I recently had the chance to visit KAYAK’s new technology headquarters in Cambridge and spend some time with their CTO, Giorgos Zacharia.
Although KAYAK is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, their technology teams are based in Massachusetts and Berlin. The local office started in Concord, Mass., which I always thought was an interesting spot for this consumer travel giant. I remember talking to Paul English (KAYAK’s Co-Founder and former CTO) last year and asking him why they planted the office in Concord. He said Concord offered convenience for the early employees of the company.
Although the office in Concord has been a great option for people who live in the suburbs, they realized that it was tough to compete for recent grads and urban talent that might not own a car or have no interest in commuting to the suburbs every day.
They started the process of looking for new space last year and it took some time to find the ideal location. They choose 10 Canal Park in Cambridge (right next to the Cambridgeside Galleria Mall) based on its central location and proximity to all the great schools in the area. Construction began last October and they moved into their new home in January.
KAYAK now has the best of both worlds – both urban and suburban offices. The Concord office in the suburbs, which is still home for 50 employees and the new urban location in Cambridge which currently houses 90 KAYAK employees spanning across web development, design, product management and data science. They have enough room to accommodate 200 employees and are hiring aggressively, with 50 current job openings.
* Photo credit: Kaijian Gao of KAYAK
The Cambridge office is sleek and ultra-modern with an open floor plan. Giorgos sits out in the open along with the other employees, as they don’t have any individual offices. There is plenty of meeting space (living rooms!) and state-of-the-art video conferencing equipment, making KAYAK’s five other offices only a click away.
At the center of the new space is a theater that spans two floors with bleacher-like seating for company meetings, entertainment and community events. It features a massive, state-of-the-art 170-inch TV screen where people can watch sporting events, catch up on current events or give product demos.
* Picture of Giorgos Zacharia (CTO at KAYAK) standing in front of their open theatre and 170 inch TV screen. Photo Credit: Kaijian Gao of KAYAK
What else can you expect at KAYAK? You will have the opportunity to work on consumer products at scale with bright and talented people. Even though KAYAK is owned by Priceline, they operate like a startup with a flat organization and small teams who are focused on innovation. They are growing rapidly and have a culture where people are rotated between teams, so employees are challenged to learn more and can see their skills translate to new areas. They are “meeting phobic” so don’t expect to spend tons of times in boring meetings.
KAYAK has lots of other perks too. How about massages every day, free lunch on Wednesdays, and Beer O’Clock Thursdays. With the weather warming up, employees will have the chance to enjoy an outdoor deck with stellar views of the Charles River and Boston.
What The Hack – Hackathon
As noted above, one of the goals of having this new space in Cambridge is to open it up for community events.
The first event scheduled is a 24 hour hackathon on April 25th-26th called What The Hack, which is open to both students and professionals. KAYAK expects to have over 200 people in attendance and will offer the chance to win up to $20,000 in cash and prizes! KAYAK has designated four challenge categories: Data, Design, Travel and Innovation. Participants will have access to KAYAK’s APIs, plus data from the event co-sponsor – Amadeus, one of the world’s largest providers of travel data.
Four judges will have the honor of selecting the winners: KAYAK CTO Giorgos Zacharia; Head of Innovation at Amadeus, Murray Mazer; renowned entrepreneur and investor, George Kassabgi; and Founding Managing Director of Berklee ICE and Founder of Sonicbids, Panos Panay.
Click here to learn more and register.
KAYAK will also provide office space in the Cambridge office to select startups in the Boston area. PayPal recently closed their Start Tank incubator, so it’s perfect timing. They are currently talking to the first wave of companies that are hoping to secure spots.
How can you get a fast pass to one of these coveted spots in their incubator? Have your team participate in What the Hack - one qualifying group will be granted a three month incubation period. Pretty sweet!