Gus Balbontin

Gus Balbontin

Gus is the former Executive Director and CTO of Lonely Planet. He led a large global restructure that reinstated the company’s financial health and strengthened its ability to manage future disruption. Gus remains heavily involved with the startup scene around the world as a founder, investor and advisor and is the Entrepreneur in Residence at Victoria University. Let Gus take you behind the scenes of the massive digital transformation that has affected all industries in the past two decades. Gus shares the stories of how so many companies mishandled this change and how today’s business leaders can capitalise of the disruption that is still occurring today. Gus is a captivating speaker, with a great ability to take your audience on a journey that is both entertaining and deeply thought-provoking. His common sense will disarm you and his high-energy will prepare your team to take on the world!

Key Points

  • Former Lonely Planet’s Executive Director and CTO
  • Lead a global restructure of the company in 2013/14
  • Currently active in the startup scene as a founder, investor and advisor
  • Director of Design and Innovation agency ‘Roshambo’
  • Entrepreneur in Residence at Victoria University
  • Has developed strong innovation partnerships with companies like Nokia, Apple, Google and others
  • Speaks on a variety of topics relating to business transformation including:
    • Customer and Design centric Product development
    • Digital and business reinvention strategy
    • system and process re-architecture
    • culture transformation, high team performance
    • large IT infrastructure change, Waterfall and Agile challenges
    • built-from-scratch tech development teams globally
    • startup acquisitions



Raised in the Argentinean Patagonia, Gus knew from the age of eight that he was going to travel the world even though he did not know how to make that dream a reality.

Gus earned a travel scholarship at 17 that lead him to the other side of the world in Byron Bay over the course of a year. When he returned home and carrying on his mission to travel, with only a small backpack and a youthful lust for adventure Gus journeyed 40,000kms through South America without spending a cent. Meeting other travellers along the way he discussed amazing journeys and travel guidebook improvements he would share with anyone that would listen.

Eventually, he returned to Australia working in various jobs when he stumbled upon an opportunity for a travel company and he was fated to apply. His lack of experience was no deterrent and against the odds he secured a designer role at Lonely Planet. As far as Gus was concerned, he had landed his dream job, but it was just the beginning.

Fast forward to 2014; Gus completed an MBA, had spent countless hours on planes, progressed through a number of different roles within Lonely Planet and eventually lead the company globally. The company went from books dominating the world of travel information to the internet and a mobile revolution few saw coming.

Gus is a big thinker who doesn’t let ‘life’s hurdles’ get in the way of big solutions. His knowledge and expertise in transformation and digital innovation is genuinely impressive, as he teaches his audience how to navigate the struggles and successes that even great brands in the world experience.

Presentation Topics
  •  Adapt
    Hear the lessons learnt from decades of market disruption and business transformation in the media industries
  • Teams
    How to build high-performing teams and cultures able to deal with disruption and succeed against the odds
  • Customer
    The keys to developing products and services to fix customer problems rather than business problems
  • Operations
    How to break down long-standing systems and developing flexible operation models that provide the freedom and autonomy we need to tackle the ever-changing future
  • Travel talk
    An after-dinner presentation full of travel stories; from moving contraband goods across South American borders, to doing business naked in Finland, to drinking unreasonable amounts of rice wine in China.



Gus was very engaging, funny, but importantly delivered a message that all of us in business must take seriously.
Boutique Financial Planners Group

Gus was energizing, thought provoking and entertaining.
BAE Systems Australia

Very energetic, various age groups in the room could relate.
Data Action Pty. Ltd.

Vibrant, switched on, engaging, energetic, shared his experiences and ability to make his messaging relevant to the Financial Planning industry. Open in taking questions and encouraging audience participation. 
AMP Financial Planners Association Ltd.

