The “tycoon” in the field of tourism – Jeff Hoffman will be a speaker at SURF 2017

Jeff Hoffman is a billionaire, ranking among the world’s “coolest” entrepreneurs. He has just decided to spend a part of his life coming to Danang to share with passionate young people interested in startup here.  

He told TTCT: “Success in my definition is to live the life you want.” “I want to be with young people to help them plan their own future.”, said Hoffman.

20 floors and 50 countries

It was a hot morning in the capital of Laos – Vientianne. The creaking passenger car emitted a bit of cold, warmth and heat. Yet many people kept talking without hurrying to get in the car. For them, time is only a fragile concept in the human realm.

So there’s a spur, talking up to the driver: “Let’s move, we’re late!” It was a big old man, bald, with faded shirt and glasses. He sat uncomfortably because he was too big for a car seat.

He is Jeff Hoffman, the one who invented the automated check-in machines for the world aviation system, and then with his team created a powerful empire named Priceline, which holds the world’s most popular traveling support systems: Booking.com, Hotel.com and then Agoda.com.

People say 90% of self-supporting travelers in the world have to pay for this systems. An experts from Swiss entrepreneur support organization – Tran Tri Dung, said in a low voice: “Come and talk to him, he is very comfortable.”

And that’s the start of the inspirational story of a man who dares to do all he can to be happy.

“I graduated in Information Technology, and then worked in a big corporation. That’s it. I’ve done everything to meet the requirements of my family. Working from the morning until the evening, bathroom is therefore the place I love the most.

I remember that I wrote my dream on a piece of paper the day I graduated and stuck it to the bathroom mirror: “I am going to travel to 50 different countries”. The paper is always there and I keep going to work, from early morning until evening.

One day I happened to meet a college friend in the elevator in the office. Surprisingly, we worked at the same company. I worked on the fourth floor, and he is an accountant on the sixth floor.

That night, in my favorite bathroom, I looked at the paper having my dream and realized the truth: I did not know my college friend working at the same company for a long time just for a simple reason: I never made a trip from the fourth floor to the sixth floor!

I was stunned. My life’s dream is to travel to 50 countries. And the fact that I have never done a two-storey trip. I quit my job and prepared my first trip.”

Jeff Hoffman at the Tiger @ Mekong Startup Forum in Vientiane, Laos

The one who solve problems

That was the way Jeff’s journey to become a non-stop startup begun. The first tour was not as smooth as Jeff had expected. Gathering all the savings to leave, Jeff was unable to get in the plane due to late hours. Jeff had to wait for hours to get his boarding pass. And it was too late.

He was so tired, so annoyed that he turned back to ask the people lining up behind him: Would anyone agree to pay me $10 if I could help you do the check-in without queuing anymore?

Everyone agreed, some were willing to pay up to $ 50. It was interesting to have a madman who wanted to do the impossible. But to Jeff, he did the first thing every entrepreneur must do: confirm the hypothesis that the market exists for the product.

Do not forget that Jeff graduated from Yale University in computer engineer. He studied day and night to create an automated check-in system. When Jeff’s solution was accepted by the airline for the first time, a friend told him that he needed an account for the customer to pay. Then he opened the account.

“But you need to have a company to open the accounts”, said the friend. So his startup business was created then.  

Later, Jeff could not believe that he would be paid to travel across different airports, sit in a business class and stay freely in hotels, thanks to his automated check-in system

Then he learned that he could sell the company to have more free time to travel to 50 countries that he once wished.

The trips we went through leads to his cooperation with others to form Priceline.com and they together built a billion-of-dollar company.

Once, Jeff sat on the plane watching Elton John sing and thought: “How can I get to know this wonderful artist?”. Jeff began to build a plan to have a dinner with Elton John.

Story of flying fish

Jeff Hoffman, through SWISS EP organization, is preparing for his speech in Da Nang on 21st and 22nd July. “I like the way Da Nang youth persuade me: they do not hold a 5-star hotel workshop, they create a game called Surf – surf. They use the flying fish as a symbol and say that his strange fish can swim, can fly and especially always in team. I hope the development of business in Da Nang will be the same as this fish, always together surf on the waves to the faraway. And I am excited to be the inspirer of Vietnam’s new generation of entrepreneurs on this journey. “

To have dinner with a great artist, there should be a reason, to have a reason we should do something in common, something should be related to music, but Jeff can not play music.

How about producing music? Once finished, Jeff received a Grammy Award for Best Music Producer of the Year and ended with a dinner with Elton John that he desired.

” Google yourself to find out how many years I’ve been able to do what I want …” Jeff blinked. It must have been long and hard way. But that was the life Jeff wanted and he said he was happy on every step of this journey.

Go through the curse

We sit in a small restaurant next to the Mekong River. This side is Laos and the other side is Thailand. Jeff asked, “Da Nang is fun, right? What should I talk to young people there? Should I talk about the genes of business entrepreneurs, or should it be about going through the curse?

Or about a problem that you were born to solve? “. He seemed to be full of energy thanks to the cool evening.

“Many people would thank god “today is Friday!” Then they were a little bit happy and soon fell into a nightmare on Monday.

But it is a curse that we often encounter. When I finished building and selling four different companies, I earned quite a bit of money, but my father is still angry at me: How the employers would believe in you?

I sat in silence thinking that until now, there’s still someone think that I have to go to work and sit on the fourth floor and never discover the world of the sixth floor”

He says he is now a billionaire and has traveled around 93 countries, but still has plenty of time to talk and enjoy the joy of supporting young entrepreneurs in different countries.

“Tell them that the criteria of a person born to solve a problem is simple: action must be fast, work must be effective, always be economical and know how to adapt to a non-stop changing world “- he squinted a smile.

Tran Nguyen

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