FlixMobility Completes New Funding Round Led by TCV and Permira

  • Funding round completed with strategic investments from TCV, Permira and existing investors
  • Financing will fuel expansion of FlixBus network in the United States as well as market-entries in South America and Asia and the rollout of FlixTrain
  • FlixCar ride sharing brand to launch in 2020 to complement existing bus and train networks in EU

New York/Munich (July 18, 2019) – FlixMobility GmbH, the parent company of global mobility platforms FlixBus and FlixTrain, has announced the completion of its Series F funding round co-led by TCV and Permira, two of the largest growth equity firms backing private and public technology companies. Long-time investor HV Holtzbrinck Ventures also participated in the round through a joint co-investment with European Investment Bank, providing local expertise and expert knowledge to scale the business further. The newest FlixMobility investors join existing shareholders including General Atlantic, a leading global growth equity firm, and Silver Lake, a global leader in technology investing, who have helped the company rapidly grow from start-up to global mobility provider.

The equity raised will be used for global expansion as well as the launch of new FlixMobility products. FlixBus is targeting market leadership in the United States and will launch into new global markets in South America and Asia in 2020. For the FlixTrain brand, the investment will help expansions into new EU countries following the liberalization of the European rail market in 2020 in addition to growing the product within the German market where FlixTrain already operates multiple cross-country routes. Furthermore, the investment will be used to launch FlixCar, a ride sharing platform that will complement the existing FlixBus and FlixTrain networks.

“What began in 2013 as a German startup has become a powerful mobility platform that continues to change the way millions of people travel across Europe and the United States,” said Jochen Engert, CEO and founder of FlixMobility. “Through our strategic partnership with TCV and Permira, which have decades of experience and a portfolio of world-leading technology companies, we will accelerate our growth to offer smart and green travel to more people across the world via the FlixBus, FlixTrain and soon FlixCar brands, while strengthening our position in existing markets.”

“We could not be more excited to partner with Jochen, André, Daniel and the entire FlixMobility team,” said John Doran, General Partner at TCV. “We have been following their success for a number of years, and greatly admire what they have been able to achieve over this time. TCV’s strategy is to back companies led by visionary founders and offering superb value propositions to its customers and partners – we believe FlixMobility does exactly that.”

“We are very excited to join the ride with FlixMobility and its founders in the future. They have written an impressive success story and transformed the company into a leading global mobility platform for mid-and-long distance travel. With our proven expertise in the technology sector, we look forward to supporting FlixMobility’s strong management team in the next phase of the growth strategy focusing on further internationalization, acquisitions and the expansion of the train offering”, said Stefan Dziarski, Partner at Permira. “With the investment in FlixMobility, the Permira funds underline their position as one of the largest technology investors in Europe. FlixMobility – with its high growth rates and global footprint – is a perfect fit for the new Permira Growth Opportunities Fund, focusing on larger minority investments in our core areas of expertise.”

Both John Doran, General Partner at TCV, and Stefan Dziarski, Partner at Permira, will join FlixMobility’s Board of Directors.

From German Startup to World-Leading Mobility Player
Revolutionizing European long-distance travel since 2013, FlixMobility is a provider of convenient and affordable intercity travel to millions of passengers, with 45 million people using FlixBus and FlixTrain in 2018 alone, through 350,000 daily connections to over 2,000 destinations. FlixMobility is the undisputed market leader across Europe and expanded to the US in 2018 for service to a total of 29 countries. The company works with more than 300 independent bus and train partners and has created over 10,000 jobs in the industry.

In 2018, FlixTrain was launched, bringing the FlixBus model to the rail industry in Germany. In 2019, the company also applied for rail tracks in Sweden and France in preparation of expanding FlixTrain with the upcoming liberalization of the European railway.

Approximately 1,300 employees work for FlixBus and FlixTrain within 19 offices in 17 countries. By working with employees on the ground within FlixBus markets, the company is able to consistently adapt to both the market and local customer needs.

Options for Every Traveler: The Launch of FlixCar

With FlixBus and FlixTrain, FlixMobility offers an ever-expanding and integrated network, enabling people to plan flexible and customizable journeys. In an effort to bring smart and green mobility to even more people – and to offer even more door-to-door connections – FlixMobility is preparing the launch of FlixCar, a car-pooling service perfectly suited to expand the network offering to even more destinations.

“From the very beginning, we have positioned ourselves not as a bus or transportation company, but rather a mobility provider: we offer smart, affordable and climate friendly travel, whether by bus, train or – soon – ride sharing,” said Engert. “FlixCar is a logical next step in extending our network so that we can enable even more people to experience the world. On average, the occupancy rate for cars is a mere 1.5. Ride sharing is a great way to split fuel costs and lower your impact on the climate.”

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Brittany Posey, FlixBus
brittany.posey@flixbus.com
+49 (0)89 235 135 132

Katja Gagen, TCV
kgagen@tcv.com
+1 (415) 690 6689

About FlixMobility

FlixMobility is a young mobility provider, offering new alternatives for convenient, affordable and environmentally-friendly travel via the FlixBus and FlixTrain brands. Thanks to a unique business model and innovative technology, the startup has quickly established Europe’s largest long-distance bus network and launched the first green long-distance trains in 2018 as well as a pilot project for all-electric buses in Germany and France. Since 2013, FlixMobility has changed the way over 100 million people have traveled throughout Europe and created thousands of new jobs in the mobility industry. In 2018, FlixMobility launched FlixBus USA to bring this new travel alternative to the United States.

From locations throughout Europe and the United States, the FlixTeam handles technology development, network planning, operations control, marketing & sales, quality management and continuous product expansion. The daily scheduled service and green FlixBus fleet is managed by bus partners from regional SMEs, while FlixTrain operates in cooperation with private train companies. Through these partnerships, innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and a strong international brand meet the experience and quality of tradition. The unique combination of technology start-up, e-commerce platform and classic transport company has positioned FlixMobility as a leader against major international corporations, permanently changing the European mobility landscape. Further company news and pictures can be found in the newsroom.


