The Silicon Review
online travel agencies (“OTAs”) are a popular way for individuals to book their upcoming travel. Consumers can easily and quickly book accommodations on a computer or mobile device. Prior to the Internet, travelers relied on a more personalized experience, consisting of face-to-face discussions with dedicated travel agents. The internet disintermediated the travel booking process and created an impersonal, commoditized experience.
It was from this new paradigm that Reservations.com emerged.
Reservations.com, an online travel company, provides travelers with personalized experiential travel planning. Powered by an easy to use online reservation engine, customers can compare properties and book with the click of a button. Or if they choose, they can call into the company’s 24/7 travel desk to speak to an experienced agent to help solidify upcoming plans.
The company was founded in 2014 and is headquartered in Orlando, Florida.
In Conversation with Yatin Patel, Reservations.com Founder & CEO
Q. What is the reason behind the founding of Reservations.com? How did you expand your company and its offerings over the years?
I’ve spent the majority of my career in e-commerce and online travel in particular. Due to that history, I’ve developed many close relationships and connections in the space. That presented the opportunity to acquire the Reservations.com domain name in 2014. A strong, recognizable domain name is the cornerstone of any successful e-commerce business, so that was the first step in our journey. Since then, we have doubled down on our founding mantra of “bringing the human touch back to the world of online travel.” We have invested heavily in the service arm of our business and are now starting to invest in expanding our suite of services to also address the changing needs of today’s traveler.
Q. Can you brief us about the history of your company?
My business partner and I started the business in 2014 after acquiring the Reservations.com domain name. We saw a unique opportunity to build a service-oriented, consumer-facing online travel brand. We felt that online travel had been commoditized over the years and wanted to bring the human touch back into the equation. We felt this was an unaddressed space that was being overlooked by existing reservation platforms. Since then, we have invested significantly in a robust call centre operation staffed by experienced travel concierges while expanding the ease of use of our online booking service.
A well-defined mission and vision is the secret behind the success of many firms.
Q. What is your company’s M&V statement?
At its core, we are focused on “bringing the human touch back to the world of online travel.” That means not only continually investing in a service mindset, but also investing in the ease of use and convenience of our website so that we can meet our customers wherever they may be.
Q. ‘It is difficult to start a venture. But far more difficult to maintain it.’ What were the biggest hurdles did you face initially to build your business and how did you overcome them?
There are different mindsets and skills that are crucial to success in an early-stage venture. Once you’ve mastered those, they become less important to continued success as the company is then at a point
where new skills are required to build and grow. The biggest hurdle in starting any business is investment/available funds to get things off the ground. Given my partner and I had deep expertise in search engine marketing strategies, we were able skip the fundraising step when starting Reservations.com. We have still never raised any money from third parties. We’ve focused on maintaining positive ROI in every business decision we have made, affording us the luxury of being profitable and independent.
Q. What was your journey like to get where you are?
Professionally, I would say it has been the multiple businesses I have successfully started and exited. Personally, it has been my ability to retain a semblance of work-life balance, particularly as my career has matured. Finally, I’m proud of the fact that I have remained true to myself over the years.
Q. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful CEO? What other CEOs do you look up to?
Vision, execution, and decisiveness are the top three skills needed in my opinion. Though I must say, there are a variety of different skills that a CEO could possess that can lead to success. There are almost too many to name.
It’s tough to pick a single CEO as there are so many great ones out there that you can learn from in different ways. If I had to pick a few specifically, I would say, Steve Jobs and Walt Disney for their vision and marketing/design expertise and Henry Ford for his excellence in driving process.
Q. What do you think are the most memorable moments in your career?
I think I’ve found the most joy out of two things. First, empowering and helping others both personally or professionally. The second has been continuing my education at Harvard Business School, which was a fantastic experience from start to finish.
Q. If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. There is no straightforward path to success. You have to work incredibly hard. In the early days, you never get time away and there are many sacrifices that come with the commitment. It’s incredibly important that you surround yourself with smart and driven individuals that can challenge you and help propel the company forward.
On a personal note, I think it’s incredibly important to always remain true to yourself. This rings true in both your personal and business life.
Q. What do you enjoy doing in your free leisure time?
I love travelling and photography. I’ve also found great fulfilment in getting involved in building and helping local philanthropic and arts/culture organizations. When I’m no longer a day-to-day CEO, I expect to become more involved in these areas.
Yatin Patel: The Stalwart Behind the Wheel
Yatin Patel, Co-Founder, serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Reservations.com. He has over 20 years of successful internet technology/e-commerce business experience as an entrepreneur, designer, founder, investor, and operator. He has focused most significantly in the hospitality industry throughout his career.
Mr. Patel holds a postgraduate degree in Industrial Design from the National Institute of Design, India and a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Gujarat University, India.