Kati is passionate about immigration, female founders, and gluten free food. As an early former employee of Airbnb, she left the company in November of 2017 after 6.5 years to pursue her own venture, Piña Colada SF, to create meaningful connections between groups of six like-minded singles over great food.
How did you get to where you are today?
I have always had an entrepreneurial urge and dreamed about starting my own business. However, after finishing business school, I first joined a startup incubator in Germany and then stumbled across a small travel startup from San Francisco: Airbnb. I learned a lot during my 6.5 years at Airbnb, especially working on the launch and growth of Airbnb Experiences. I am applying these learnings to my new business Piña Colada SF by designing better dating experiences for singles who are tired of swiping through creating meaningful offline connections over food.
What was your toughest obstacle and how did you overcome it?
I wanted to move to the US ever since I spent a summer as an intern in DC in 2008. I participated in the Green Card lottery eight times and eventually won it. This enabled me to move to San Francisco on my own terms and allowed me to leave my employer to start my own business.
What’s the key to staying focused & motivated?
User engagement and feedback motivates me the most. At the current stage of Piña Colada, I am almost able to memorize my users, come up with great matches for them and am exciting to hear back from everyone after each dinner.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
When a previous manager and friend asked me whether I am dreaming to live or living the dream, I knew it was time for me to leave Airbnb. Being in my mid 30s -- especially as a woman -- I knew, I had to dive into entrepreneurship now.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to start a new venture?
Trust your gut, listen to your users and do not be too shy to ask your network for help.
How do we get more women leaders?
We need to pay forward and focus especially on women. Whenever someone asks me for a recommendation for a job or a speaker, I nominate at least 50% women, and ideally 100% women. When I hire someone or work with partners, I am also looking for women and women owned and operated businesses. In addition to pushing women, intersectionality is very important, eg. being inclusive of race, age, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status etc. in addition to gender.
What does success mean to you?
Being able to make a living with my passion of connecting people offline over great food: Piña Colada SF.
What are your secrets to productivity?
I am pretty good at getting sh*t done. In the morning, I usually revisit my top three priorities and cross them off the list asap. Even when there are tasks I am not particularly excited about, I turn off the nagging switch in my brain, get started and get them over with.
If you had a life motto, what would it be?
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 is something most people don't know about you?
My fun fact and biggest stroke of luck was winning the Green Card lottery.
Who is your most inspirational female role model & why?
I like Emma Watson and her activism for fellow women across the globe. I also have female mentors who are role models to me in terms of how they started their own businesses and are managing a great work-life-balance.