About TCV

Founded in 1995, TCV provides capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry. Since inception, TCV has invested over $11 billion in more than 250 companies and has helped guide CEOs through more than 120 IPOs and strategic acquisitions. TCV has deployed over $1.5 billion in Europe. TCV’s investments include Airbnb, Believe Digital, Dollar Shave Club, EmbanetCompass, ExactTarget, Expedia, Facebook, Fandango, GoDaddy, HomeAway, LinkedIn, Netflix, RELEX Solutions, Rent the Runway, Sitecore, Splunk, Spotify, Sportradar, The Pracuj Group, TourRadar, WorldRemit, and Zillow. TCV is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, with offices in New York and London. For more information about TCV, including a complete list of TCV investments, visit https://www.tcv.com.


Toast: Building a System of Record for the Restaurant Industry

We believe that many SMB and vertical SaaS companies are starting to exhibit platform characteristics. Some of these companies are beginning to build consumer and supplier networks that are dramatically expanding the SaaS model.

Toast is a pioneer in the space, powering restaurants of all sizes with a technology platform that helps them streamline operations, increase revenue and deliver amazing guest experiences. No one lights up a room on these topics more than Tim Barash, Chief Business Officer and CFO at Toast. I’m also excited to welcome Tim as an Executive Advisor to TCV, where he will be working with TCV portfolio companies and helping us to assess new opportunities.

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Dave: Tim, welcome to TCV, and thanks so much for spending time to share your thoughts with us!

Tim: I am excited to be a part of the team — it’s been great to meet with some of the founders of this incredible new class of companies, changing the rules of what has traditionally been considered SaaS.

Dave: Tell us about Toast. What is the company today, what’s its mission, and where is it going?

Tim: Toast is a company that is transforming the hospitality industry with an end-to-end platform, extending from a core commerce engine into guest experience, employee engagement, and financial services. Our mission is to empower the restaurant community to delight guests, do what they love, and thrive. We as Toasters are very passionate about bringing this mission to life for our customers. We launched our core offering in 2013 to the first few restaurants and today are serving tens of thousands of customers while still growing over 100%, with over 1,600 employees globally. It’s been a wild ride these past five years and it’s a really fun space with a creative and diverse customer set.

Dave: You and I recently hosted an offsite on “SaaS as a Platform.” Why is Toast a platform to its restaurant customers?  If you’re the CEO of a SaaS company, how do you know that you are or could be a platform?

Tim: Toast really extends all the way from the front of house to the back of the house, bringing restaurants into the 21st century with a cloud and mobility-first operating system, including hardware such as self-ordering kiosks and handhelds for order & pay-at-the-table and guest feedback. We’ve evolved from this core system of record into other high-value offerings, including payment processing, payroll & employee management software, credit and consumer-facing apps, and we’ve had great feedback from our customer base that they want us to continue to solve more problems for them between our first-party offerings and our deep partner network.

I think being the Platform or System of Record generally means you have the most mindshare and time spent on your system relative to others the same user may have. As important is where the data resides; in the restaurant vertical, the core data sets are menus, orders, guest data, and employee data, whereas other verticals like doctor’s offices might be more around scheduling, billing/invoicing, and insurance connectors. If the key personas are logging in multiple times per day and using your tool as the system of record for their most important data, it’s likely there are multiple platform opportunities to exploit to make their lives even easier.

Dave: Let’s first talk about payments. Generically the opportunity in payments is for SaaS companies to start monetizing flow through GMV. Why is this good for your customers, the end merchant, and your customer’s customer, the merchant’s consumer?

Tim: A lot of companies are starting to integrate payments mostly because it creates a much smoother, simpler experience for the merchant. It starts with onboarding and spans ongoing support and easy reconciliation of transactions and payments through the same software. Small businesses generally do not like having to deal with multiple vendors when they can use one holistic solution for what they are trying to get done.

What’s really compelling is what you can do for the merchant and the end user once you have payments integrated by capturing more data. An example is identifying the end user and better understand buying patterns and be able to help small businesses market to their customers in a more targeted and automated way.

There’s also very significant margin enhancement if you can get payments right, which can fuel higher investment levels in areas like Customer Success and R&D to deliver even more customer value by displacing a horizontal payments vendor.

Dave: I know you could hold a master class on just payments, but quickly what are three tips for getting started? Should you make them mandatory, or an option?

Tim: Understanding your strengths and weaknesses as a team here is important — you can get started with a referral partnership or go full bore and become a payment facilitator and handle all the risk, underwriting, and merchant-facing tech. It really depends on the available talent, domain knowledge, and capital access to get something off the ground. Once you’ve decided what to go with, here are three tips:

  1. Build a dedicated team that understands your payments space at a deep level — there can be a lot of new complexity across product, tech, risk/underwriting, pricing, go-to-market strategy, and customer success that may look and feel different from your existing business. Make sure at least 1-2 people are coming in with real payments or fintech experience. Card-present vs. eCommerce experience will likely be something to think about here.
  2. Resist the urge to over-monetize or make pricing overly complex — traditionally there have been some bad actors in the payments world and, as a result, a lot of these companies have low NPS and very high churn — great SaaS companies have the opposite, so don’t tempt fate for a few extra basis points.
  3. If you are doing anything other than an arms-length referral partnership, you should be taking payments-specific risk, fraud, and security very seriously.

Dave: Ok, so once you’ve launched payments, how would you extend next? I know it depends, so maybe talk about where you would go if you were a front office offering and a back-office offering. Or better yet, what is the prioritization framework for the different offerings?

