Executive Education Participant

Cyril Delattre

SEP ’18
General Manager, Web3 Marketplace, Protocol Labs
Cyril Delattre, SEP
Cyril Delattre, SEP
Ultimately we want the marketplace to be user-owned.
July 3, 2023

When Cyril Delattre helped launch Airbnb Experiences in 2016, he and his team of designers, technologists, and film experts created thousands of short videos featuring each host across the world that signed up. They believed capturing hosts’ personalities would help make the launch a success. It’s an example of the extra effort needed when starting a new endeavor, he says. These types of tactics often don’t scale, but they’re critical early steps.

Delattre has brought this philosophy with him to his current work at Protocol Labs, a Stanford-founded startup in the Web3 space. The company creates technologies to build a more robust, efficient, and decentralized internet. His most recent project is creating a marketplace called Mosaia where Web3 Builders can get access to service providers such as Blockchain Devshops or Cryptoeconomics Labs to grow and scale. Each week, he has dozens of conversations with startup CEOs to help him hone in on their unique, specific needs and quickly and efficiently match startups with the very best service providers.

“The best way to build something new is to have these types of conversations,” Delattre says. “We spend a lot of time with users so we can help these passionate start-up founders to become successful entrepreneurs.”

Given your background, it seems appropriate that you would work at a global travel company like Airbnb.

I grew up in France and lived in a dozen different countries, including Australia, India, Kenya, Morocco, and several countries in Europe. My wife also lived her whole life abroad. I love The Art of Travel from Alain de Botton. This book changed my perspective about why we travel and opportunities to make each trip more memorable.

You spent almost seven years at Airbnb. Tell us about your work there.

I joined Airbnb at a time when it was a much smaller company. I was living in Paris at the time and was head of operations for Europe before helping to launch Airbnb Experiences. It was a great place to learn and grow. The way the company scaled is fascinating. It’s a business that built a strong system that goes beyond creating a good product. Products are often copied, whereas ecosystems are not. For me, what makes a business thrive and outgrow its competitors is building this type of strong system.

“Because we believe in decentralization, we don’t want to be a company of thousands.”

What was it like to work on Experiences, and why did you leave Airbnb?

Experiences was a big bet. It was building a second business that has the potential to be even larger than the core business. The idea was that being able to learn to make croissants with a baker in Paris, for example, would then inspire you to go to Paris. I had a diverse team with different backgrounds and had to bring them together. I also don’t come from a creative background. So I took classes in photography and videography to really understand what makes a great video and photo. We dogfooded the experiences and tested hundreds of them ourselves. I traveled to L.A. and spent time with a Foley artist in his studio learning how to recreate movie and TV show sound effects like boot stomping and glass breaking. The artist filmed a group of us performing a script, and we added sounds.

All the time spent on the ground was critical to figure out how to scale this operation without making compromises on quality and speed while inspiring the team to deliver work they are proud of. I left Airbnb at the beginning of 2022 because working to decentralize the internet was something very appealing for me, and the web3 industry was the natural place to go to address these challenges. At the time I reached out to almost everyone in my network familiar with web3 ecosystems to figure out what was the most exciting part of the industry before deciding on a next step.

While in Paris you joined the Stanford Executive Program. Why, and what did you learn?

I wanted to learn more about the culture of Silicon Valley and from leaders of different industries. What Stanford does very well is put together people with different backgrounds to help each other learn. I built so many friendships. For example, Francesca Whalen, another SEP alum, has been a strong mentor and opened doors within the Web3/crypto industry.

This was key in my decision to join Protocol Labs. I had the opportunity to collaborate on exciting projects with David Glick [SEP ’18], who runs a VC fund in London focusing on creative tech, and I’ve been invited to join his team of advisors. Part of the benefit, too, was access to one-on-one executive coaching. That helped me become a better leader, especially during times of adversity like the COVID crisis. Value comes from constantly sharing ideas with faculty members and the community, as well as the culture of accountability, which is a key focus of the program.

Part of your journey involved relocating to California from Paris. How has that been?

In 2017 while I was still at Airbnb, I was based in Paris but traveling to San Francisco one week per month. After I got married, in 2019, my wife and I decided to relocate to California. We were both working in tech, both of our companies had a strong footprint in California, and it was a natural place for us to start a new chapter. It was challenging because we had our first child during COVID in L.A. and we were far from our families when borders were closed. Grandparents missed the birth of their grandson, and Zoom is not really great for bonding with a baby!

Protocol Labs’ tagline is “building the next generation of the internet.” Why is that important work?

Right now, there are many challenges with the way the internet is working. One, it’s heavily centralized and under just a few companies. High levels of centralization can slow innovation. Stanford alum Juan Benet [BS ’10, MS ’11] founded the company and is the CEO. We’re an R&D lab, and we’re building protocols decentralizing data storage and the data economy.

What are some of the company’s products or services?

Filecoin is the largest decentralized storage network, so a hyperlocal way for businesses and individuals to store data. We also made an open-source protocol called IPFS that makes it possible to efficiently distribute high volumes of data and leads to more resilient networks. It was used during the referendum in Catalonia in order to prevent the Spanish government from blocking voting-related information from citizens. We’re continuing to launch new protocols, too, ones that can help people better access, store, and protect data.

What are some of the challenges you’re facing?

Because we believe in decentralization, we don’t want to be a company of thousands. Rather, we want a large ecosystem of hundreds of startups that collaborate. We’re creating a community of startups that are each focused on a very specific product. However, it’s complex to coordinate. Another big challenge is access to expertise. When you build a large company, you can hire the best experts to work for you. That’s more difficult for startups. To solve that, we’ve seen startups leverage AI tech like ChatGPT to build faster, use freelancers that can bring niche expertise, or hire specialized service providers that have expertise in web3.

What excites you the most about your current work?

The opportunity to help experts focus on their craft. Having hired and built teams of creatives, I’ve noticed they spend a lot of time working on processes, tracking budgets in spreadsheets, and providing reports. It’s not exciting for them, and the reason they quit their job and go back to being an on-demand freelancer. We give them back time to do what they love. Speed is also very important for them — through Mosaia, we match startups with the best providers quickly. Ultimately we want the marketplace to be user-owned.

Anything else we should know about you?

I did a lot of judo as a kid. As a teenager, probably 30 to 35 hours of judo a week. It’s helped me in my career. Having the right mindset during competitions has impacted how I respond today when I face business challenges. Also, the discipline I learned in judo, not to quit.

Photos by Cara Robbins

Cyril Delattre, SEP
Cyril Delattre
SEP ’18
General Manager, Web3 Marketplace, Protocol Labs
Palo Alto, CA, USA
Stanford Executive Program, ’18
Sciences Po, ’10
ESCP Business School, ’08
Professional Experience
General Manager, Web3 Marketplace, Protocol Labs
Cofounder, Mosaia
Airbnb Experiences Head of Trip Product Standards, Airbnb
Current Profile