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Case study: loveholidays

 

 

 

 

We chat to Alex Francis, CEO of loveholidays, about how we supported its rapid growth by enhancing the operational platform and building out the senior leadership team.

Transcript:

Alex: loveholidays is an online travel agent (OTA). We are the fastest growing holiday company in the UK. The way we’ve packaged holidays is slightly different to everyone else. Most websites require a destination and date before you can do anything else. We allow customers to choose anything they might want – a TripAdvisor rating, a star rating of a hotel or it could be a destination without a date. Our customers can look for anything they want, find the perfect holiday that suits them, have a lovely time, and hopefully, come back and book again.

Daniel: Livingbridge has a lot of experience in online travel businesses. We're currently invested in Sykes Cottages and previous investments include On the Beach and Rentalcars.
All three of those have grown to be significantly larger than the point that we invested. We first met loveholidays in 2014, and then we invested in the business in 2018. They'd been funded originally by a long list of angel investors and Alex and the team felt that it was time to tidy up that shareholder base and also take on a private equity investor who could help them with the next phase of their journey.

Alex: The shareholders wanted to get money off the table, the management wanted to derisk so the private equity route was probably the most sensible for us at that point in
time. The process for us was relatively rapid. We looked at four private equity houses, and Livingbridge shone through.

Daniel: At the point that we invested, loveholidays had a huge amount of momentum already and that momentum has continued. What we've really done to help is help
them to keep pace with themselves by evolving their leadership team and structure so that they can manage the growth that they're achieving. Livingbridge's Growth Acceleration team has within it a talent team, and they've helped loveholidays in two ways: first of all to think about how their organisational design should change as they grow at pace, and then secondly, how they go about filling in the roles that they need to hire.

Alex: We've brought a new CTO (chief technical officer) who we found with their help and he's excellent. We’ve got a new marketing officer (CMO). We've found a people director, and a number of probably not so senior roles, but lower management roles, that are, again, very important to the business. Other areas that they've helped us with are our marketing. They've certainly showed us ways that we might not have thought of beforehand and just the general way to run a business.

Daniel: In consumer, and in travel specifically, what we look for is businesses that are using technology to outcompete their rivals in their particular market, and loveholidays is really the perfect example of that in the UK beach holiday market. Its technology and the culture that it has around that, and how it uses its tech to better serve its customers, is better than everybody else. We've helped loveholidays with their organisational roadmap, shining a light on the road ahead for the business and helping it to think about how they need to behave when they are significantly larger. Topics, such as culture, how they better attract and retain the best technology talent, and what needs to change within the business in order for them to do that - there’ been more of those softer issues with loveholidays. They're an incredibly competent group of people and get on with a lot of things without any help from us. It's just the occasional bit of advice and experience that we add here and there.

Alex: The business is much more mature. The functionality of a board level is very different and better, and strategically, we look at things in a very different way now.

Daniel: We're now 18 months into the investment. The business has pretty much doubled in size in the last 18 months. loveholidays beat their plan in the first year, and they've beat their plan during this second year that they've just completed now too. They're performing very, very well, and we're talking to them about exactly what's next for them.

Alex: For an entrepreneur when they're selling a majority stake to a private equity house, at the back of their mind, there's always going to be that fear of, "Will they cause us a problem? Will I be happy working with them?" Livingbridge really has been the private equity house that I'd be happy to deal with in the future as well.

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