Tim: I think the prioritization framework begins with mission — why does your company exist and what are the biggest problems in your industry that you have an unfair right to help solve? As an example, Toast is the source of lots of employee data and we kept hearing from our customers that, in the current macro environment, labor was their biggest concern, so we had both the market need and the natural entry point to get deeper into payroll and employee engagement.

On back-of-office solutions it’s likely things like payments, credit, payroll, insurance, and B2B/vendor marketplaces can be interesting depending on the platform and vertical. For front-of-house it’s likely more about CRM, marketing tools, loyalty programs, other commerce touchpoints, and the holy grail of leveraging supply of SMB’s to create a two-sided consumer marketplace. That said, there aren’t many companies that have made the B2B2C transition, yet it can be a tremendous value creator.

Dave: Credit is a big step change because it involves a balance sheet and underwriting to risk. What is your take?

Tim: I think this really depends on the execution muscle of your company — if you’ve already gone deep on something like payments, you may have some experience on the fraud and underwriting side, but getting into credit ups the ante in a big way. You need to feel confident you have some really strong players on data science, finance, and risk to go after this yourself. Starting with a partnership with a Kabbage, Fundbox, or OnDeck could be a way to dip the toe in the water before putting your capital at risk or trying to attract outside investors to supply the capital for a credit offering.

If you are going after this yourself, you will almost definitely want to find outside capital to offload most of the risk and balance sheet implications of a credit business, both for optics reasons with investors and because your capital is better put to use hiring engineering, sales, etc. than lending to your customers.

Dave: How about payroll? Big dollars given the per employee model. How do you know there’s real demand for payroll? Given the 50-state nature, would you do this in-house, partner, or buy?

Tim: If I think about this space, the only software business that didn’t have HCM/HRIS at its core that’s done this really well is Intuit, though Square is also starting to gain traction in their new offerings. Payroll/HCM is its own beast with its own ecosystem of products from worker’s comp and healthcare to newer technology offerings like same-day pay and employee management solutions. Similar to payments, capital, marketplaces, and other platform plays, the decision on whether to extend is all about whether you have a natural right to play. For Toast, we have restaurant employees clocking in and out every day on our platform, and managers/owners running staffing reports and approving hours before downloading the data and uploading to a payroll/HCM solution. This made it a pretty natural move to solve this disjointed experience for our customers.

If you’ve got the natural right to play, demand is probably dependent on the complexity in your vertical — if your customers only have 1-5 employees and not a lot of complexity around time and attendance, they may be using an offering from Intuit through their accounting package, or Gusto, or some other inexpensive and easy solution, making it more difficult to displace.

In terms of build/partner/buy, this could be a long slog to build, because of all the regulatory/compliance elements. Depending on your scale, partnering is likely the best way to enter into the space and learn this side of the business. Just be careful as one of the reasons to get into payroll/HCM is that it’s a fairly sticky product.

Dave: Ok, let’s get into the next-level network effects for SaaS companies. Most two-level networks tend to be “Big B to small B” in a buyer/supplier relationship. TCV invested in three of them over the years. To give the theme a plug — Ariba in procurement, CCC in the auto industry, and Avetta  in supplier information management and compliance. You sell into large company buyers and help them connect more efficiently to smaller/SMB consumers. Winning into the big buyers gives you a strong value proposition to small suppliers and gaining more suppliers in your network makes you even more attractive to the big buyers. It’s a virtuous cycle.

But every SaaS company, particularly vertical and SMB providers, can look to leverage consumer, employee, and supplier networks. What’s your take?

Tim: It’s a really exciting play that is starting to develop in SaaS. If done correctly, it can be a game changer in helping SMBs get the scale advantages of larger enterprises and change their businesses for the better.

Dave: Let’s take supplier networks first. Who is doing a good job getting into the supplier marketplace?

Tim: I think you just hit a few of the strong players earlier. What CCC has done with the auto parts marketplace is really exciting and a playbook that could be run by a lot of SaaS platforms in other verticals, especially something like construction or home services. I’ve seen a lot of startups try to create the supplier marketplaces in industries such as dental offices, restaurants, and others, but the standalone model can be difficult because they aren’t starting with one side of the marketplace already built up — that’s what’s so exciting about these platform opportunities for existing SaaS companies.

Dave: How about employees?

Tim: There are lot of interesting companies out there. For example, SnagAjob and ZipRecruiter are working on building out the marketplace. I think ZipRecruiter has been a really interesting story as they did leverage existing relationship with employers to create their marketplace. Over time, I think we will see a lot more of these models. There have been a few entrants into the “LinkedIn of hourly workers” space, and time will tell if something like that will be created or if more mindshare will go to vertical-specific SaaS/Employee Network plays. It’s interesting to think about the marginal utility of a horizontal employee network, certainly there are some generalists in this employee population but also a lot of specialization in specific trades and industries.

Dave: Consumers is probably where the big dollars are. Marketplaces regularly capture 10-40% of GMV to deliver consumers.  How can SaaS companies partake of the consumer opportunity?

Tim: I think it heavily depends on how valuable the supply side of the marketplace is. There are verticals including food, certain home services, hotels, etc. where quality and user-specific preference is going to really matter. If you have really compelling supply (especially if it is hard to access online), you can get real leverage in building out a consumer marketplace. If it’s something like transportation, it may be harder to have any real edge against a standalone marketplace startup.

If you are in a position to capitalize on a consumer network, I think creating a separate team to go after that opportunity in a big way is likely the right way to go as so many parts of the business will be different than your core SaaS team is used to working on. You want the unfair advantage of owning supply without a handicap of having a team that hasn’t built a consumer business before.

Dave: Well Tim, I know we could go on for hours on this topic. Thanks so much for taking the time today, and great to have you as part of the TCV team. I’m excited to work with you.

