Jeff Hoffman, Draper University, Spring 2019
Jeff Hoffman is a serial entrepreneur (Priceline.com,uBid.com, ColorJar), worldwide motivational speaker, published author, Hollywood film producer, and a producer of a Grammy-winning jazz album in 2015, and is now a philanthropist. He dropped out of Yale, left a great software engineering job, was broke and just wanted to travel the world.
He always had a knack for problem-solving. He wanted to book a 4pm flight, and the travel agent did not offer that flight that he knew was available. After continuously asking them, they gave him the flight. His frustration led him to develop the software behind Expedia!
That was not the only pain-point he encountered (and then solved) in the travel industry. He once missed a flight because of the long lines at airport check-ins and was among many other frustrated travelers. This led him to build the self-service check-in kiosks that are now available in almost every airport worldwide. After successfully building several multi-billion dollar companies, in 2012, Jeff took a break from building companies and focused all his efforts on giving back to entrepreneurs as he believes they are the ones who will change the world.
What does Jeff owe his success to? This toolset he shared with us:
1) Strive for an Epic Life- “Be the protagonist of your own adventure and take the risks and the chances to leave your mark in the universe.”
2) Solve a Real Problem- “When most people encounter an annoying problem, they figure out how to avoid it. When entrepreneurs encounter an annoying problem, they figure out how to solve it.”
3) Be Freedom Driven - “Don’t chase money, chase excellence. The money will follow.”
4) Win a Gold Medal at One Thing- “What is your ONE thing? Stop trying to be everything to everybody. When you win a gold medal at anything, the rest of the world comes to your doorstep.”
5) Develop True Customer Intimacy — “Get out of the office! Change your clothes & go hang out where your customers are.”
6) Find Second Slide Customers — “Start off with a very narrow target market then start broadening your target as you expand.”
7) Market to Intent, not Activity- “Tell them your purpose, not what you actually sell.”
8) Focus on Operational Excellence- “Make sure EVERYTHING you do is one of your goals.”
9) Build a Great Team — “The scarcest resource in the world is not money, it’s talent. Go out & hunt for the best of the best. Amazing things happen when smart, capable people believe they can achieve something.”
10)Work Hard(my personal favorite) — One day, while training for an important fight in Las Vegas,Evander Holyfield asked Hoffman to keep count of his reps, and as he heard 299 and 300; he paused to double-check with Hoffman that he had reached his goal, still he did one more to be reassured. “Look at me, Jeff — the difference between 299 and 300 is the difference between the heavyweight champion of the world and every other boxer.”
Jeff left DU students inspired, excited and ready to change the world. Jeff was genuinely interested in our startups and hung around campus. I showed him my startup, Bondai, and was humbled to hear his great feedback.