An Early Airbnb Employee Sets out to Create her Own Experiences for Singles

Kati_Schmidt_headshot

Kati Schmidt is the founder of Piña Colada, which brings dating back to real life by connecting groups of six like-minded singles over great food in San Francisco’s best restaurants.

Before venturing out on her own Kati was an early employee of Airbnb working on the experiences team, after 6.5 years she decided it was time to pursue her own venture.

Though she was lucky enough to meet her partner on Tinder she realized that online dating was broken and set out to fix it. In November 2017 Piña Colada,  was born. The goal is simple, to create meaningful connections between groups of six like-minded singles over great food.


 

WHAT KIND OF PROBLEM IS YOUR COMPANY SOLVING?

Even though I was lucky to meet my partner on the dating app Tinder, I believe (online) dating is broken and can be done better. Piña Colada brings dating back to real life by connecting groups of six like-minded singles over great food in San Francisco’s best restaurants. With the concept of Piña Colada I was able to combine my passion of connecting people in the offline world and celebrating great food!

WHAT DID THOSE FIRST STEPS LOOK/FEEL LIKE? (FOR EXAMPLE: THE FIRST 6 MONTHS)

Instead of focusing on world class technology and automation or the bureaucracy of starting a business before knowing that the concept is viable, I focused on creating a pilot: the first Piña Colada group dinner. Piña Colada is still in the early days and the matching of groups and many other processes are still very hands-on and manual. My main focus is creating good content, spreading the word, marketing and sales, creating good experiences and engaging with my users before, during and after the dates to learn as much as possible.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST CONTRIBUTION TO YOUR CAREER SUCCESS?

I was an early employee of Airbnb and have learned a lot during my 6.5 years at the company. During my last year at Airbnb I was part of the team launching Airbnb Experiences, which connects people over authentic local activities. This mission and a lot of the learnings have influenced the curation and focus on quality I put into creating offline group dinner dating experiences.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE FAILURE? WHAT LESSONS DID YOU LEARN?

Unfortunately, I have been close to a burn out twice during my career. As an ambitious woman it was difficult to realize that there are limits to my capacity without risking my well being. We need to invest in self care and look out for ourselves first and then for each other. Especially working in tech here in San Francisco/Silicon Valley it can be tempting to go non stop without pausing and reflecting whether the goal that we are chasing is actually worth it and makes us happy in the long run.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE LEADERSHIP? OR, WHAT DOES BEING A LEADER MEAN TO YOU?

Leaders have backbone and are independent thinkers. They call bs when necessary even when it is unpopular or risky to do so.

WHAT SHOULD WOMEN BE DOING MORE OF TO FOSTER LEADERSHIP SKILLS?

Have each others’ back. As a female leader, even though your own path was probably pretty tough, hold the door open for all the aspiring female leaders who are right behind you. Inspire other women, refer, hire and encourage them.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU'RE FEELING "OVERWHELMED"?

When I feel overwhelmed, I reach out to friends, fellow entrepreneurs or communities that I am a member of. When I share my doubts, I can count on them to remind me how I have mastered difficult things in the past. It helps when they tell me that they have been in my shoes as well and how they got out of the situation.

HAVE YOU EVER FELT IMPOSTER SYNDROME, AND HOW DID YOU COMBAT IT?

After a rather corporate career, I sometimes feel like an imposter as an entrepreneur. I was pretty comfortable at my previous job and knew what I was doing most of the time. As a solo entrepreneur, I have to figure out a lot of things at the same time: acquiring new skills and expertise, prioritizing and making tough decisions. This is very empowering but can be overwhelming at the same time.

WHAT IS ONE QUOTE YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE BY?

Just do it. I created most ideas when I had a personal problem to fix: after being diagnosed with celiac disease, I started the gluten free community glutenfreiheit.org, when I was overwhelmed with my relocation from Berlin to San Francisco in a short period of time, I created the relocation blog kaliforniakati.com and when I was single in Berlin, a friend and I came up with the alpha version of what is now Piña Colada.

WHAT ARE YOU READING RIGHT NOW?

I wish I was reading more. Next up is Trevor Noah’s biography Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood.

ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO INCLUDE?

Thank you! Use the code “STILOBOX” to save $10 off your first Piña Colada group dinner date. Sign up here.

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