Travelstart, the South African-based Online Travel Agency (OTA) with offices throughout Africa and subsidiaries in the Middle East and Turkey, today announced a US$40 million funding from Amadeus Capital Partners, the global technology investor. With the new funding comes a strategic partnership with Africa’s largest mobile telecommunications provider MTN [JSE: MTN] which has a subscriber base of more than 230 million. The funding will be used for Travelstart’s expansion and to solidify the company’s position as the biggest OTA player on that continent.
Africa is considered the last frontier in online travel. In most developed countries Internet and mobile travel purchases now represent the lion’s share of the online travel market while in Africa web-based travel companies share less than 5% of the entire market.
“Travelstart celebrates 10 years in Africa this year,” says Travelstart CEO Stephan Ekbergh, “In that time our in-house team has built a robust platform to serve consumers and significantly lower fares for all travellers. We take all the complexities out of travel for both travellers and suppliers and solve real problems that only exist in the most diverse of markets.”
The investment is the largest of its kind on the African continent in Turkey and the Middle East, “Africa alone is a US$50 billion travel market growing between 3% and 5% annually. The investment from Amadeus Capital and the MTN partnership is a fantastic fit for our company as we share the same ideology and long term commitment,” said Ekbergh.
Amadeus Capital Partners’ Andrea Traversone will join Travelstart’s Board of Directors as part of this financing. “The market potential for Travelstart is huge and the company is already a tour de force in emerging markets. They are one of the most profitable e-commerce companies on the African continent and with this new round of funding Travelstart will be able to fast-track its already rapid growth. We’re excited to spearhead this round and to see the company’s continued growth and success,” said Traversone.
Herman Singh, Group Chief Digital Officer, MTN, added: “MTN’s vision is one of delivering a Bold New Digital World and this investment in partnership with Amadeus is a key step on a multi-year journey to achieve that promise. It strongly complements our existing investments in online and e-commerce in retail, marketplaces, classifieds and travel. This investment in the largest multi-national player in a very large and rapidly growing market positions MTN as an enabler of exciting new leading edge businesses. The MTN footprint, subscriber base, payment capability, network and brand awareness strongly underpin the synergies already being manifested in our other investments. We look forward to working with Amadeus and the Travelstart team to accelerate the business development of this adjacency.”
Founded in 1999 in Sweden as the true pioneer of online travel, Travelstart’s African businesses were spun off in 2010 to focus on the emerging market opportunity, where it has been growing profitably since and now has 75% market share.
Travelstart addresses the complexities in the African travel market by directly accessing local supply, solving language and currency problems as well as the diverse plethora of payment methods. In addition to its first class technology platform which meets the need of travel bookers on mobile and desktop, Travelstart prides itself on delivering an exceptional service experience to its customers.
Travelstart provides travellers with real-time access to thousands of flights from all carriers and serves 2 million monthly users in 16 countries. Travelstart has been in South Africa since 2006 and has offices in Cape Town, Dubai, Istanbul, Lagos, Cairo and Dar es Salaam. For more information, please visit http://www.travelstart.com
About Amadeus Capital Partners
Amadeus Capital Partners is a global technology investor. Since its inception in 1997, the firm has raised over $1bn for investment and backed more than 100 companies in the software, mobile, internet, cyber security and medical technology sectors. The investment team is based in India, South Africa, Sweden, UK and USA, has deep experience in technology and invests in high-growth companies from early stage to pre-IPO.
Major businesses built by Amadeus include Lastminute.com, the online travel and experience company, the CSR (LSE:CSR), a connectivity, audio, imaging and location semiconductor company; Solexa, the developer of next generation genetic analysis systems, merged into Illumina (ILMN) to create the world leader in gene-sequencing technology, Octo Telematics, the global leader in insurance telematics services acquired by Renova Group; and Transmode (ST:TRMO), an optical networking solutions business. For more information, please visit http://www.amadeuscapital.com
About The MTN Group
Launched in 1994, the MTN Group is a multinational telecommunications group, operating in 22 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The MTN Group is listed on the JSE Securities Exchange in South Africa under the share code: “MTN.” As of 30 September 2015, MTN recorded 233 million subscribers across its operations in Afghanistan, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Republic, Iran, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of Congo (Congo Brazzaville), Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zambia. “