Gus Balbontin and his team helped Lonely Planet tackle the digital revolution and muscle through a decade of disruption by developing products and technology platforms that contributed to the revolution in travel and media. From his background in investing, advising and founding new start-ups, he talks of business disruption and transformation, plus the successes and failures of a media industry that continuously goes through significant reinvention. The lessons he shares can be applied to every industry, business and individual facing the challenges of the 21st century. Gus shares his experiences with others and his presentations are energetic, enthusiastic, passionate, engaging, frank and practical.
Born and bred in the Argentinean Patagonia, Gus dreamt of travelling the world from the age of eight when he first told his family that rather than studying, he was just going to travel.
By the time he was 17, after baking hundreds of cakes in what became a very successful small cake enterprise, he won a scholarship which landed him in Byron Bay. The year-long trip to Australia would ultimately change his life.
Not only did he meet his future wife and now mother of their three beautiful kids, Gus came to believe that travelling is a state of mind before anything else.
With this belief, a small backpack and dreams of great adventures, he crisscrossed South America racking up 40,000 kilometres without spending a cent. During that time, he spent countless hours talking to travellers and dreaming about helping travel guide companies make better products: 'this content is so old, I can help them fix it' he suggested to anyone who would listen.
Eventually, he returned to Australia picking macadamia nuts, running a tennis school and starting an import export company, but a small ad in a newspaper offering work at a travel company was too good to ignore.
Armed with the quintessential Aussie 'give-it-a-go' spirit and encouragement from his family, he applied.
The odds were against him and on the back of his enthusiasm and travel experience he managed to secure a designer role at none other than Lonely Planet.
As far as Gus was concerned, he had landed the job of his life.
Fast forward to 2014; after eight roles within Lonely Planet, having completed an MBA and spent hundreds of hours on planes, Gus had progressed to leading Lonely Planet with a team as passionate about the businesses place in traveller's lives as he was. Gus ultimately rose to be Chief Technology Officer and one of three executive directors of Lonely Planet before hanging up the boots and calling it a day.
He had done what he set out to do. The team he had led had launched e-books, apps, implemented new company wide software, reset directions in China and India and restructured the business to put it back in the black. With this team of extraordinary people Gus re-invented the speed of content production, reengineered the product creation process and pioneered a new mindset of collaboration in what was and still remains an amazing travel brand.
Gus has worked closely with some of the biggest companies in the world developing cutting edge technology and products including Google X, Nokia, Apple, Amazon and more.
He will blow you away with energy and insights into the transformation, struggles and successes of one of the most loved brands in the world.
His overarching message was particularly relevant given the stage of business growth our business is currently in. Very accommodating and willing to go above and beyond on the night.
All our delegates loved Gus’ manner and felt that it was a really natural, unscripted presentation.
BT Financial Group
Gus was perfect for our conference. His topic of disruption was timely as our industry is on the brink of possible disruption. He was young, edgy, and engaged the entire audience – he did a second more casual session over Dinner and people were genuinely interested in everything he talked about – he could also consider stand up comedy! Question time after Dinner went for ages – we had to cut so people could get Dessert. Not only did our younger delegates rave about him but we also had comments from several of our older seasoned high level delegates and sponsors (who all see many presentations each year) that he was the best speaker they had seen in ages.
Gus was entertaining yet very definitely got the point across. Gus' presentation was very on message for the strategies we are encouraging our business owners and operators to embrace.
Fantastic speaker on a range of subjects and very personable and engaging. The audience loved him.
Crowne Plaza Adelaide
Gus Balbontin delivers a clear message about focusing on your customers’ needs, not your own. He is engaging, authentic and very ‘light on his feet’. We have had tremendous feedback from conference delegates.
Gus' message really set up the day's agenda for us. It delivered content consistent with what we were trying to achieve for the day. The idea that you have to be ahead, and not be complacent.
Gus delivers a dynamic presentation based on his own experiences. The presentation has a general approach which is suited to all walks of life.
Mortgage and Finance Association of Australia
Gus was down to earth, interactive and had some good new ideas / concepts that were presented in a new way. We appreciated his willingness to be fully engaged in the event, spending time with participants, offering assistance and generally being wonderful. We love presenters who are fully ‘there’ for us and Gus was definitely one of them.
Gus was fantastic! Highly engaging and lots of energy. We had many comments on the day about how interesting and engaging he was and also how his presentation was so aligned with our strategy and how much his messages resonated throughout the team. The examples and real life experiences he told really brought to life his key messages.
