Terry Jones, founder of Travelocity, comes to Wilkes – The Beacon

Terry Jones, founder of Travelocity and founder of Kayak.com, will be the first guest speaker to participate in the Allan P. Kirby Lecture Series in Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship this academic year.

Jones’ talk will take place on October 21 at 7:00 PM at the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center for the Performing Arts. It will also be streamed live.

In addition to his founding roles in Travelocity and Kayak.com, Jones has also seen five startups with just one failure, served on 19 different boards of directors, and authored two books, “On Innovation” and “Disruption Off.” He outlined the topics of his books, innovation and disruption, as key points he wants to talk about with students.

“I want to talk about innovation, especially from my perspective, what are the keys to building an innovative organization. It’s so important now.”

Between what Jones considers one of the biggest disruptions – COVID-19 – and one of the drivers of innovation – technology – Jones couldn’t find a better time to talk about his experience than now.

“We have to innovate; we must evolve; we have to change. How do we do that? The two biggest pieces of that are culture and team. That’s what I’m going to focus on, really having a culture that fosters experimentation and accepts failure. If you experiment, you will fail.”

If one is not willing to experiment and fail, there can be no growth in business. Jones said it is important to ensure that individuals remove products and ideas, and not the people behind it, just because they failed.

Jones also talked about the second piece of change, the team.

“It’s about choosing the right team. I think having a team of rivals is very important. Mixing skills and backgrounds and diversity is great for innovation because you get different perspectives. People argue and get out of that conflict great ideas.”

Solutions must be found for the conflicts. Jones noted that a company cannot always be in conflict. Similarly, he talked about the need to choose the most talented people for a job, not just best friends.

In addition to discussing innovation and disruption, Jones also wants to speak with students and other attendees about generating and funding new ideas. He may also be able to discuss how Travelocity was built, as it’s built within American Airlines, as opposed to his work with Kayak, an enterprise-backed startup.

After mentioning Travelocity’s unique creation, Jones spoke about entrepreneurship and specifically what brought him into the travel industry.

“When I graduated from Denison University in Ohio, I had a degree in history and I thought I’d go to Vietnam because I had a low concept number. I was rejected because of my eyes.”

Jones continued to explain that his college roommate at the time had a free pass to travel the world because his father was a pilot for a major airline. Jones and his friend went on a trip around the world for a year.

“I fell in love with travel. When I came back, I told my father that I wanted to be a travel agent. The agency I ended up working for did all kinds of different things, but one of them was that it was one of four agencies appointed by the Soviet Union to handle travel to Russia. My boss said, ‘Let’s quit and open our own company, I have a lender and we’re going to go there and get hired by the Russians’. It was a big risk, but we did it and got hired, and that was my first startup,” Jones said.

From there, Jones moved on to other startups, eventually landing with American Airlines for 18 years until he became Chief Information Officer and got a small online product on AOL that eventually turned into Travelocity.

Those interested in hearing Jones speak can register via the registration form on the Allan P. Kirby Lecture Series page.

“The Allan P. Kirby Lecture Series in Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship brings leading voices in free enterprise and entrepreneurship to Wilkes University,” according to the Wilkes website. The lectures are open to students and the public and are designed to “give students and the community an insight into the creative process and drive of the entrepreneur.”

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