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Tim Barash is an Executive Advisor at TCV.

The views and opinions expressed in the blog post above are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). This blog post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified above, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this document, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Reshaping Online Travel and Surpassing AU$100M ARR From Sydney

Silicon Valley does not have a monopoly on innovation. Great entrepreneurs are everywhere, and we have seen a strong software ecosystem emerging from Australia and New Zealand.

We recently profiled Rod Drury’s Xero journey building a global platform out of New Zealand. Meanwhile, another TCV company, SiteMinder, just reached an important milestone of AU$100 million ARR.

SiteMinder has methodically built a global SaaS leader in hospitality out of Sydney, Australia. Coupled with its impressive revenue milestone, SiteMinder has 35,000 hotel customers in 160 countries and is reshaping the hotel distribution value chain and online travel, itself.

TCV’s Dave Yuan caught up with founder Mike Ford to reflect on his journey.

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Dave: Congratulations, Mike! Hard to believe you’ve grown SiteMinder to AU$100 million ARR. That’s an incredible milestone and a great foundation for things to come, but let’s start from the beginning. Tell us about yourself and how you got here.

Mike: I always had an interest in technology and commerce, having majored in both. This led me to consulting, where I worked on large business intelligence projects for the likes of SABMiller, AngloGold Ashanti, and Chase Bank, bridging technology teams with executive management and getting a good grounding in both disciplines. Being passionate about travel, I embarked on a year-long backpacking adventure in 2000 before I arrived in Australia and took on a three-month contract with a health technology startup to fund further travel. In 2006, I founded SiteMinder, and I am still in Sydney 18 years on, so, clearly, my adventures didn’t work out as expected!

Dave: Tell us about the SiteMinder creation story. What was the original insight? When did you know you had an idea good enough to quit your day job?

Mike: I didn’t quit outright and that was key. I consulted for my then-employer, two days a week, in order to fund the early months.

There were two major influences that led me to take the leap.

The first was the health tech startup I was working at. They were digitising paper-based claims sent from hospitals to medical funds for reimbursement, as paper-based claiming involved a long payment and reimbursement cycle. For hospitals, the digitisation of claims meant instant delivery, faster reimbursement, and a clear digital trail. At the core of the engine was a switch that converted data from different hospital systems into formats digestible by different medical fund systems.

The second influence was an investment I’d made in an accommodation business. Through that, I learned how hotel and other accommodation sales were rapidly moving away from traditional channels, such as wholesalers and brick-and-mortar travel agents, to online booking sites as travellers were increasingly turning to the internet to make their reservations. The shift in consumer behaviour drove a proliferation of last-minute booking sites in Australia at the time, such as Wotif.com and lastminute.com.au, which promised huge discounts if you booked close to the date of your stay. The issue for hoteliers was there was no means of centrally managing all of those websites and keeping their room rates and availability continuously up to date on each. So, they often chose to list on only one or two sites and miss out on others because they couldn’t manage them at scale.

I quickly realised that if I could connect hotel systems with different online channels, as I did in the medical funds world, I could synchronise hotel room rates and availability in real time. For hoteliers, the value proposition was they could get more rooms onto more booking sites to grow their reach online. At the same time, they could reduce overbookings and the operational overhead of manually inputting reservations. That value proposition helped us get a strong foothold quickly in the market.

Dave: What was it like to start a company out of Sydney?         

Mike: We were actually very fortunate to be in Sydney. As with banking and payments technologies, Australia was far ahead in terms of technological innovation in online travel. Where other markets weren’t yet embracing dynamic room rates and availability, there were many booking sites in Australia available for hotels to list on. The multitude of sites, combined with the sheer number of hotels out there, especially independent hotels, meant that conditions were ideal for our entry into the market.

Funding was a big challenge as the technology venture market was very underdeveloped relative to what it is today. The government in Australia also had a myopic attitude to how important tech and STEM jobs were to the future of the economy, so tech startups got very little support in terms of R&D benefits, and sadly that hasn’t changed. In spite of these challenges, more than 80% of our revenue now comes from overseas markets. We are a truly global business that has kept its roots deeply in the city of Sydney where it all started.

Dave: You’ve scaled past AU$100 million ARR. Was it all smooth sailing from there, or were there big doubts and moments of near death?

Mike: In the early days, moments of doubts may have been around survival. Later, they were more focused on growth or new market entry, but they’ve never quite ceased, and I suspect it’s no different for any founder.

If ever there was a near-death experience, it would’ve been pre-angel investment, when I was funding the business and paying my co-founder out of my own savings. On top of that, we learned a competitor was launching a month before us, and they had AU$100 million in funds and an existing product. We had AU$180,000 and a beta release. It was nearly a no-go decision, but I’m pretty stubborn and so we took them on, and they soon went bankrupt.

Dave: What were the big decisions along the way?

Mike: Very important decisions included:

  1. Who we were going to take money from and bring on to our board of directors. We turned down early interest from numerous VCs purely on the first meeting dynamic.
  2. Whether we were going to go global or dominate locally, and what the timing would be.
  3. What not to chase. There are so many opportunities, and you can lose focus quickly unless you’re very clear about what you are and are willing to let go of opportunities that may seem attractive but don’t provide long-term benefits.

Additionally, the most crucial decisions involve the people you choose for the journey and the timing of bringing on key talent. The outlook of a founding CEO, certainly in the formative years, can differ substantially from those of a professional CEO. As a founding CEO, you have grown the team and the business from nothing. You have loyal, committed, and talented individuals who have helped you get the business to a particular stage so the company culture is more familial. Yet, through high growth, it’s hard to stay on top of skills and challenges across the business, and you may find yourself in a situation where you either don’t recognise that such deficiencies exist, or you don’t take appropriate measures quickly enough to address them. Over time, you get better at identifying the skills you need for the future, ahead of the curve.

