TravelJigsaw was a successful online car rental broker, selling to customers in 20 languages, picking up cars in 3000 locations in 75 countries. With ambitious plans to expand they wanted a partner who understood the complexities of the online travel sector. Livingbridge had all the right credentials and, more importantly for TravelJigsaw’s close-knit management team, the people and relationships felt right too. We helped make several key appointments, including a CFO, COO, treasury manager and non-executive director.
A specialist in-house web development team was built to enhance and simplify the user experience, and the increasingly complex management of foreign exchange was reorganized and strengthened. In 2010, just eighteen months after the original investment, TravelJigsaw was acquired by Priceline.com. In that time it had grown online and call centre operations to 38 languages, with customer picking up cars in 4000 locations in 80 countries, serving over half a million customers.
The right fit at the right time
When the four founders of TravelJigsaw first met, they were senior executives at travel company Airtours. Recognising kindred spirits, they left to set up their own company, with startup funding from Mytravel founder David Crossland.
In just four short years, this dynamic team had grown TravelJigsaw into a successful online car rental broker, operating in 75 locations worldwide. The team felt the time was right to take control of the company and provide an exit for David Crossland. They also had ambitious plans to expand, both into new markets and into other online travel services.
There were three potential investors, but for founders Greg Wills, Nicola Moran, Laurence Marlor and Andrew Crossland, only one fitted the bill. Not only did Livingbridge have the relevant sector experience and a proven track record, they had people that TravelJigsaw actually wanted to work with.
Putting it all together
For us, the decision was equally straightforward. Online travel is a fast-changing market, but in TravelJigsaw there was an excellent business model with huge potential for growth, run by a talented, driven and largely complete management team.
“They were one of the strongest management teams we’d seen in the online travel sector. Their international reach and exceptional knowledge of the market ensured they were well positioned to continue expanding rapidly.” Daniel Smith, Livingbridge.
To strengthen the infrastructure for expansion, we began by making key board appointments including a chair, CFO, COO and a leading US based industry analyst as non-executive director – this instantly made TravelJigsaw a business to watch.
At Philip’s urging, the team turned its attention to improving the customer experience. We brought the front end booking system in house and simplified the booking process so that customers could book a car in just 3 to 4 clicks.
We helped the management team to improve operating systems and reorganise the foreign exchange management. And, though TravelJigsaw had originally wanted to diversify and offer a range of travel solutions, we convinced them to remain focused on the car rental market and continue to build a fantastic customer-centric product.
Within 18 months, TravelJigsaw had grown operations to 80 countries and 4000 locations, serving over half a million customers. In 2010 Priceline.com showed interest in acquiring the business. We encouraged the team to not rush the decision and to trust our experience in brokering the right deal. Their trust in us was validated when the sale was completed at a higher offer - thereby realising the true value that this dynamic management team had built up since starting the business.
While the founders are no longer part of TravelJigsaw, they are still very much part of the Livingbridge story - three of the four now work with us as consultants on new travel-based investments.
“Livingbridge demonstrated its understanding of our market from day one. They could also empathise strongly with the challenges we faced as a fast growing business. We knew they were the right partner for us.”
Greg Wills, CEO, TravelJigsaw
Livingbridge back a management buy out
TravelJigsaw benefit from refinancing given strong financial performance and robust controls
Successful sale to priceline.com with founder team working in the market leading US business post transaction
Founders commit to a new Livingbridge investment and take on non-executive roles in the business, passing on their relevant industry experience to the management team