Daniel Kinnoch is the co-founder and CEO of LoungePair, a web app that lets travelers’ name their own price’ for airport lounge access. Airport lounge operators can create offers that help get more customers in the door, covering their overheads during off-peak travel times, and introducing new people to the world of airport luxury.
Daniel is also a qualified urban planner, having worked in the field for over 10 years. He has always been interested in the ways that cities grow, which naturally led him to travel and everything that it offers.
Based in Auckland, New Zealand, Daniel loves to eat out, go on hikes, visit museums, and see experience everything that this little country has to offer. He is married and has a two-year-old who keeps him on his toes daily.
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Table of Contents
Thank you so much for giving us your time! Before we begin, could you introduce yourself to our readers and take us through what exactly your company does and what your vision is for its future?
Daniel Kinnoch: No worries!
I love travel and always have. My grandparents on my mother’s side took me on my first interstate holiday when I was seven years old. It was a trip from Adelaide (in Australia) to the Gold Coast, to visit the theme parks and just have a fun time. I’m from a distinctly middle-class family, however, my grandfather traveled a lot for his work, which meant he had airport lounge access paid by his work. We flew Ansett Australia before they collapsed in 2001 and visited the Golden Wing Lounge. I remember juice, the business center with the fax machines and printers, and expansive views over the tarmac where you could watch baggage handlers drop bags and almost leave them behind. It was amazing, and once I was traveling enough, I took the plunge and purchased my own lounge membership with Qantas. Soon I was flying enough for work and leisure that I had ‘free’ access – I was hooked again.
On one trip flying home from Hong Kong, I was about to visit the Cathay Pacific “The Wing” First Class lounge. I was flying solo and thought about how I could guest someone into the lounge, provided they were on the same flight. So, expending some precious lounge time, I walked the distance to my gate and found someone else who was traveling on their own. It was a bit of an awkward interaction, but I convinced them to accompany me to the lounge, and we parted ways shortly after we were let in. They had never been to a lounge before, and I recall seeing them in the à la carte dining hall having what looked like the time of their life with Dandan noodles and a cocktail.
It really helped me to remember what a privilege it was to visit these lounges. I was taking these lounges and the experience for granted. I decided I wanted to find ways to make it easier for people to find out about lounges and get access – affordably.
I worked with my friend and colleague Todd Heslin over the course of a year to launch LoungePair, a web app that lets travelers’ name their own price’ for airport lounge access. Most of our users have never visited a lounge before. They would have otherwise had no idea how to get in or wouldn’t have paid full price without knowing what the experience would be like.
Our unique booking solution unlocks new revenue opportunities for airport lounges, particularly during off-peak. This first-time experience at a lower price point can lead to increased lifetime customer value. The e-commerce capabilities of some lounges are often lacking and so we wanted to create a clean, streamlined tool that was easy to use, particularly when on the go – already traveling, in the cab, walking into the airport.
We’re a highly customer-focused business, and place a high value on the relationships that we’ve built with lounge operators and guests. Addressing the pain points of both users is an ongoing iterative process. Our product roadmap will continue to cater to fresh solutions, such as offering fixed-price waitlist offers and guaranteed access options.
Our vision for the future is that more people can access them at a price point that meets their needs – that those ‘elusive’ doors at the airport are opened for the many, and not just the few. These guests don’t need a high-end credit card, or premium lounge membership to experience a lounge for the first time. Once they know what to expect, they’re more likely to come back – and even pay full price.
I can’t go without lounge access – many others might feel the same way once they get a taste of how much it enhances their travels.
NO child ever says I want to be a CEO/entrepreneur when I grow up. What did you want to be and how did you get where you are today?
Daniel Kinnoch: Actually, that’s not quite true. Do you know those grandparents that took me to the Gold Coast?
I always wanted to be like my grandfather – a ‘fancy businessman’. He was a fantastic salesperson, first for Ingersoll Rand, and then for an Australian phone equipment company called Comtel. These jobs took him places. I always looked up to him. He was also a fantastically kind, generous man, who entertained my wild childhood delusions – including pretending to be the CEO of a software company called ‘Protel Megasus’ at the age of eleven. It was going to be bigger than Microsoft, and certainly bigger than Apple was in the early 2000s.
My grandparents eventually moved to Queensland in Australia. I would fly up solo a few times a year to see them. I would sit in their home office for long hours, printing out purchase invoices, devising standard operating procedures for new operating systems that were going to knock Windows off its pedestal. I would do mock-ups of what this new software would look like, and completely destroyed the look and feel of their computer while I was at it. I had to experiment, didn’t I?
I would invite my Pa to business meetings, where he would pretend to be Bill Gates (who I had an autographed photo of, by the way). I would manage these complete with minutes and note-taking. I could quite easily have had grandparents that told me to be a kid, or to stop playing make-believe. However, he went along with it, and I still have home videos on VCR that recorded some of these ‘meetings’ that I like to look back at in fondness. My Nan even joined in on a few, I recall having board meetings in their dining room at this long glass table they had. I always wanted to create something of my own. It felt good to build, particularly when others found whatever you created useful.
Sadly, I never got into programming as much as I wanted. The same grandparents, unfortunately, commented — unintentionally perhaps — that I should do something that ‘is unique, and not what everyone else is doing’. I think they meant well. I just so happened to love playing Sim City, so urban planning was next in line. However, I never lost sight of that ambition of being a builder. In every job that I’ve had, I’ve always been relentlessly focused on improving processes, and creating efficiencies. It just comes naturally to me.
