The XOJET 10: Kylie Wright-Ford, Founder, TouchInvest.com
Considering that Kylie Wright-Ford holds a MBA and studied at the University of Oxford (where she helped launch Clickstream Technologies, later sold to Microsoft) and then went on to senior management roles at Goldman Sachs JBWere and Gerson Lehrman Group (where as co-head of global research she oversaw a team of 400 professionals), you might be surprised to learn that she grew up on a sheep farm in Australia!
That might seem a long way from home, now that Kylie lives in Bronxville, New York, but she doesn’t mind flying halfway around the world to visit her homeland. On the contrary, traveling provides her with inspiration for her newest venture: TouchInvest.com, which provides community and content to help people make investment decisions about tangible assets such as art, wine, collectibles, gems and precious metals. In the middle of preparing for another trip down under, Kylie took time to discuss her love of international finance, thoroughbred horses, and her most precious gems, her one-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son.
1. Growing up, what was your first dream destination?
One of the few TV shows I watched while growing up in rural Australia was Disneyland, so California became my first dream destination. I finally got there when I was 20 and studying at U.C. Santa Barbara.
2. Tell us about the first time you flew on a plane?
I was 16 and had convinced my parents that I needed to be part of an exchange program in Japan. The feeling of launching into the night sky above Sydney and watching the lights disappear behind me was a memorable sensation. That trip kicked off my wanderlust forever.
3. How many days a year do you travel now, and what percentage is for business?
I travel around 90 days a year now, and it’s about 50% business and 50% trips home to Australia. I just started a company, TouchInvest.com, and my business travel is a lot of fun— Art Basel in Miami; Siena, Italy, for the Palio; Saratoga for the thoroughbred races.
4. When you travel for business, what’s most important to you?
The ambience in the aircraft. An amazing crew can turn even a 12-hour flight into a pleasure. I am a very relational person, so a crew member who clearly doesn’t care for people can ruin my day. It doesn’t have to be that way.
5. What’s the biggest difference between how you travel for leisure and how you travel for business?
When I’m traveling for pleasure, the connecting flights could lead to an interesting adventure, so I welcome them. When I’m traveling for business, I’ll go with any airline I have to as long as I avoid a connecting flight! So far I’ve never been stuck in an airport in a random destination while trying to get to a business meeting, and I intend to keep that track record.
6. What was your most luxurious travel experience?
From a destination perspective, it was probably a stay at the Soneva Fushi in the Maldives. It was incredibly luxurious from an environmental perspective. From a hotel perspective, the 7-star Versace hotel on the Gold Coast in Australia was memorable, as was Le Meridien in Bali. From the transportation perspective, flying Air Lauda (former F1 driver Niki Lauda’s private airline) to Vienna was a great experience. The online casino was a novelty and the champagne flowed freely.
7. How have your attitudes about travel changed over the years?
We used to pack a bag and get on the plane in a spontaneous fashion without any pre-planning beyond the destination. I now savor the research and study the destination extensively, which adds dimension to my trips.
8. Most important aspect of travel in terms of your business needs today?
I think the airport experience and ease of transition between flight and ground transport has become really important to me. I recently discovered Uber as an incredibly effective car service and use them for business trips wherever I can.
9. How do you spend your time in flight?
For business travel, I buy about five magazines about esoteric topics that could lead to a creative idea about my own business and read them cover to cover. When traveling for pleasure, there is more walking the aisles than I’m comfortable with these days as I have a one-year-old daughter, but otherwise, I like planning my next trip.
10. What is your dream destination now?
Cape Town, South Africa. We have good friends there, and it’s always been on my short list of destinations.
THE XOJET LIST
Favorite city: Vienna. I love horses, so the Lippizaners are a big draw for me. As is the music, the history and the large amount of sausage and Schnitzel I can consume.
Favorite hotel: Bryant Park Hotel in NYC. It’s architecturally magnificent and edgy inside. The bar in the basement is also great.
Favorite restaurant: Jules in the East Village, St. Marks Place, New York. It has live jazz every night, is super small and cozy, and the food and wine is great.
Favorite resort: The Homestead, in Virginia, is my favorite resort now that we travel as a family. It exudes hospitality and is reminiscent of opulent days past.
Favorite spa: I’m not really a spa person, I’m happier with a cheap and cheerful pedicure at my local nail salon in Bronxville if I want to be pampered.
Favorite publication(s) to read on a plane: Monocle.
Favorite travel device: I love my Kindle. It makes those long customs queues seem to breeze by.
Favorite luggage (maker): I am the anti-snob of luggage and buy no-brand suitcases that can be thrown out after one too many drops on the tarmac. But my “Never Full” by LVMH is a savior for carrying on a bunch of unplanned items for the family.