Winter 2009

Feature Story

Your Haas Network

Wayne Lee, BS 93
Chief Financial Officer, Travelzoo
New York/Mountain View


For Wayne Lee, BS 93, one of the biggest pluses of attending the Haas School was its diverse student body, which fostered an appreciation and knowledge of different cultures that has come in surprisingly handy in his finance and accounting work.

“I got to meet a lot of people from across the US and all over the world,” says Lee, CFO of Internet travel company Travelzoo. “I got to learn about different cultures and customs. That has helped tremendously in my career.”

Travel and culture have always figured prominently in Lee’s career. After graduating from Haas, Lee hit the road as a public accountant, visiting clients around the country for Deloitte & Touche and then Ernst & Young.

After four years of auditing, he was drawn by the world of high-tech, just as the dot-com boom was taking off. “So much innovation was happening then, and the new ideas were exciting,” says Lee.

In 1998, Lee earned his CPA license and went to work for a business-to-business enterprise software startup called Allegis. During his five years as controller there, Allegis ballooned from 30 employees to 150.

When the dot-com bubble burst, Lee joined Novellus in San Jose to see how a bigger company operated. “Everything is very process-oriented” at a larger company, observes Lee.

From there, he moved to Travelzoo, a publicly traded dot-com survivor based in New York that was 7 years old at the time. When Lee started in Travelzoo’s Mountain View office as director of finance in 2005, the company was operating in the US and UK. Since then, it’s expanded to Germany, France, and Spain and last year entered Hong Kong, Japan, China, Australia, and Taiwan.

Lee says the exposure to different cultures he experienced at Haas was invaluable during that expansion: “You need that understanding that there are cultural differences; you develop an open mind and awareness.”

That understanding, combined with Lee’s finance and accounting skills, led the company’s founder and CEO, who was also CFO at the time, to hand over that finance position to Lee, then 35. “It was a matter of being at the right place at the right time,” Lee jokes modestly.

That may be so, but his business knowledge didn’t hurt either. Lee says he taps the knowledge that he gained from Haas every day. “I use it all — accounting, finance, tax, management.”  

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Wayne Lee, BS 93