Gus delivered workshops for our business with such energy and enthusiasm that everyone walked away from them with positive feedback. His innovative ideas coupled with charismatic personality and engaging delivery meant our staff had the thought-provoking workshops I had requested. Gus was brilliant; I’d love to consider him for future talks at Prospa, and would also happily recommend him to other companies.
Prospa Advance Pty. Ltd.

Gus was brilliant; I’d love to consider him for future talks at Prospa, and would also happily recommend him to other companies.

Thought provoking, Energetic, Innovative, Inspirational, Engaging, Charismatic, Generous with his time engaging with clients.

Gus is an amazing presenter who brings a great deal of energy, enthusiasm and passion for all things change, leadership and common sense!

Quite simply OUTSTANDING! Rated as “best ever” by numerous delegates.
Leagues Club Australia Ltd.

One of the best speakers I have seen in my over 20 years of being in the business!
to A T Productions

Gus was brilliant!!! Really nailed our brief. His style is spot! He delivered a clear message in an entertaining and personable way.
Fastway Couriers

On point, inspiring, energetic, approachable would highly recommend.
SG Fleet Group Limited

His overarching message was particularly relevant given the stage of business growth our business is currently in. Very accommodating and willing to go above and beyond on the night.
Allan Gray

All our delegates loved Gus’ manner and felt that it was a really natural, unscripted presentation.
BT Financial Group

Gus was perfect for our conference.  His topic of disruption was timely as our industry is on the brink of possible disruption.  He was young, edgy, and engaged the entire audience – he did a second more casual session over Dinner and people were genuinely interested in everything he talked about – he could also consider stand up comedy!  Question time after Dinner went for ages – we had to cut so people could get Dessert.  Not only did our younger delegates rave about him but we also had comments from several of our older seasoned high level delegates and sponsors (who all see many presentations each year) that he was the best speaker they had seen in ages. 
Alpha Group

Gus was entertaining yet very definitely got the point across.  Gus' presentation was very on message for the strategies we are encouraging our business owners and operators to embrace.
Ray White

Fantastic speaker on a range of subjects and very personable and engaging. The audience loved him.
Crowne Plaza Adelaide

Gus Balbontin delivers a clear message about focusing on your customers’ needs, not your own. He is engaging, authentic and very ‘light on his feet’. We have had tremendous feedback from conference delegates.
Brown Brothers

Gus' message really set up the day's agenda for us.  It delivered content consistent with what we were trying to achieve for the day.  The idea that you have to be ahead, and not be complacent.
Ray White

Gus delivers a dynamic presentation based on his own experiences. The presentation has a general approach which is suited to all walks of life.  
Mortgage and Finance Association of Australia 

Gus was down to earth, interactive and had some good new ideas / concepts that were presented in a new way. We appreciated his willingness to be fully engaged in the event, spending time with participants, offering assistance and generally being wonderful. We love presenters who are fully ‘there’ for us and Gus was definitely one of them.
Helen Black

Gus was fantastic! Highly engaging and lots of energy. We had many comments on the day about how interesting and engaging he was and also how his presentation was so aligned with our strategy and how much his messages resonated throughout the team. The examples and real life experiences he told really brought to life his key messages.
Lynne Machin
BT Financial Group

I spoke with Leanne from ICMI shortly after our event to advise her how pleased we were with your presentation. The feedback we had was overwhelmingly positive for your speaking spot. In fact, you were the most popular speaker from the entire event, with some delegates even saying they would hear you again next year! You really did a great job for us – thank you!
Head of Corporate Marketing & Communications
Indue 2015 Leadership Forum

Intelligent, Interesting, Inspirational. A great partner to our process that has help broaden our thinking and engage people in debating the opportunities contained in diverse opinions. We will definitely work with Gus again and use him to help sharpen our view of our own potential and refine the possibilities of the market place.

