Cheapflights bosses head investment fund

Hugo Burge and David Soskin, respectively Vice-Chairman & Head of International, and CEO of Cheapflights, are leading a small group of private investors in the formation of a specialist internet investment fund.  Apart from funding, investee companies will benefit from Hugo and David’s operational experience gained from building one of the UK’s most successful, profitable and long-lived dotcom companies.

Launched with an initial US$10 million, the fund is called HOWZAT media LLP. 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 in internet media, including, but not exclusively, in the travel sector.  This investment profile reflects Cheapflights’ own successful business model.  Hugo and David will be using their unique experience growing Cheapflights to drive the success of HOWZAT and its underlying investments. It is expected that, augmenting the travel website related expertise of the HOWZAT team, the fund will be in a position to announce that an experienced internet travel executive will shortly join as a member of its advisory committee.

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;  expanded successfully into the USA;  increased sales twenty five times;  and organically grown traffic from 350,000 to over 5.25 million global unique users a month. Cheapflights is also amongst the investors in the fund. 

The new fund is named HOWZAT after the famous cricketing term, which evokes the excitement and enthusiasm of a cricket team when they believe they have achieved a success on the field.

HOWZAT has made its first investment, in Where Are You Now? (“WAYN”) (www.wayn.com) 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.

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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, where they are now and where they are going. WAYN’s revenues have grown tenfold in the last year and is one of the only web 2.0 ventures that generates a profit.

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, which we will run in parallel with Cheapflights.  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.”
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