TripAdvisor CEO Speaks to Full House


Stephen Kaufer and Daniel LehmannThe 150 business and organizational leaders who attended the Hebrew College CEO Forum this week were part of a unique conversation, ranging from the role of priestly and prophetic leadership, to the role of stockholders and investors in a publicly-held company.

President Daniel Lehmann interviewed Stephen Kaufer, co-founder, president and chief executive officer of TripAdvisor. The CEO Forum was created to bring leaders of industry and Hebrew College closer, using what Lehmann describes as a pluralistic view of Judaism in the modern world and to bridge academic Jewish studies and community needs. "We want to be a resource for leaders who want to engage Jewish values and Jewish community," Lehmann said. “You’ll note that our signature flags outside say, ‘Jewish Learning and Leadership for a Pluralistic World.’ That’s what we want to be for the community.”

The morning began with a welcome by Hebrew College trustee and event co-chair Jim Miller, CEO of FiRE+iCE, and greetings from Newton Mayor Setti Warren. A commentary on leadership in the Bible was delivered by Rabbi Art Green, rector of Hebrew College’s rabbinical school.

The conversation between Lehmann and Kaufer covered the meteoric rise of TripAdvisor, from unique start-up in 2000 to the largest web 2.0 business in the world, valued at nearly $10 billion, and reporting 300 million unique visitors a month.

Kaufer described the tipping point—from fledgling start-up to profitable business model—emphasizing that a willingness to experiment is essential to the success of any enterprise. “If you try 10 ideas, and if three work, that’s a good ratio,” said Kaufer.

Lehmann asked Kaufer to reflect on the ways his upbringing in a Jewish home has informed his values. Kaufer credited his parents with instilling the importance of dealing fairly with others and the obligation to make the world a better place. 

The TripAdvisor Charitable Foundation puts those values into practice by funding employee-generated grants with two simple guidelines: serve the less fortunate and TripAdvisor employees who apply for the grants on behalf of the causes must be involved in the work of the organization.

Kaufer provided these five tips to start-up success:

  1. Speed wins
  2. Done is better than perfect
  3. The harder you work, the luckier you get
  4. Embrace change
  5. Have an all-in mentality

Hebrew College trustee and event co-chair Greg Stoller, whose company, Coolidge Plaza Management was a co-sponsor of the event, encouraged guests to take advantage of the educational and professional resources the College has to offer, noting the pluralistic mission welcomes everyone.  

The event’s sponsors included Coolidge Plaza Management,  FiRE+iCE, HebrewSenior Life, and NEPC, LLC. View more photos from the event and learn more about Hebrew College's fall events. Photos by Larry Sandberg