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Meet the CEO: Kris Naudts, CEO of Culture Trip

UKTN caught up with Kris Naudts, CEO of Culture Trip to discuss his journey to becoming CEO of travel inspiration website Culture Trip.

The idea and creativity behind Culture Trip emerged after Naudts wanting to create a platform to inspire travel and for people to connect with the world around them. The business first began as an online book and DVD store with people writing articles about books and travel, and then grew into a space where content and writing became scalable and something people responded to.

Now, the website has over 18m monthly unique visitors and continues to inspire trips right from the making the first booking to suggesting attractions. Its mission is to become the go-to website for millennials wanting to travel and looking for inspiration around the world – and its tech team is focused on building a product for exactly that.

How did you become CEO of Culture Trip?

My background is in medicine but I’ve always had a passion for creativity and loved having the opportunity to build something. The idea behind Culture Trip emerged when I was standing in front of a bookshelf in my friend’s apartment and realised I hardly recognised any of the books in his collection. As a book lover myself, I wondered how this library of ideas and culture could have passed me by and how I could solve the problem. 

And so the idea for Culture Trip was born – I wanted to create a space online where people could go before they travelled somewhere new to find stories by local creators and feel more connected to the world around them. Culture Trip began as an online book store but that idea only lasted a few days, and then we pivoted to what you see today.

How would you describe what Culture Trip has become today?

Culture Trip is a media entertainment product with a travel model. We aim to inspire people to go beyond their cultural boundaries. Our users are growing quickly – we have over 18m monthly unique visitors, which influences our business model and means the culture of the company has to change as you grow – but our vision has always remained the same.

How do you see the technology affecting this industry?

Advancements in AI and machine learning are driving change in the travel industry. Improvements in recommendation and personalisation tools are enhancing the customer’s booking journey in amazing ways.

We’re already using these resources at Culture Trip and will continue to refine our product. We’re also beginning to use AI to drive the commissioning process for our award-winning content.  It’s really a publishing first – the merger of tech and creativity – that will be the future of Culture Trip’s content product.

What’s the biggest challenge about being a CEO?

Leading a startup in hypergrowth requires constant attention to employee culture!

We’re building an amazing brand with a team who are energised to come to work each day while delivering on our company’s mission to inspire people to go beyond their cultural boundaries and connect with the world around them.

What are your future growth plans and how do you see yourself driving the change?

Culture Trip is a travel startup that represents the first truly “full-funnel” offering in the travel industry. Our site and app bring together a collection of inspirational articles, videos, and deep-dive guides – created by locals and experts – with easy-to-use planning and booking features.

The result is a unique combination of high-quality editorial content and functional travel tools that allows anyone to explore the world, discover their next must-see destination, and book a trip that’s right for them – all in one place. 

What’s an accomplishment that has shaped your career?

As I developed my career in medicine and psychiatry, I relocated to London from Belgium with my family to take up a post at the Institute of Psychiatry which I then combined with a medical director role at a private psychiatric hospital.  

But I began to feel unfulfilled as a psychiatrist, dealing with one person at a time and I looked around, wanting to make a bigger impact. I had always wanted to express myself creatively – and the result was the founding of Culture Trip. It was this leap of faith to align myself with my true passions that makes me most proud.

 What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? 

That I should go back to doing something “sensible” – I have ignored it!

What advice would you give to another tech startup CEO?

Ask yourself whether you could’ve anticipated change. Look and analyse the next 6 months ahead – as a startup CEO you’re in the here and now, but you should always be 6 months out with your mind. Move from the real time.

And quickly… what’s your favourite app on your phone?

Well, Culture Trip of course! WhatsApp is probably what I use the most.

What’s a book that’s influenced you?

Mismeasure of Men by Stephen Jay Gould.

Name a company that you wish you founded & why?

Disney for its creative expression and enduring global appeal.