[quote style=”boxed”]With an enormous canvas. I’m a visual thinker, so most of the things we discuss start on a whiteboard, a big table or an enormous sheet of paper.[/quote]
Steve Davis is the COO & co-founder of CruiseWise, the web’s most advanced source of cruise knowledge. Cruises are America’s last travel product booked primarily on the phone, and CruiseWise aims to address this. Booking a week’s vacation at once involves dozens of decisions about destinations, lodging, services and cuisine. Presenting all the relevant information to a customer without overwhelming him/her represents an enormous user experience challenge that Steve was eager to tackle.
Steve attended Harvard College and worked for the Boston Consulting Group for 5 years, focusing on new market entry for companies across a range of industries. He has also worked for a medical social network and an online language-learning community.
What are you working on right now?
I’m one of the co-founders of CruiseWise, a company that’s pulling cruise bookings into the 21st century.
Where did the idea for CruiseWise come from?
We were shocked to learn that only about 10% of cruise bookings are completed online. Cruising is the last major travel product that is still done almost entirely by phone in the U.S. That statistic pointed us toward the deep user experience challenges that we thought we could solve.
What does your typical day look like?
I wear a lot of hats right now. My day includes a mix of: 1) customer acquisition, which involves discussing keyword performance and next week’s strategy, investigating new channels to reach customers and working with the product team to create the technology to support our marketing experiments, 2) customer service, including helping customers book cruises and developing our systems and scripts as we scale our customer service team and 3) customer knowledge, which includes presenting data to customers in new ways when they are researching and booking cruises. Our goal is to be more helpful online than the average agent.
How do you bring ideas to life?
With an enormous canvas. I’m a visual thinker, so most of the things we discuss start on a whiteboard, a big table or an enormous sheet of paper.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The rise of affordable casual luxury is really exciting. The level of service available for under $100/night on most cruise ships is something that was inaccessible to all but a handful of Americans a few decades ago. People’s leisure dollars can buy a lot more than they used to.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
One of the harder jobs I had was working as a cable Internet salesman one summer during college in Des Moines, Iowa. I was stuck in blazing hot booths at different events around the city. It was 2000 and broadband penetration in the U.S. was at about 10%. The idea of paying more than AOL’s $20/month was a hard sell for most people. The job taught me that alleviating customer pain points, like slow page loading, was always a bigger seller than offering new features.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Not a thing.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Choose your one focus and pursue it diligently. Choosing to focus on profitability will produce one kind of company, focusing on customer delight will produce another and focusing on beautiful design will produce a third. Any of those foci can produce a profitable company with a beautiful product and happy customers, but in very different ways.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
In the next 50 years football is going to lose its position as America’s favorite sport as concussion concerns erode the base of players. It’s not going to be replaced by soccer. If you’ve got the chops and the interest, now would be a great time to invest in one of America’s 2 professional lacrosse leagues.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
Wow, there’s a lot that could be better, but little that could be fixed in a few sentences without sounding flippant.
Tell us a secret.
It doesn’t take that long to realize you like someone.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace or The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Or whatever, everyone should read an epic at some point.
What’s on your playlist?
Girl Talk, Of Montreal, The Kingston Trio, Pink Floyd and a lot of jazz, mashups and dubstep.
When did you decide you wanted to do a startup?
During my sophomore year of college, Kozmo.com launched in Boston and made it big. It was just started by a couple of guys, but it caused huge and sweeping (but apparently unprofitable for them) changes in my social circles. It made me realize that someone with passion, inspiration and perseverance can do amazing things.
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CruiseWise on Twitter: @CruiseWise
Steve Davis on Twitter: @SteveD503
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.