TripAdvisor Grows From Afar

The CFO of TripAdvisor, Julie Bradley, talks about how the travel site is growing into new countries without actually going there.

When you Google “hotels reviews Chicago,” “hotels, New York” or really any other combination of words looking for lodging in a given city, TripAdvisor is going to be one of the first results. The travel website, which launched in 2000 and relies heavily on user-generated content, is in a good spot. The firm is expecting robust global topline growth for 2013. At the same time, it still has headroom to expand its customer base: although it has localized versions of its website in 30 countries, only 11 percent of Internet users visit TripAdvisor.

Trip Advisor Julie Bradley

Julie Bradley, CFO of TripAdvisor

CFO Julie Bradley is going after the other 89 percent. Bradley, the former CFO of e-commerce company ATG (Art Technology Group) and former vice president of finance at cloud services startup Akamai Technologies, says TripAdvisor is well-positioned in that quest. It has a solid technology infrastructure and a low barrier to entry in new geographies, because it doesn’t have to open a headquarters in every city where it’s pursuing market share, she says.

CFO spoke with Bradley about how she keeps up with the rapid changes at TripAdvisor and meets the challenges of being in a consumer-driven business. The conversation has been edited for clarity.

What is a day-to-day like for you?
My role is a little broader than just finance and accounting. It also includes investor relations, tax, treasury, corporate development, HR, and real estate and facilities. So on a typical day, I could be looking at financial projections, dealing with employee relations issues or responding to complaints about workers not having enough places to sit or no toilet paper in the bathroom. It’s all in a day’s work.

How did your previous roles prepare you for this one?
I started my career at Deloitte, which gave me a foundation from a finance and accounting perspective. It’s a great training ground for young people to get the rigor of a control environment, understand the rules and get the chance to interact with senior executives.

Akamai is a technology company, and it was founder-led, fast-moving, and going through a lot of changes and a lot of growth. What I learned there was that you have to adapt and translate the accounting requirements, finance rigor and so forth, into a language that can be absorbed by the culture. It really forced me to become that translator.

How fast is TripAdvisor growing?
This year, our guidance is in the low 20s [percent] for topline growth on a global basis. We’re fast-growing and highly profitable. The community that we’ve built really drives our ability to charge our customers [advertisers], because we’re able to give them these highly motivated consumers who are looking to book a hotel.

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