Gus was very accommodating and went out of his way to keep me updated with the flight delays from the Sydney weather. He made every effort to get there as soon as possible. His presentation was excellent and our key stakeholders and the delegates themselves thoroughly enjoyed it. The verbal feedback from delegates throughout the day following his presentation was nothing but fantastic. I’ll definitely be recommending to our team to use him for other events.
BT Financial Group

I must say and I think I speak for all who attended, that we really enjoyed having you with us at our customer forum. It was to be fair a bit of a "left field" decision given we are not in aligned industries, but it turned out to be a fantastic addition to the day because you hit on common themes and most importantly how to think outside of our normal patterns in terms of how we approach the issues that confront us and our customers. I personally was particularly taken with the "your not solving the right problem" theme that you hit on several times, I think that fairly well resonated with most of us.  In terms of rising above our usual thinking and day to day approach and sense check that we are in fact working to solve the real issue (which means identifying it first) rather then trying to find new ways to solve traditional problems which may ultimately be stunting our ability to really evolve our businesses. Also, I would say that your style is very refreshing.  Anecdote based (which is best for retention the NLP guys tell us!) is always the best way to listen and also you were very direct, whilst at the same time showing an immense humility and sharing stories that other more ego driven people might be uncomfortable with, specifically to your modest start in life (which I share by the way) and your travelling in South America too. So I saw a really good balance of the innovative with the modest, the style of delivery and the anecdotal themes and also you told a "story", your "story" which gave it all context. I can tell you that since then, I have been looking at my day to day work and thinking "am I solving the right problem" and with interesting results
Richard Morgan
Chief Commercial Officer - Asia

Your presentation was a high light at our conference. Your passion and enthusiasm was infectious as you addressed the challenges of recapturing our relevancy in society. You provided a number of reference points that my team returned back to on a number of occasions throughout the strategic planning as well as post conference in our leadership team meetings. The innovation chart that you provided has been a helpful tool in my team understanding that we need some 'crazies' as well as 'sensible' people in the innovation process. We are a conservative organisation and as such we attract conservative 'sensible' people but we do have a few 'crazies' amongst us. One thing your presentation has done for us is the 'sensible' people have captured the need to embrace and empower the ideas of the 'crazies' and understand that they need to give appropriate support to assist in the framing and implementation of new ideas. Thanks so much for giving of yourself at our conference. It was a flag in the ground moment that has reinforced my message to step outside of what we have already done and consider new ways that we can address the problems we are trying to solve.
Territory Public Relations Secretary
The Salvation Army

Your ideas were profound and your delivery mesmerising. You have reinvigorated my spirit of curiosity and desire to effect change. Thank you again.
Mark Wist

Gus did brilliantly considering we were running behind on schedule and had some issues with the AV at the venue. His presentation was a little rushed, but I don't think it's because he wasn't prepared or a good presenter - he had a late time slot to contend with so did very well. Also, very appreciative of him spending the afternoon with our members to ensure he had the one on one time.
Entrepreneur's Organisation (EO)

Your presentation and then the workshop went brilliantly thank you. Your key messages were very relevant to an organisation in the midst of major transformation and they flowed freely from all delegates  throughout the remainder of the conference. We received feedback from Managers and everyone that we spoke to found you  engaging and inspirational. I am therefore confident that we will be seeking you out in the future to do more work together.  We also undertake an official feedback survey after each Managers Conference so I will pass on the survey  results when they are to hand. Again, thank you very much!
Queensland Country Credit Union

Your enthusiasm and no BS approach was refreshing in a world of beige.
Bernadette Durrell

Gus’ ability to ignite enthusiasm from the audience coupled with the ability to keep the topic real and authentic brought rave reviews from those who attended. Can’t wait for the next Gus Balbontin instalment.

Gus managed to energise and engage our attendee's right from the start. He discussed his business journey and the major challenges he faced with such as rapidly changing market place. The whole session aligned perfectly and we were surprised at how many of our suppliers asked for his details so they could use him within their own business networks.
General Manager Northern Region
Australian Liquor Marketers


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