What to consider when taking a company global

Hear from TripActions’ Francis Moran, VP of finance, and Rich Liu, CRO, about their company’s rapid growth

Ever since co-founders Ariel Cohen and Ilan Twig started TripActions in 2015 to re-invent the business travel experience, the company has been in a state of hypergrowth. In November 2018, TripActions raised $154 million in Series C funding, led by new investor Andreessen Horowitz, giving the company a $1 billion valuation. By the end of 2018, TripActions had scaled to six WeWork offices around the world and seven offices total. To learn more about their accelerated growth and future goals, WeWork sat down with TripActions’ Francis Moran, VP of finance, and Rich Liu, chief revenue officer.

WeWork: Let’s talk about TripActions as a company—you’re growing at a rapid rate and customers really value the platform.
Rich Liu: We built the company to bring people together. We believe in the power of human connection—that’s the whole reason why people travel for work, right? We can call in, we can video conference, we can chat online. But somehow nothing beats the power of actually being there and getting business done. We power the businesses that need to do that, seamlessly.
Francis Moran: Our goal is to be the number one business travel platform on the planet, and to be able to do that we have to expand pretty aggressively. I joined at about 40, 50 employees, and growing 10 times that in a year has been a remarkable ride. Over the next six to 12 months, we’ve identified close to a dozen new cities that we want to expand into. As we were going through the planning process with WeWork, I became increasingly comfortable that we’d be able to achieve those really aggressive plans from the real estate and workplace operations side.

Sounds like TripActions has really been expanding their global real estate footprint along with their customer base. What’s the value of having employees on the ground, in-market?
Moran: It’s why we exist as a company, right? We believe that you have to be there in person to close a deal, engage with your team, and help our customers effectively. We just can’t do what we do without being around other people, and having that critical mass. In some cases, that critical mass is 10 people; in other cases it’s 20 or 25—being there in person to support and bounce ideas off each other is absolutely necessary to be effective and productive.
Liu: We’ve done research around the productivity of employees if they work out of a home office, versus working out of a physical office. We actually found—and I’m a sales leader, so I think about this day and night—that the people who were coming into an office were 46 percent more productive in terms of hitting their quotas than people working out of home offices—pound for pound, normalized for seniority, role, and everything else. So, I’m a huge believer that when we can, we need to provide our employees that community.

From a financial perspective, for a company like TripActions that is experiencing global hypergrowth, what’s a key factor in your decision-making process when choosing WeWork?
Moran: Predictability and flexibility are critical components for us as a growing company. It helps me feel comfortable about launching in a new geography without having six-month, 12-month, or 18-month plans. Having predictability and being able to forecast spend and burn is incredibly important to me as a finance leader—especially when so many other parts of my business are very difficult to forecast and predict. It’s not just about ongoing operating expenses as being a predictable component of my P&L; it’s also minimizing my capex upfront.
Liu: As we accelerate or decelerate, or place bets on different pieces of our business, it’s vital to have the freedom to make big strategic decisions. It’s basically me, as a leader, having unlimited potential to decide how we want to go place our bets—and to change those bets if we want to shift our strategy.

What are some key takeaways from your experience with real estate at scale that you would relay to other business leaders?
Moran: This was the first time that I’ve handled real estate. I’ve done real estate cost analyses in the past, but the ultimate buying decision was never mine until coming to TripActions. And maybe that’s part of why I was a little bit more open-minded than other folks might have been when deciding to partner with WeWork for our global expansion. You can’t think traditionally all the time. You have to approach every problem with a fresh set of eyes. Our reach right now is global. Our plans over the next year are to continue expanding that footprint and deepen the value that we bring to every single traveler in every single country that we operate in.
Liu: People often talk about how the Fortune 500 had almost zero change in the companies listed for decades. And then over the last 10, 20 years, it’s changed very quickly. It’s no longer about the biggest wins. It’s about being nimble at scale—moving quickly into our San Francisco office, or into our New York office—or even scaling down and adapting as needs change. If we’re able to do that quickly, then we will always be competitive.

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