After skimming through many successful young entrepreneurs, Christy Liu caught my eye. According to Fast Company, Liu is one of eleven that is a part of the change generation. Liu is a cofounder of the travel site Wanderfly (check it out!). Traveling is something that I wished I had the time and money to do more often. After checking out the site, I was immediately interested in knowing more since the site offered me ways to budget the future traveling that I want to do.
Wanderfly is designed to plan travel for people that are on a budget. The site is very simple and organized, unlike many of its competitors, and allows a user to find a trip that meets many of their requirements. The user of the site will fill in where they want to leave from, where they want to go, what interests them (landmarks, nightlife, luxury, adventure, entertainment, family, watersports, eco, romance, shopping, outdoors, islands, beach, singles, history, food, art, and extreme), their budget per person, when they want to travel, and for how many days. After filling in their information, the traveler will be presented with multiple trip options. Each option includes a description of the place, pictures, things to do there, and hotels and flights that can be booked immediately. Below is an image of the website.
Wanderfly makes its money by getting a percentage of the trips that are booked through their website. The company is still pretty small in staff but they are growing the firm slowly (even though the popularity of their website has grown exponentially)
Not only has her site grown in popularity and number of customers, I find her success story to be inspiring. After attending the University of Pennsylvania, Liu worked in the marketing departments at Young & Rubicam as well as Pearlfisher. Her and three other cofounders, quit their jobs and within a month, Wanderfly was up and running. The idea behind the website was not to change customer behavior but was to adapt a more efficient and effective product to an existing reality of consumer behavior. Wanderfly was created to satisfy a needed change for customers that relied on travel sites to book trips. Liu’s attitude also helped her become successful. She was not afraid to fail and kept pushing to launch the site. The first step came with quitting her stable job. With this philosophy in mind, and her “just do it” attitude, Liu was able to be successful in starting up a new business. Christy Liu offers some more insight on Wanderfly on the Fast Company website.
Christy Liu and Wanderfly relate to our class discussions on Enron, AIG, and the financial crisis of 2008. I feel as though Liu created a business plan the complete opposite of Enron and AIG. Enron and AIG focused many of the business operations on making money fast for their stockholders. The techniques that they used in order to meet this goal were very short-term focused. Enron participated in derivatives (while booking them at the date of entering the contract instead of when the money was realized) and special purpose entities (SPEs) that created a busy web of cash. AIG’s short-term focus was centered on the use of credit default swaps. In both cases, the companies failed due to their short-term focus on making profits for their stockholders. The financial crisis itself was caused by short-term actions as well as the view that consumers are always rational.
Liu seems to have learned from the short-term mistakes and stockholder focus of Enron and AIG and has developed a long-term and stakeholder focus for Wanderfly. Wanderfly is constantly considering new long-term engagement partners and how to make the site more user friendly. They are growing in size slowly as to not overlook anything and to monitor all internal controls. They are also making decisions that focus on pleasing all of its shareholders (owners, customers, suppliers, community, employees, and management). They are adapting to new desires of their customers by designing new innovations for the site including booking trips in groups. They are also concerned with their reputation as being user friendly by excluding any membership fees for using the site. According to an interview with Liu, “We are not going to charge them anything like membership fees, but we will find other ways that don’t hurt the user to make money ourselves”.
Overall, I feel as though Christy Liu’s Wanderfly will be a successful company due to the unique experience that the website offers as well as its focus on long-term goals and its stakeholders.