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Travelocity founder shares innovation secrets

terry jones

Terry Jones, founder and former CEO of Travelocity and chairman of Kayak, discusses "The Business of Innovation" during a presentation at Purdue in April. (Photo by Mark Simons)


Using humor, history, and firsthand experiences, Terry Jones, founder and former CEO of and chairman of, advised an audience of budding entrepreneurs on the importance of innovation.

Sponsored by Purdue’s Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship with support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Jones’ April presentation, “The Business of Innovation,” tackled the challenges of maintaining businesses in times of change.

As co-founder of Essential Ideas, a consulting agency that helps companies transition to the digital economy, Jones is confident about sharing his tricks of the trade. He aims to help startup companies and entrepreneurs avoid the pitfalls of changing business climates.

Jones, who turned Travelocity from an operation of 10 people into a multibillion-dollar business and is on track to generate $150 million in revenue this year at Kayak, said a willingness to adapt is the overall key to success: “As Darwin observed, ‘Those most adaptive to change will survive.’”

It is equally important for entrepreneurs to know that “technique follows technology,” he added. Although the technology of innovation might be in place, how best to use it will come later. Once consumers caught on to the technique of Internet usage, for example, Jones’ startup ideas became a hit.

Innovation can start anywhere within a company, Jones concluded, but entry-level employees, middle management and CEOs alike must be open to new ideas and able to accept disappointment.

“You have to create a culture where innovation is okay,” he said. “Listen to people, encourage success, act and try. You have to accept failures. Innovation is not the Olympics. It’s like a baseball game. Inning after inning brings an opportunity for success; you don’t just get one shot.”

— Mackenzie Greenwell