Alidad Moghaddam is an International General Manager at travel booking site, Trainline, as well as a start-up advisor and angel investor. He’s helped scale up Trainline to over 80 million visits per month, selling over 200 tickets per minute to customers in over 170 countries. His career spans start-ups, high-growth companies and listed global enterprises - including General Manager of Financial Services at Moneysupermarket, and Commercial Director of entertainment business Blinkbox - but his latest role is the Nurole-appointed Trustee position at contemporary dance company Rambert. With a long-term passion for performing arts, Moghaddam can be found amongst the audience of contemporary dance performances most weeks - and it was A Linha Curva, “an incredibly, high-energy and colourful performance” by Rambert, that helped to spark his interest and inspire his Trustee application.
Online ticket sales are a highly-competitive marketplace and in managing Trainline’s multi-million-pound marketing budget across channels including paid search (SEM), organic search (SEO) you’re helping its growth spiral. But amidst so many areas, where do you think the future of marketing lies?
In improved personalisation. As a concept, personalisation has existed for quite some time, but the rise of data science as a core capability for forward-thinking technology companies means savvy marketing organisations can now truly harness the power of big data to drive increased personalisation and ensure that they are communicating the right message at the right time across multiple channels in accordance with a customer’s needs.
How about customer acquisition - where do you think the most successful techniques lie?
Mobile marketing, including app store optimisation and paid app marketing: they’ve rapidly evolved over the last five years to become a core part of the b2c digital marketing toolkit. At Trainline, for example, we have grown our downloads by 59% in the last year alone, with 73% of our total transactions now via the app.
You previously launched your own food tech start-up which you eventually decided to shut down: what’s your advice to others on when it’s time to move on, either by selling or closing a division or business?
The key question I encourage entrepreneurs to ask themselves is, “Am I solving a big enough problem for my target customers?” In my personal experience - both as a former entrepreneur and as an investor - I’ve seen many businesses that want to build ‘the next Airbnb’ or ‘Uber’. However, they often fall short when they are not solving a problem that is meaningful enough to drive a change in behaviour and compel people to use their product.
You’ve got vast experience at online platforms, including Moneysupermarket as well as Trainline: what areas do you think the biggest platforms of the future will be focused on?
There are still many sectors that are characterised by fragmented supply bases that can drive inefficiencies and opacity in market dynamics such as pricing and quality. Healthcare, real estate and professional services such as consulting, and legal services come to mind as examples. They are markets that are ripe for disruption by platforms that create improved liquidity and transparency, and in many instances, this is already starting to happen thanks to some exciting start-ups in those spaces.
Your career grew alongside the digital revolution - how do you think the tech shift will change management style?
Surprisingly, there are still many businesses that have not yet fully adapted to the digital revolution - even though it’s arguably entering its third decade - and are just starting to come to terms with the implications from an organisational and cultural standpoint. This means they are reliant on bringing teams of experts from digital “pure-plays” to drive multi-year digital transformations and catch up to the technological innovators in their space. In my view, having a strong understanding of technology as it relates to your business is now a key requirement for being an effective business leader in most industries and will be considered table-stakes for the next generation of managers.
On a board level, how have you made the shift from Executive to NED?
I’ve spent most of my career as an operator so the biggest shift in mindset as a NED has been to provide strategic guidance and oversight while resisting the urge to get involved in execution and being respectful of the management teams I work with so that they have the space they need to run their business.
What’s your advice to others in a similar position - who are keen to begin a shift from employee to a portfolio of board, investment or advisory roles?
Your first board or advisory role can be a steep learning curve and a meaningful time commitment, so it’s worth taking the time to find an organisation that you’re truly excited about joining and where there is a good fit with the board and the management team.
What do you think are the best digital scale-ups example(s) out there right now?
The UK has developed a thriving tech ecosystem over the last decade. Aside from Trainline, the most exciting UK based tech companies that immediately come to mind include Deliveroo, Improbable, LendInvest, and Transferwise.
How was your Nurole experience?
I was delighted to come across the Trustee role at Rambert through Nurole. The platform was easy to use and offered a diverse catalogue of trustee and NED roles. Through the Rambert trustee role, it presented me with a unique opportunity to achieve a long-standing goal of combining my digital sector experience with my passion for the performing arts.
And now for some quick-fire questions…
What’s your favourite book?
There are too many great books to pick only one, but I recently really enjoyed reading ‘Travels’ by Michael Crichton.
’To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.’ - Oscar Wilde.
Christmas – it’s the best time of the year to truly disconnect and spend time with family and loved ones.
What do you do to have fun?
I love to travel, exercise (particularly boxing and kickboxing), and go to the theatre. Music is also a very big part of my life.”
Trainline of course!
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