in 2003, Skyscanner is the world's travel search engine, providing instant online comparisons for flights, hotels and car rental
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