Dave: How has SiteMinder succeeded in a field that has gotten so much competitive attention?

Mike: I think the definition of success is different for everyone. There are many travel tech companies that I would consider successful, even if they may not all have the size and growth trajectory of SiteMinder.

It sounds cliché, but it comes down to the deliberate process of ensuring many ingredients come together in the right way, at the right time, and in the right sequence. We’ve had a focused and smart go-to-market strategy, plus we over-indexed on personalised support for our customers and doubled down on localising our products and service for many different countries. We’ve invested in strong operational centres around the globe to provide true round-the-clock sales and customer service, and we’ve hired smart people. I could go on, but at our core we are product-driven and customer-obsessed. That permeates our culture and is key. Even if your product is average, you can have early success if your sales and marketing are great. In the long run, you can only continue your success if your product is truly market leading.

Dave: As you look forward, what are the big opportunities for hoteliers? How might this translate into benefits for the consumer and traveller?

Mike: Many hoteliers are still stuck in their traditional ways and aren’t open to the possibilities that technology can offer in making a world of difference. This does vary between hotel segments such as independent versus chain, full service versus limited service, regional versus city, and even by country. The vast majority of hoteliers still struggle to navigate the changing online landscape and are overwhelmed by the extent of the choice out there.

It’s for this reason that we’ve created an ecosystem, not just of our own technology, but of all other technology players that can help hoteliers navigate the online world in search of guests. If hoteliers can connect with customers at every touchpoint throughout their buying journey, they can ultimately create greater guest experiences long before those guests set foot in their lobby and long thereafter.

Dave: If SiteMinder fulfills its mission, what role can it play in the changing online travel ecosystem?

Mike: SiteMinder currently connects to 700+ partners within the travel ecosystem, so hoteliers can hook everything they need into their property management system and harness the power of integration, openness, and choice. Essentially, our platform is the most comprehensive and effective way for hoteliers to bring guests to their hotels, without having to think about or manage technology. It gives them more time to spend on the guest experience, which is the part they really enjoy.

If hoteliers can choose any best-of-breed solution to optimise their opportunities in acquiring guests in an increasingly online-driven world, we’re doing our job.

We also play a big role in the value chain in online accommodation, specifically the supply equation, by connecting hotel room rates and availability in real time to points-of-sale such as booking sites. We enable those booking sites to gain traction in core markets, where they otherwise can’t access a supply of rooms to sell.

There have been middlemen aggregators in the past that have rolled up supply for booking sites yet we connect the room supply directly to booking sites or room demand sources, so there is no ticket clipping and dilution of margin between the supplier (the hotel) and the seller (the booking site). In doing so, we have streamlined the supply chain for hotel rooms, rates, and content.

Dave: SiteMinder’s opportunity is also unique as a SaaS company. Vertical SaaS is seeing a renaissance with SaaS companies taking on platform and network characteristics, meaning “SaaS as a Platform”. What does SiteMinder look like as a SaaS business model over time?

Mike: We started out with a distribution platform for hotels. Over time, we recognised the importance of the direct sales channel and expanded our platform to integrate a hotel’s own website, so they could manage both their indirect and direct sales channels.

Over the years we’ve designed our platform to be more proactive and have powered it with business intelligence that steers our customers and makes them aware of opportunities to improve their hotel business. For example, our platform makes hoteliers aware of changes in market conditions or demand, so they can maximise their guest acquisition capabilities in a rapidly evolving online landscape.

The next evolution is really exciting. We recognise that there are many great applications and tools out there for hoteliers, and they can all improve a hotel’s guest acquisition strategy. These may be upselling tools, airport transfer services or activity bookings, revenue management systems or anything in between. We know that one company will never build the best of all these things. Our brand essence has always been one of openness, so we’ve developed a way to seamlessly link a hotel’s property management system to all the different applications. In doing this, our customers will be able to use all the best-of-breed applications available out there in combination with our own platform. If we are successful in this endeavour, we will have the most open and connected platform the hotel industry has seen, with the greatest number of hotel participants (we already have 35,000 today).

Dave: Outside of SiteMinder, what in online travel gets you excited?

Mike: One important shift is the rise of tours and activities moving increasingly to online with dynamic inventory and pricing. Driving this is people’s desire to seek experiences, not just flights and accommodation. We’re seeing increasing demand among consumers to package their accommodation, services and ancillaries, so they can get the best experience out of their accommodation and the local destination.

Somewhat tangential is the rise of personalisation. For a more personalised experience, including destination advice, many travellers still use a brick-and-mortar travel agent to plan their trip. That said, we’re also seeing the growing dominance of online booking sites. Alone, neither of these options is ideal for at least one segment of the leisure travel market, so I think we will increasingly see hybrids where booking sites get better at offering deeper, more human advice and personalised service. This may even include speaking to a local human expert when booking online. We are already starting to see signs of that happening now.

There are also relatively new entrants like Google making a wave in the space with disruptive models that are attractive to hoteliers. I think the race is on for OTAs to create a seamless end-to-end experience for the consumer, including research and advice, flights, hotels, car hire, transfers, in-destination activities and experiences, restaurants and everything in between.

Dave: Thanks so much, Mike, and congratulations again! AU$100 million ARR is an amazing milestone that only a few reach. Savour it!

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The statements, views, and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies. For additional important disclaimers, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at
https://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Modsy is Transforming the Future of Home Design and Furniture Shopping with $37M in Series C Funding Led by TCV

SAN FRANCISCO (PRWEB) MAY 21, 2019

Modsy, a leading online interior design service that leverages its proprietary 3D visualization technology to disrupt the way consumers design and shop for their home, announced today the closure of a $37M series C fundraising round led by TCV, with participation from existing investors Norwest Venture Partners, Advance Venture Partners (AVP), Comcast Ventures and others.

