Priceline’s Jeff Hoffman: My Life as a Problem Solver

Jeff Hoffman is good at solving problems. He remembers standing in line for over an hour at the airport just to get his boarding pass printed. He ended up missing his flight and thought to himself there’s got to be a more efficient way to do this. Finding a solution to a problem that affected the entire airline industry led to his first startup: ticket kiosks which he sold for over $100 million.

To date, Jeff has been involved in eight different startups, with Priceline being his biggest and most successful. The company started from scratch and today is worth $76 billion. Currently, Jeff is a co-founder and partner at ColorJar, the idea accelerator that helps entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses, and he spends a majority of his time speaking around the world and mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs.

In 2011, Jeff decided he wanted to devote all of his time and energy to giving back to the field of entrepreneurship. He spent the entire year of 2012 saying “yes” to everything. It resulted in a trip to West Africa which turned into a full-fledged world tour of solving problems. For the last four years, Jeff has sailed around the world on a ship filled with tech entrepreneurs to combat some of the world’s greatest challenges.

“It’s literally the entrepreneurSHIP!” says Jeff, who spoke as part of the LMU Hilton Distinguished Entrepreneur Lecture Series. “Being an entrepreneur does not mean you have to start an Internet company or an app. And it’s not about money. It’s a mindset and a way of thinking to solve problems.”

Jeff had big dreams as a kid growing up in a small desert town in Arizona. Posted on his bathroom mirror were his two biggest dreams: “Visit 50 countries in my life” and “Produce movies and music.” Jeff says education was key to being able to chase these dreams. His friends and family (even his high school college counselor!) laughed at him when he told them he wanted to go to Yale University. He was accepted, got kicked out the first day because he couldn’t pay tuition, started his first company on the second day and ended up graduating four years later with a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

It wasn’t long before he quit his corporate job at an engineering firm and set his sights on becoming an entrepreneur. He always liked that entrepreneurs got to design their own future. Outside of the world of technology, Jeff has produced movies including Cabin Fever, produced musical events including concerts, tours and charity events with such artists as Elton John, Britney Spears, NSYNC, and serves on numerous charity and non-profit boards. Jeff has proven that anyone can accomplish their dreams and that attitude determines your outcome.

“The formula is quite simple: decide what your dream is, educate yourself on that industry, become valuable to that industry and plan your goals backward,” said Jeff. “Find problems to solve in the industry you want to be in.”

Jeff’s keys to becoming a successful entrepreneur:

  1. Solve real problems in the world
  2. Don’t chase money, chase excellence (money follows excellence)
  3. Win a gold medal at ONE thing (focus on one thing at a time)
  4. Harvest ideas and learn something new everyday
  5. Pick a mentor of someone you want to be like
  6. Build a great team and WORK HARD!