Hugo Burge and David Soskin, respectively Vice-Chairman & Head of International, and CEO of Cheapflights Ltd ("Cheapflights"), have led a small group of private investors, including Cheapflights Ltd, in the formation of a specialist internet investment fund. Apart from funding, investee companies will benefit from Hugo and David’s operational experience. This has been gained from building one of the most successful, profitable and long-lived flights search and comparison dotcoms in the UK and also one of the fastest growing flight search and comparison dotcoms in the US.
Launched with an initial US$10 million, the fund is called HOWZAT media LLP ("HOWZAT") named after the famous term used in the English sport of cricket. This evokes the excitement and enthusiasm of a cricket team when they believe they have achieved a success on the field.
The new fund has a clearly defined focus: to identify and invest in start-up and early-stage internet media companies that are re-inventing the way in which consumers access and use online information. It will seek out global opportunities (that is based anywhere) in internet media, including, but not exclusively, in the travel sector. This target investment profile reflects Cheapflights' own successful business model. Hugo and David will be using their unique dotcom management experience in growing Cheapflights internationally to drive the success of HOWZAT and its underlying investments.
In 2000, Hugo Burge and David Soskin co-ordinated a group of private investors in a Cheapflights management buy-in. Profitable since launch, Cheapflights was an early media internet company and a pioneer in its sector. It revolutionised the way consumers research and purchase flights and other travel products. Since 2000, Hugo and David have built the company from a three person operation into a leading business in its sector; increased sales twenty five times; and organically grown traffic from 350,000 to over 3 million UK unique users a month. Almost certainly uniquely for a UK dotcom management, they have expanded successfully into the USA where traffic has grown in only thee years to 2.5 million unique users a month.
HOWZAT has made two investments already: Where Are You Now? ("WAYN") the world’s largest travel and lifestyle social network. HOWZAT is investing alongside a syndicate of investors brought together in an $11m Series 'A' Funding, led by Esprit Capital Partners; also the fund has invested in Zoomf.com a London Residential Property Sales & Rental search and information site zoomf.com/.
Commenting, Hugo Burge said: "HOWZAT offers Cheapflights and the fund's other investors an opportunity to invest in innovative online media businesses. It is a time of rapid change and opportunity in the internet. There is a lot of potential in the new market for those who know not only how to spot the winners, but also how to develop them successfully, both strategically and operationally."
He continued: "We have put together a strong team to support HOWZAT. Those involved include Jo Allen and Sascha Hausmann from StellantPartners who bring with them considerable corporate finance skills. David and I are pleased to be able to use our insights and operational expertise gained at Cheapflights more widely."
Jerome Touze of WAYN added: “We are very excited at the prospect of tapping into the management expertise provided by Howzat and the additional IT resources from Cheapflights. Cheapflights pioneered the travel price search business model and is one of the most successful, long-lived and profitable travel sites. Howzat's management experience in increasing site traffic and customer loyalty will be a huge bonus in helping WAYN build on its initial success."
Rod Dowler, Zoomf Chief Executive added, “HOWZAT is an ideal source of funding for us. Not only is HOWZAT focused on dotcoms such as ours, its management has had hands-on experience of developing and growing Cheapflights - one of the UK's most successful vertical search sites, both in the UK and in the USA. They are a perfect partner for us."
NB. WAYN announced in November that Cheapflights Directors David Soskin and Hugo Burge had made an investment in WAYN. This investment was actually completed by HOWZAT media LLP, which David and Hugo are investors in.
Cheapflights Ltd: Pioneering independent online travel price comparison since 1996, Cheapflights.co.uk has become the UK's leading international internet flight search company, with 5.25 million monthly global unique users. Profitable since 1996, it is the only British flight search comparison website that has also successfully launched in the USA where it uses the Cheapflights.com domain.
Cheapflights introduced ‘pay-per-click’ to the UK in 2000 and its advertisers read like a Who’s Who of the travel industry: they include Thomas Cook, ebookers, British Airways and Opodo as well as hundreds of specialists such as Iglu.com and STA.
In the ten years since its inception, Cheapflights.co.uk has been voted among the leading travel websites by national broadsheets including appearing in The Sunday Times Microsoft TechTrack 100 fastest-growing technology companies in the UK for the past three years. Amongst other awards it also won the prestigious 2006 'Best Trade Website' at the British Travel Awards.
Cheapflights is the definitive air travel search and comparison website. Notwithstanding its outstanding travel deals it also provides up to the minute breaking news and a weekly newsletter with exclusive Cheapflights user offers:
StellantPartners GmbH was formed by Sascha Hausmann and Jo Allen and focuses on providing M&A and strategic consultancy services to companies involved in the travel, internet and hospitality markets. These industries are currently facing many challenges and opportunities, made more complicated by the speed at which new entrants and products enter the market. StellantPartners has a broad and deep understanding of these markets and the dynamics underlying them and is able to capitalise on this knowledge when providing M&A and strategic advice.
Zoomf is the creation of Arclight Media Media Technology. Zoomf’s founding team are experts in very relevant fields. CEO Rod Dowler offers decades of technical leadership, having been a KPMG partner, leading the European High Technology Practice. Dr David Romano-Critchley is CTO and a one-man technology wizard, part of his experience was work with the innovative UK search engine, Espotting. Mike Carter is Business Development director and is a veteran of online advertising, having founded his own company and worked for a raft of companies including MIVA, Ask Jeeves and Touch local. Ivailo Jordanov, who is Product Director was Development Manager for Espotting Media and led the technology roll-out across eight European countries.
Where Are You Now?
WAYN is the world’s largest travel and lifestyle social network. HOWZAT is investing alongside a syndicate of investors brought together in an $11m Series 'A' Funding, led by Esprit Capital Partners. WAYN was co-founded by Jerome Touze, Peter Ward and Mike Lines, and has grown from 45,000 members in March 2005 to nearly 7 million members from all over the world. WAYN is the largest travel and lifestyle membership community in the world and is the only social network that allows its members to keep track of its members from around the world and make new friends based on where they have been and where they are now.