This round comes at a time when home design inspiration is plentiful and home furnishings is the fastest growing e-commerce category, but helping consumers bring their ideas to life is still a big pain point. Modsy has been building a transformative consumer experience to solve this market challenge and has scaled rapidly, expanding its customer base 450% since its previous funding round and creating over 2 million shoppable lifestyle renders since it launched. Modsy’s groundbreaking 3D technology offers the fastest way for consumers to receive affordable home design expertise by combining its AI-powered recommendation platform to curate items based on layout, style, color, and price. Additionally, 100% of the personalized product recommendations in each design are completely shoppable, which alleviates the burden of parsing through hundreds of furniture items online and in-store. The new funding from TCV will enable Modsy to continue to rapidly scale while further investing in 3D automation, expanding its retail marketplace and enhancing its design and concierge shopping services.

Shanna Tellerman, Founder and CEO of Modsy, said: “Modsy is the future of furniture shopping and we are thrilled to partner with such a forward-thinking and customer-centric firm like TCV to help us fulfill our vision. I founded Modsy on the premise that in the future we would all be shopping from a personalized catalog-like experience within a virtual version of our real homes. This new round of funding will bring us even closer to this reality. We are excited about partnering with TCV to build Modsy into a household name and furthering our mission of enabling our customers to create the home of their dreams!”

In addition to transforming the furniture industry and developing breakthrough technology, Modsy is working to level the playing field of securing funding for female founders. In 2018, 2.2% of women-led companies received venture capital funding, so TCV’s investment in Modsy is significant in helping to further support the growth of female-owned and operated companies. With this round, TCV’s Executive Vice President Tina Hoang-To has joined Modsy’s [female-majority] board alongside Shanna Tellerman, Modsy CEO, Courtney Robinson, Partner at Advance Venture Partners and Jeff Crowe, Managing Partner at Norwest Venture Partners.

Tina Hoang-To, Executive Vice President at TCV, said: “The U.S. home furnishing market is a massive, multi-billion dollar industry and we are seeing a very clear secular shift online. Modsy is redefining the way consumers can buy furniture by leveraging technology and machine learning to introduce efficiency, transparency, and affordability to an antiquated home design industry. We are excited to partner with Modsy and believe the company is well positioned to transform this industry in a significant way.”

Since its previous funding round, the company hired three key executives: Sam MacDonnell, Chief Technology Officer (formerly HotelTonight), Meredith Dunn, Chief Operating Officer (formerly StitchFix) and Mustafa Nafar, VP of Finance (formerly DoorDash, Best Buy). It also launched innovative features that enrich the Modsy journey including Live Swap, an industry-first feature that allows customers to quickly swap furniture and its 3D Style Editor, a groundbreaking tool that enables customers to edit their designs in real-time. Modsy most recently announced its first line of custom sofas and chairs designed completely from customer data to fill a gap in the market when it comes to price, fabrics and style. Modsy’s data-based innovations continue to position the company as a market leader and fast-moving disruptor in 3D technology, design and furniture commerce.    

About Modsy 
Modsy is a leading online interior design service that delivers highly realistic 3D designs of your exact room filled with shoppable pieces of furniture from top brands you can virtually “try on” products and designs before you buy–starting at just $69. At a breakthrough price point, Modsy is providing visualization and design services that were once inaccessible to the masses and making it a no brainer purchase for any consumer on the market for furniture. Modsy provides unlimited revisions to your designs through its groundbreaking tools or by working directly with Modsy Designers. After finalizing a design, Modsy makes the check out process easy and gives customers access to exclusive discounts on their aggregated cart that easily pay back the initial design fee. Modsy’s name even comes from a combination of “modern design” and “easy”! Modsy’s mission is to change the way consumers imagine, design and shop for their homes.

Modsy has raised a total of $70.75M in venture capital funding. In addition to Modsy’s series C round of $37M led by TCV, previous investors include Advance Venture Partners (AVP) who led Modsy’s Series B round of $23M, Norwest Venture Partners who led Modsy’s Series A round of $8M and participated in Series B, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, Comcast Ventures, GV (formerly Google Ventures), Birchmere Ventures, and BBG.

About TCV 
Founded in 1995, TCV provides capital to growth-stage private and public companies in the technology industry. TCV has invested over $11 billion in leading technology companies and has helped guide CEOs through more than 120 IPOs and strategic acquisitions.

TCV’s internet and software investments include Airbnb, Altiris, AxiomSL, Believe Digital, Dollar Shave Club, ExactTarget, Expedia, Facebook, Fandango, GoDaddy, HomeAway, LinkedIn, Minted, Netflix, Rent the Runway, Sitecore, Splunk, Spotify, TourRadar, Varsity Tutors, and Zillow. TCV is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, with offices in New York and London. For more information about TCV, including a complete list of TCV investments, please visit http://www.tcv.com.

Media Contacts: 
Allie Rosenberg 
Modsy 
allie@modsy.com 
modsy@smallgirlspr.com

Katja Gagen 
TCV 
415 690 6689 
kgagen@tcv.com


It’s Your Runway! Rent the Runway Is Redefining Your Closet Any or Everyday

As an MBA student, Jennifer Hyman had a deceptively simple idea that she successfully built into a powerful logistics and technology company – proving the power of web-based sharing models before Airbnb, Uber, and others came on the scene. TCV Founding General Partner and Rent the Runway board member Rick Kimball recently had a chance to talk with her about the journey from her original vision to the launch of Rent the Runway and making the “closet in the cloud” a reality for women across the U.S. Topics covered include:

  • Establishing a new category that helped create the sharing economy
  • Convincing her board to fund an extension of the original concept
  • Why your closet might soon reside in the cloud

 

Rick Kimball: Jennifer, most people know Rent the Runway, but can you share with us how the company came about?