In short, I have always had a passion for creation. I was lucky to have family who fostered this through patience and a willingness to let me be as explorative as I wanted at such an early age. I am going to make sure I do the same for my son as he grows up.
Tell us something about yourself that others in your organization might be surprised to know.
Daniel Kinnoch: I’ve never paid for walk-up lounge access before. I never even knew you could until the likes of apps like LoungeBuddy came along and I started recommending that all my uninitiated friends and family start using it on their long layovers (though now most can’t as American Express bought them out in 2019 and made the platform exclusive for their own cardholders). I’ve always been fortunate to have access via airline status, cabin class, via a credit card, or for a brief time a paid lounge membership that I got my job at the time with a discount.
So, what we’ve built as a company is not a tool I would have used myself. Although I would now if I found myself traveling through an airport that I had no access to! The idea for me came from a place of altruism – checking my own privilege and realizing that others were not so fortunate to have the travel experiences that I had.
Many readers may wonder how to become an entrepreneur but what is an entrepreneur? How would you define it?
Daniel Kinnoch: Someone who fails far more than they succeed. Someone who spends longer in the shower than they should, brainstorming to solve all the world’s problems, and then getting water all over their phone as they’re dictating their ideas once they get out.
Someone who has too many ideas at once and not knowing where to start or wanting to do everything. Being an entrepreneur is not glorious by any means, and when you start off, you’re often frustrated and trying to explain to your wife why you need to keep spending money from the mortgage offset account to test your latest minimum viable product. We look at brilliant people like Zuckerberg and think, wow, what an amazing life having built something so incredible. However, what we don’t always see is the sweat, tears, pain, and feelings of brokenness along the way.
For me at least this is often because we can be quite gung-ho. Sometimes giving effect to an idea comes down to luck or being in the right place at the right time or having the right team around you. If you’re scared of failure or feeling beat down, being an entrepreneur might not be for you. However, you never know until you give it a go. The next time you have an idea, remember – ideas are worthless, it’s all about execution. Don’t sit there and think ‘I wish someone would do this….’. Imagine if that’s what Steve Jobs or countless others thought. You’ll just do what my dad does all the time and kicks himself because “I had this idea years ago”.
Being an entrepreneur often means you being the change you want to see in the world.
What is the importance of having a supportive and inclusive culture?
Daniel Kinnoch: We are often weak when we’re on our own, and stronger when we’re surrounded by those who support us. It’s important that as a CEO and leader that we offer this same support for others, most importantly your own team.
I live by the mantra that if you help others, they will always help you. It always comes back to you in spades. This is where a supportive and inclusive culture comes into play. It is giving back to those same people who have helped raise you up, your company, and your company’s success. Support the personal and professional growth of others to the point of making yourself disposable. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are. It’s also imperative that businesses – small and large – have a culture of including others in decision-making. When you feel that you have a seat at the table and that you’ve listened to, this increases loyalty to the company.
People quit managers, not companies. Every company leader needs to foster a culture that causes their teams to rally.
How can a leader be disruptive in the post covid world?
Daniel Kinnoch: I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I don’t necessarily believe in being disruptive as much as I prefer to focus on building things that solve problems and help others. If you disrupt an entire industry in the process, then great. For example, I love that getting a ride is so cheap now because Uber ‘disrupted’ the taxi industry. However, they didn’t set out with the singular focus of disrupting something but solving terrible pain points on behalf of both passengers, and taxi drivers.
So, for me, my advice to leaders would be to focus on what is going to make the pain of a post covid world go away. I think the world will look quite different, at least for a few years minimum. Think vaccine passports, testing, home quarantine, social distancing, getting through an airport without getting sick. Are open-plan offices dead? Will people still travel for business? If so, where will they meet, what precautions will be taken? What about company liability for work-from-home setups gone wrong? Also, look beyond problems and solutions – create new opportunities from continuous improvement, which keeps your competitors at bay, wondering what they’re doing wrong.
If a 5-year-old asked you to describe your job, what would you tell them?
Daniel Kinnoch: I help others do exciting things that they’ve always wanted to do and be their best selves. I also help to make flying and airports more fun, with lots of food and drink for everyone to enjoy. I’ve done this by helping to create a cool app that lets people pay what they want for that awesome airport experience. However, they have to let their parents use – unless they’ve got enough pocket money saved up!
Leaders are usually asked about their most useful qualities but let’s change things up a bit. What is your most useless talent?
Daniel Kinnoch: A useless talent is a bit of an oxymoron, isn’t it? I’m pretty talented at being able to read books upside down, which is great because my son likes to look at the pictures the wrong way around sometimes but is very insistent that I keep on reading. I also have a real knack at guessing numbers, such as when my wife asks, ‘how much do you reckon this week’s groceries cost?’. I’m always within a few dollars of the right amount and sometimes spot-on. Maybe I should have been an accountant instead?
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, we do have one more question. If you wrote a book about your life until today, what would the title be?
Daniel Kinnoch: “Doing it properly”.
There have been a few missed opportunities in my life and a few mistakes. My book would be about what I got right, but also what I got wrong, and what I learned during the process. We might only live one life; we should all try to make it our best, for ourselves and those around us.
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Daniel Kinnoch for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Daniel Kinnoch or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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