Skyscanner Got a Marquee New Shareholder But No New Money
Skyscanner CEO Gareth Williams appearing on CNBC last March. / CNBC
Skyscanner has an enviable presence in Europe, and now with Kayak-experienced Sequoia Capital whispering in Skyscanner’s ear, it wants to make a big splash in North America and beyond.
For Scotland-based Skyscanner, which plans on making a big push in the Americas, it’s nice to have some influential Silicon Valley friends.
Gareth Williams, Skyscanner co-founder and CEO, tells Skift in an interview that new partner Sequoia Capital (backer of Kayak, Airbnb, LinkedIn, Google, Yahoo) didn’t provide new funding to Skyscanner, but bought shares from an existing investor.
“It was a secondary transaction,” Williams said. “There aren’t any financial implications.”
Still, a high-profile new partner can be very important.
Skyscanner says it was one of Sequoia’s largest investments to date, although it won’t say what percentage of the company Sequoia now owns. Scottish Equity Partners, which led a $5.2 million Series A round in 2007, remains Skyscanner’s largest investor.
It isn’t clear whether Sequoia bought a portion of Scottish Equity Partners’s shares or if any of the founders cashed out, or a mix of it.
However, with the deal that valued Skyscanner at $800 million, Sequoia’s Michael Moritz takes a new slot on the Skyscanner board, and the company gets access to Silicon Valley tech expertise and other benefits, Williams says. No one has left the board.
Mortiz sees a lot of running room in Skyscanner.
“When, in 2033, someone surveys the universe of online travel companies, 2013 will seem like very early days,” Moritz says. “Today, Skyscanner is just scratching a small portion of the opportunity in travel, and much remains to be done.”
Hotels A New Priority
Williams said 75% of Skyscanner’s revenue comes from flights and 8% from hotels, and he envisions that mix changing as the company puts additional emphasis on hotels, which are expected to grow considerably faster than flights, albeit from a lower base.
In 2012, Skyscanner made about $18 million in pre-tax profits on about $50 million in revenue, and Williams says the company is on track to double those numbers in 2013.
Skyscanner recently acquired Fogg, a hotel metasearch company in Spain, and Williams said Skyscanner was interested in Fogg’s semantic search capabilities, and its ability to direct-connect with hotels, just as Skyscanner is doing with airlines and hotel chains.
The Singapore Decision
Two years ago Skyscanner’s user base was primarily in Europe, but it decided at the time to open operations in Singapore, Williams said, explaining that in the interim 20% of the company’s traffic now comes from Asia-Pacific.
Skyscanner recently opened an office in Miami, and has similar expectations regarding a spike in traffic coming from a push into the U.S., Canada, Mexico and South America.
“We are way behind in the U.S. in comparison to some others,” Williams says, pointing to about 1 million monthly visitors currently from the U.S.
He feels that Skyscanner’s broader international flight coverage will differentiate it from competitors and serve it well in the U.S.
“We have different global coverage,” Williams says. “Our international travel is by definition of better quality.”
Kayak today announced plans to launch websites in eight additional countries in Europe, Asia and North America, and Williams points out that about 80% of Kayak’s traffic is from the U.S.
“I pay more attention to Google, Amazon and Facebook” and their travel activities or intentions in travel than to Kayak, Williams says.
In that regard, unlike Kayak and Trivago, Skyscanner sees an advantage in staying independent, Williams says.
“We are not a naturally acquisitive company,” Williams says. “That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but it is not our normal plan of attack.”
That independence, he argues, makes a difference to users.
“We seek to present every flight itinerary irrespective of commercial agreement,” Williams says.
Skyscanner does have a big, new partner though in Sequoia Capital, although that shouldn’t lead to any skewed flight or hotel search results.