Jennifer Hyman: My sister was getting ready to attend a wedding. She wanted to wear something new and aspirational. So she went out and purchased an extravagant dress that she knew she would likely wear only once and put her into credit card debt. This was a light-bulb moment for me.

I thought about separating wearing from ownership. My sister wanted the experience of wearing something different and aspirational – and that had nothing to do with actually owning the garment. Once you separate wearing from owning, there is a huge opportunity to totally disrupt the way we think about getting dressed.

Rick Kimball: What were your first steps in realizing your idea?

Jennifer Hyman: The first step was realizing that an initial idea isn’t a business. In our case, the idea needed to be iterated both for its customer value proposition as well as its supplier value proposition. We spent the next six months doing a series of iterative minimum viable product tests to assess whether we were on to a good idea or whether it was appealing only to us. When we launched, we had 100,000 people sign up for Rent the Runway in the first week of our business. So demand was not going to be the challenge.

Rick Kimball: What were the challenges?

Jennifer Hyman: Our business model requires our customers to return every single item we ship out. No one in retail does that. Plenty of companies have some reverse logistics capability for product returns, but we were doing reverse logistics as our entire business model, for expensive luxury products. There was no technology you could buy when we launched. We had to hire a hundred engineers and build everything ourselves. We also had to become the world’s biggest dry cleaner, and we had to become a data science company to gather, analyze, and leverage the mountains of data we were gathering on every transaction. Sometimes I joke that if I had known we were going to have to do all this just to rent clothing, I would never have launched the company.

Rick Kimball: It seems that your timing was great, considering some of the social and economic trends that began around that time.

Jennifer Hyman: It was late 2008, with social media really taking off. Women started posting piles of photos of themselves on the internet. They needed more variety in their wardrobe, as they did not want to be seen in the same outfit twice. This drove a huge emergence of fast fashion and off-price retail as a category. People were buying clothes in places other than traditional department stores. And the world has continued to change so quickly around us as we’ve built Rent the Runway. All the tailwinds are moving in the right direction.

Rick Kimball: Right. As you grew the team and your company, what was your focus in terms of creating a culture for the company?

Jennifer Hyman: Total, passionate focus on the customer backed by data. What does she need? What does she want? What is she telling us with her choices? Our original value proposition was that she wants to look fabulous at a black-tie event, without breaking the bank for a dress she might not wear again for a long time. Customers embraced that concept and pretty soon many of our customers were renting from us three or four times a year. We were relentless about gathering data on every rental, so we required customers to give us some information about wearing the dress: did it fit, did she love wearing it, and so on. That drove our inventory strategy. Ultimately listening to the customer led to our subscription service, called Unlimited.

Rick Kimball: The TCV team loves Unlimited. What drove the concept of Unlimited, which, today represents a large part of your business.

Jennifer Hyman: We were hearing from customers that renting the runway is great for big events on the weekend, but what about the other five days a week? Can you rent me clothes I can wear at work?

This wasn’t a surprise to us. I had the vision of a “closet in the cloud” from the very beginning. But first we had to make renting a mainstream experience. For perspective, keep in mind that late 2008 was before Uber, Airbnb, and WeWork, and before Spotify came to the United States. The big successful sharing models we have now were still in the future. So we had to normalize the behavior of renting first. But it was already obvious to me that working women needed a new way to get dressed. More women are entering the corporate workforce today, and more women are staying in the workforce after having kids. Women are out in public as working women and entrepreneurs. Now consider that the traditional expectation is that women at work wear a different outfit every day. Beyond that expectation, women want to feel like their best self at work. It matters to their confidence and self-presentation to be well dressed and put together. With Rent the Runway, they can feel like the best version of themselves everyday which is empowering.

Rick Kimball: But dressing this way can be hugely expensive?

Jennifer Hyman: Exactly. In the typical corporate environment, women need a huge number of individual items in order to have a different, great-looking outfit every day. We can make her life not only a lot easier – she can do a lot less shopping – but also more affordable and effective. In fact, our Unlimited customers on average dress with us 150 days a year. That’s 60% of their business year. And we think we could get to an average of 200 days a year.

Rick Kimball: Does Unlimited offer casual clothes as well?

Jennifer Hyman: “Casual” is a big category that we like and have a great inventory for. Many companies have a dress policy known as “corporate casual,” so something you wear to work might also be appropriate for a brunch with friends on the weekend. We also offer clothes and accessories for off-work activities, such as patterned ski parkas and the right beach bag for your summer outfits.

Rick Kimball: How did you get Unlimited off the ground?

Jennifer Hyman: Surprisingly enough, one challenge was convincing my board of directors to raise and spend the money. We didn’t know if women would rent that many days a year, and people doubted that we could build a product to satisfy that demand. You have to remember that back then, massive subscription businesses were rare even for huge franchise companies. It took Netflix and Dropbox years to build a $100 million subscription business, and they were established brands with tens of millions of users. My argument was that with the data science capabilities we already had, we could manage a big increase in inventory without a big increase in risk. Also, the board members had seen some things come true that I had predicted way back when we were asking for our initial funding, such as the decline of department stores. So they, including TCV, trusted my vision and agreed to a beta test for twelve months, which was a success. We launched Unlimited in March of 2016 and it’s growing more than 150% a year.

Rick Kimball: A lot of people talk about big data and how to gain insights to drive better customer experiences. What are the key aspects of your data science strategy?