BT Financial Group
I spoke with Leanne from ICMI shortly after our event to advise her how pleased we were with your presentation. The feedback we had was overwhelmingly positive for your speaking spot. In fact, you were the most popular speaker from the entire event, with some delegates even saying they would hear you again next year! You really did a great job for us – thank you!
Head of Corporate Marketing & Communications
Indue 2015 Leadership Forum
Intelligent, Interesting, Inspirational. A great partner to our process that has help broaden our thinking and engage people in debating the opportunities contained in diverse opinions. We will definitely work with Gus again and use him to help sharpen our view of our own potential and refine the possibilities of the market place.
Gus was very accommodating and went out of his way to keep me updated with the flight delays from the Sydney weather. He made every effort to get there as soon as possible. His presentation was excellent and our key stakeholders and the delegates themselves thoroughly enjoyed it. The verbal feedback from delegates throughout the day following his presentation was nothing but fantastic. I’ll definitely be recommending to our team to use him for other events.
BT Financial Group
I must say and I think I speak for all who attended, that we really enjoyed having you with us at our customer forum. It was to be fair a bit of a "left field" decision given we are not in aligned industries, but it turned out to be a fantastic addition to the day because you hit on common themes and most importantly how to think outside of our normal patterns in terms of how we approach the issues that confront us and our customers. I personally was particularly taken with the "your not solving the right problem" theme that you hit on several times, I think that fairly well resonated with most of us. In terms of rising above our usual thinking and day to day approach and sense check that we are in fact working to solve the real issue (which means identifying it first) rather then trying to find new ways to solve traditional problems which may ultimately be stunting our ability to really evolve our businesses. Also, I would say that your style is very refreshing. Anecdote based (which is best for retention the NLP guys tell us!) is always the best way to listen and also you were very direct, whilst at the same time showing an immense humility and sharing stories that other more ego driven people might be uncomfortable with, specifically to your modest start in life (which I share by the way) and your travelling in South America too. So I saw a really good balance of the innovative with the modest, the style of delivery and the anecdotal themes and also you told a "story", your "story" which gave it all context. I can tell you that since then, I have been looking at my day to day work and thinking "am I solving the right problem" and with interesting results
Chief Commercial Officer - Asia
Your presentation was a high light at our conference. Your passion and enthusiasm was infectious as you addressed the challenges of recapturing our relevancy in society. You provided a number of reference points that my team returned back to on a number of occasions throughout the strategic planning as well as post conference in our leadership team meetings. The innovation chart that you provided has been a helpful tool in my team understanding that we need some 'crazies' as well as 'sensible' people in the innovation process. We are a conservative organisation and as such we attract conservative 'sensible' people but we do have a few 'crazies' amongst us. One thing your presentation has done for us is the 'sensible' people have captured the need to embrace and empower the ideas of the 'crazies' and understand that they need to give appropriate support to assist in the framing and implementation of new ideas. Thanks so much for giving of yourself at our conference. It was a flag in the ground moment that has reinforced my message to step outside of what we have already done and consider new ways that we can address the problems we are trying to solve.
Territory Public Relations Secretary
The Salvation Army
Your ideas were profound and your delivery mesmerising. You have reinvigorated my spirit of curiosity and desire to effect change. Thank you again.
Gus did brilliantly considering we were running behind on schedule and had some issues with the AV at the venue. His presentation was a little rushed, but I don't think it's because he wasn't prepared or a good presenter - he had a late time slot to contend with so did very well. Also, very appreciative of him spending the afternoon with our members to ensure he had the one on one time.
Entrepreneur's Organisation (EO)
Your presentation and then the workshop went brilliantly thank you. Your key messages were very relevant to an organisation in the midst of major transformation and they flowed freely from all delegates throughout the remainder of the conference. We received feedback from Managers and everyone that we spoke to found you engaging and inspirational. I am therefore confident that we will be seeking you out in the future to do more work together. We also undertake an official feedback survey after each Managers Conference so I will pass on the survey results when they are to hand. Again, thank you very much!
Queensland Country Credit Union
Your enthusiasm and no BS approach was refreshing in a world of beige.
Gus’ ability to ignite enthusiasm from the audience coupled with the ability to keep the topic real and authentic brought rave reviews from those who attended. Can’t wait for the next Gus Balbontin instalment.
Gus managed to energise and engage our attendee's right from the start. He discussed his business journey and the major challenges he faced with such as rapidly changing market place. The whole session aligned perfectly and we were surprised at how many of our suppliers asked for his details so they could use him within their own business networks.
General Manager Northern Region
Australian Liquor Marketers