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The Faces of Kigo: Meet Matt Willis

We created the Faces of Kigo series to showcase our talented employees, tell their stories, and share why they love being a part of the Kigo team.

Meet Matt Willis, Kigo's Vice President of Product Development. To say that Matt has an impressive background would be a huge understatement. With over 17 years' experience inside startups, Matt is a true product ninja. He is the original creator of Kigo Revenue Management, and he and his team are now responsible for developing the latest cutting-edge technology at Kigo. Matt loves to develop new inventions and is a driving force of innovation and simplicity for our clients.

Learn more about Matt:

Tell us about yourself!

I love to build stuff. At home my two daughters (Raven (8) and Hazel (10)) and son Ryker (5) build all kinds of stuff - tree houses, legos, shoe box cities, art projects and weird projects. Unique to the Kigo team, I live in Seattle near Amazon, Google and Microsoft so we have an amazing start-up community here that keeps me wanting to push modern product development as far as the greats do.  I love technology but my wife, Lisa, and I make sure we keep the family grounded to the simple things by spending lots of time outdoors, camping, hiking, fishing, rafting and other adventures.

What is your role at Kigo?

    My title is Vice President of Product Development, but to be honest, my role is to make sure that every line of code and pixel that leaves our minds and fingers and reaches our clients' experience are taken seriously. That, of course, and working with the other leadership folks to ensure that our culture at Kigo, positively affects the lives of our clients. Practically that means, helping our team know why we do things, not just what we do. Helping the engineers to understand who it is we build for, and to be faster and more agile every day. Helping the product team members to question the status quo and to balance dreaming for what could be, while not losing focus daily on taking the next practical step. Progress over perfection.

    What do you love about your job?

    It’s what I always wanted to do. I’ve been in start-ups my whole career but being a part of a larger organization like RealPage, and at the same time, not losing a start-up culture in Kigo is about as cool as it can get. I have been enormously blessed to be surrounded by some of the most amazing people I have every worked with. And not just talent, but “wild west” style grit. So many of us look at the vacation rental industry like the great frontier, where even small innovations and exploration can lead to incredible results. I love pushing our team to look two, even three years into a future of things that don’t yet exist but that we know could be game-changing for our clients. Then, we dedicate ourselves to proving if we can or can't get there – and most times we do.

    As a leader of Product at Kigo, we get to partner with our clients and invent what modern vacation rental management should look like. I’m super excited this month, as we are launching our Customer Innovation Committee to start formally collaborating with some of the most successful managers in the space. There’s lots to love about my job.

    What makes Kigo stand out from the competition?

    I think a lot of companies compete with each other, talking about the new features they have, or the new widget they launched that is better than the other person’s widget. I believe what differentiates us is that we are only in a race against ourselves. We consider how can we be better, faster and more responsive to our clients' needs. We’re constantly measuring our goals against what things looked like last year, or even last month - asking our clients, how we can be better, at each step of the way.

    Our goal is not to build a company but a community of vacation rental professionals, working together to help each other establish this amazing accommodation option.  Sure we have our quirks, bugs, late features, and other technology challenges but we strive to release value every day, to constantly adapt with our client and to not be afraid to make mistakes, aggressively learning from thousands of tiny little failures – and of course, some big wins.

    What is your favorite feature of Kigo?

    Not fair, we have lots of cool stuff. Ok, if I had to choose, it would be the new Channel Manager we are launching this year. Our old channel manager, like many others, is a monolithic set of rules that has to adapt a square peg into a round hole at the channel. Don’t get me wrong, our clients use it quite successfully but we wanted to rethink the fundamentals. Eighteen months ago, we started a brand new strategy to tackle some of the most challenging aspects of vacation rental data, marketing complexity and accounting. Our new channel manager has smart rules that adapt to each channel, each situation and balances the line of maintaining fidelity for the accountants, while not overwhelming the guest or owner. There are so many great new features that we’ll be rolling out towards the end of the summer, and I can’t wait.

    How is Kigo changing the vacation rental industry?

    My perception is that many vacation rental property management systems are of one flavor or the other- either management companies that needed to build tech (which led to a SaaS company) or product organizations that want to get into vacation rentals. We are a pretty solid mix, as we were formed out of three separate companies. We have leaders who have lived in this space for a decade and been managers, and we also hire the most forward-thinking product leaders we can find. With respect to the industry and a constant push to be better at what we do, our goal is to exponentially grow the capabilities of the professional manager.

    How does your hobby or passion translate into your role at Kigo?

    Since I was a kid, I used to love finding out how things work. My father was constantly upset at me for taking apart his tools, especially when I couldn’t quite figure out how to get it back in operational order. One of my favorite parts of my job is visiting clients, folding towels with them, checking into a unit using the Kigo tech, or geeking out with the accountant, trying to make order out of the channel management madness. We push our product people to be constantly curious, to always wonder “why” people do the things they do.  ‘Knowing your who our client is, because we live their problems with them’, puts us in the position to be an organic product extension of our clients’ needs.

    But I promise, if I visit, I won’t take your folding machine apart (as much as I’d like to).

    How do you approach finding places to stay when you travel?

    I really like vacation rentals because you get way more bang for your buck, but I typically will use a few channels to get to one. I’ll search Airbnb, and HomeAway to try and find the best option. If I’m traveling for business, usually wins. If I’m with the family, it’s usually Airbnb or HomeAway.

    What do you look for in a vacation rental? What do you avoid?

    I’m not picky if I’m alone but if I’m with my kids, well… you know, kids like pools. Like everyone else, I like to see multiple positive reviews, a great location and a clean place. I think the fundamentals of professional hospitality are pretty simple: safe, clean, good price, and hospitable staff if things don’t go as expected.

    How can property owners make their vacation rentals more appealing to travelers like yourself?

    Make sure you cover the basics like I covered above. After that, show me a place that will be a better stay than a hotel room at a great price and you’d win my business.

    As we continue to explore the Faces of Kigo, you will meet more members of our global team working every day to create the best products in travel. Stay tuned!

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