Jennifer Hyman: From day one we set up a rigorous data-centric culture in which the analytics team gathered suitcases full of data about our customers and our inventory. We also made sure that the data was transparent and usable to everyone in the organization. But it’s not just about numbers on a spreadsheet. We marry the quantitative data to qualitative data. If a customer says she didn’t wear something, we ask why. If she says she liked it but didn’t love it, we ask why. This is how we can constantly evolve our inventory toward higher customer satisfaction. Not only that, we can tell our brand partners what women think of their designs and their manufacturing. Before Rent the Runway, designers got this kind of feedback in little bits, anecdotally. We give them a steady stream of data, which they can use with their other partners. Everybody wins.

Rick Kimball: Describe your customers in more detail – it sounds like women only.

Jennifer Hyman: Men can wear the same three pairs of trousers and the same ten shirts all year and no one knows or cares. That’s why we are sticking with women for now. Our community includes 8.5 million of them, ranging from their teens up through their 60s. When we launched the business, Millennial customers were using us to rent the runway for a special event. Now our brand offering is 200X what it was at first, meaning we launched with clothes from 27 designers and now we have over 500 designers represented on the site. That means we cover a lot of different style types and can offer what you want no matter what your style is, or your age.

Rick Kimball: Is the customer age range the same for the special event dresses and the Unlimited service?

Jennifer Hyman: It is. The typical customer for upscale designer dresses is around 60 years old. So we’re introducing much younger customers to the fashion designers, which just delights both of them. It’s also giving the designers opportunities to create new work with more confidence and insight, because we bring them a large built-in customer base that includes feedback on how successful a garment is and could be. If you’re a young designer with aspirations, Rent the Runway has created a pathway to test your ideas and build your business that never existed before.

Rick Kimball: Do customers buy garments from those designers?

Jennifer Hyman: They do, but what Rent the Runway has really done is enable them to shop differently. Instead of buying a lot of separates, they rely on us for those. They invest in essentials, like a great-fitting pair of black pants that enables them to create millions of outfits. We are introducing our customer to brands she might not have been shopping before – without having to make expensive purchases.

Rick Kimball: You recently began opening brick-and-mortar stores. How does this fit into your strategic of building a comprehensive web-based reverse logistics platform?

Jennifer Hyman: Once we got to scale with a subscription service, we knew we had to achieve greater proximity to the customer. One dry cleaning facility in the middle of the country was not enough. A few warehouses of inventory were not enough. At the same time as we achieved numerical scale, we were scaling up qualitatively: women were trusting us as an essential utility and relying on us to get them dressed for work a majority of the time. So we opened retail stores where women can meet a stylist and try on different brands and pieces of clothing. This really enriches the data profile we have for them, and that makes it much easier for them to rent successfully for all their future occasions.

Rick Kimball: How have customers responded? How have you rounded out your team to deliver the best experiences online and in stores?

Jennifer Hyman: Customers have started to treat the stores as their physical closet. They can take any inventory they want off the shelf and walk out without swiping a credit card.

My vision for our business is that we are continuously disrupting ourselves, and our culture is built for that. We are in a primarily tech and logistics business, yet we are 70% female and 70% non-white. Our engineering team is 50% female. The leadership at Rent the Runway is 80% female. So we are defying the typical startup stereotypes. Come work at Rent the Runway to see the exception to the rule in action!

Rick Kimball: Such rapid growth involves a lot of learning on the job. Did you learn from what other companies were doing?

Jennifer Hyman: I wish that I had had more exposure to other companies in Silicon Valley. I’ve always been inspired by Netflix, but I didn’t know how Netflix was structured or how I could learn from them. I was sitting in New York as a 29-year-old woman with no experience in the tech industry, with no real connections to it and I had to figure this out by myself with my co-founder and our team.

Rick Kimball: This is something other female founders speak about. What’s your take?

Jennifer Hyman: There are some clear reasons why only 2% of venture capital dollars go to female founders. One huge disadvantage is that promising women are not mentored and lifted up early in their careers by others in the tech industry like men are. What you really need in the beginning of a company is tactical help, but if you are a woman, it is not always easy to meet the kind of people who can give you that. When you launch a company, you need someone who can pick up the phone and raise money. Someone who can refer you to talent. Someone who tells you how to set up your first HR system or write your first marketing plan. Those are the skills and help and tactical advice that female founders need. It’s not like we don’t have enough mentors. It’s that they are not mentoring enough women.

Rick Kimball: Speaking of investors and support, how did you get involved with TCV?

Jennifer Hyman: I got involved with TCV through the team, building a relationship with Rent the Runway over many years, and developing trust. And then simultaneously I was building a relationship with Barry McCarthy, the current CFO of Spotify and the former CFO of Netflix. I had a relationship with Barry and when I saw that he was also an advisor to TCV, I thought of it as the marriage of the financial support that we were going to receive as well as operational expertise and guidance.

Rick Kimball: How do you see Rent the Runway fitting into today’s economy and also the competitive landscape?

Jennifer Hyman: Well, I think that we are really the only ones who are trying to get you to buy less stuff. If you think about Amazon, Stitch Fix, Nordstrom, or Poshmark, a lot of what they’re doing is getting you to buy things in creative ways. But it is still buying and accumulating. It is a different value proposition to get you to not own and thus not buy things.

Rick Kimball: Looking out a few years, what excites you about the future of Rent the Runway?

Jennifer Hyman: I think I had a really big, bold vision at the beginning of Rent the Runway, but it’s not even comparable to how big and bold the vision is today. I am enthusiastic about the fact that this is only the beginning of transforming the modern woman’s relationship with her closet. We have to get dressed every single day, all over the world. We are focused on scaling our subscription service, making it even easier to access the “closet in the cloud” each and every day. There’s no reason why having this subscription to fashion shouldn’t become the dominant way that we experience clothing in the future.

Rick Kimball: Thanks, Jennifer, and we wish you and the team continued success.

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TCV is an investor in Rent the Runway and Rick Kimball serves on the board of directors of the company.

The views and opinions expressed in the transcript above are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). This transcript is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified above, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this document, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/