Gus Balbontin

Gus Balbontin

Former Executive Director and CTO of Lonely Planet The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do. Gus Balbontin is one of them. He’s an investor, entrepreneur, founder and explorer who has spent two decades helping businesses adjust strategies, products, services, culture and individuals to better deal with rapid and regular changing markets. As the former Executive Director and CTO of Lonely Planet, Gus led one of the most loved brands in the world through significant disruption. Easier said than done, trust me. Gus remains heavily involved with the startup scene around the world as a founder, investor and advisor. In his spare time, he’s the Entrepreneur in Residence at Victoria University. Gus will delve deep into the digital transformation of the past two decades, sharing stories of how so many companies mishandled this seismic shift and how today’s business leaders can capitalise on the disruption that’s still occurring today. Gus is an energetic and engaging speaker who has a preternatural ability to take your audience on a journey that is both entertaining, thought-provoking and inspiring.  © ICMI Speakers & Entertainers

Key Points

  • Current board member of Start Up Victoria, investor, founder and explorer.
  • Founder and Director of Creative Studio
  • Entrepreneur in Residence at Victoria University.
  • Former Lonely Planet’s Executive Director and CTO.
  • Led Lonely Planet through significant product, system and cultural transformation.
  • Has developed strong innovation partnerships with companies like Nokia, Apple, Google X, Tennis Australia, and others.
  • Speaks on a variety of topics relating to business transformation including:
    • Change and change management
    • Customer centric organisations
    • Disrupted markets
    • Business transformation
    • Developing trust internally and with customers
    • Innovation and the art of action
    • Creativity and how to unlock it
    • Team building and how to build high performance
    • Creating cultures of innovation
    • Large IT infrastructure change, Waterfall and Agile challenges
    • Building resilience or adaptability
    • Futurism and trends
    • Built-from-scratch global tech teams
    • Startup acquisitions and early stage funding



Born and bred in wild Patagonia, Gus Balbontin never allowed his small town and humble beginnings get in the way of his big dreams. A healthy disrespect for authority and a severe case of fomo (fear of missing out) landed him in Australia at the young age of 17.

By the age of 22 he had dropped out of uni, hitchhiked South America, set up his first business and landed his dream job at Lonely Planet. Fast forward a few more years and he was leading the company globally, working with companies such as Google X, Nokia and Amazon on the latest technology, creative cultures and high performing teams.
Seeking a change from corporate life, he hung up his boots as the Executive Director and CTO of Lonely Planet and decided to move back to his entrepreneurial roots, becoming an investor, founder and mentor across the start-up ecosystem in Melbourne. He loves sharing a story, he loves even more, knowing those stories make a difference to people, helping them in their own business and life.
Over the last 3 years Gus has presented to audiences of 10 across regional Australia and New Zealand, to audiences of 10,000 across North America, Europe, South America and Asia. To him there is no difference. Small, large, private, public, board room to mail room, his lessons hit a chord, his simplicity disarms you, his energy infects you and his counterintuitive way of looking at the world will motivate you to do things different.

Often thought as futurist, not because he predicts the future, but instead because he helps you focus on what you can control to deal with any future. Still want to talk trends? Sure! He loves as much as the next person trying to imagine a world run by AI, but he warns that getting too distracted with future guesses will only take time away from you and your company to actually do something about the future.

Presentation Topics
  • Technology trends done correctly, with less speculation and more action, doing something now about the future that will inevitably unfold.
  • The challenges of corporate momentum and breaking traditional, repetitive business processes in favour of adaptable and more entrepreneurial models.
  • The importance of focusing on the customer and not business problems and the dangers of falling in love with your product and service.
  • Cultures of trust, psychological safety, autonomy and action, what does it take to treat everyone like an adult and feel responsible for change.
  • Transforming industries, businesses, departments, teams and individuals to become more adaptable and succeed in rapid changing markets.
  • The fabric of team building and how to achieve high performance.
  • The importance of understanding self and how businesses start with us. It is how we behave that eventually translates in business performance and changing this the single most important piece of change.
  • Innovation in simple terms is moving from an unsolved problem to a solved problem. Practical tools to help humans turn the fluffy term of innovation into immediate action, ensuring everyone across the business or industry understands innovation is inclusive, all of us have a role to play.
  • How our faulty brain is wired to hunter & gather and what we need in today’s rapid changing world is often to go against our own instinct.
  • The challenges of establishing processes, systems and infrastructure in companies that are traditional and too slow.



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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