WAYN secures $11 million

27-Nov-2006 Esprit Capital Partners joined by industry heavyweights - Brent Hoberman to join as Chairman

London, 27th November 2006: Where Are You Now? (WAYN), the world’s largest travel and lifestyle social network, has today announced it has raised $11 million in Series A funding from a syndicate of investors led by Esprit Capital Partners.

Joining Esprit in the funding round as angel investors is a raft of industry heavyweights, including Brent Hoberman, co-founder of lastminute.com; Adrian Critchlow and Andy Phillipps, co-founders of Active Hotels, sold to Priceline in 2004; David Soskin, CEO, and Hugo Burge, Vice Chairman, of Cheapflights; and Constant Tedder, co-founder and Managing Director of Jagex, which runs RuneScape, the UK’s largest online multi-player game.

Brent Hoberman will join WAYN’s Board as Chairman in January 2007. Brent successfully took lastminute.com public in 2000, which led to its sale to Travelocity last year for £577 million ($1.07 billion). Stuart Chapman, Partner at Esprit Capital Partners also joins the Board.

The funding will be used to create new revenue streams, expand the team – particularly in Poland where WAYN’s back office operations are managed; enlarge the geographical base of the company and increase the range of online and offline products offered, including a tailored trip planner; expand the ability to share experiences with others using rich media content; and provide exclusive travel and lifestyle benefits to its members. WAYN will also be upgrading its IT infrastructure to help ensure that it is able to support its fast growing active membership base.

Based in London, WAYN is the world’s largest Web 2.0 travel community site, with a goal to unite travellers from around the world. Founded in 2002 by friends Pete Ward, Jerome Touze and Mike Lines, WAYN secured initial funding from Steve Pankhurst, founder of Friends Reunited in 2003.

As with many social networking sites, WAYN enables its users to customise their profile and upload photos. Users can search for others and link them to their profile as friends. WAYN also allows its members to keep friends and family informed of where they are, when they are travelling and where they are going next. Members can share their experiences with others by adding their favourite places and sharing tips on where to stay and things to do.

In the last 18 months, growth has been exponential. Membership has grown from 45,000 users in March 2005 to 7 million today, and is increasing by up to 35,000 new members per day. The geographical spread is also vast; WAYN is popular in 220 countries and has become a truly global brand. A free service for basic membership, WAYN also runs a successful subscription model as well as generating substantial revenues from advertising.

Peter Ward, Co-founding Director of WAYN commented, “Back in 2002 we recognised the huge potential for a travel community network. Travel captures the imagination and meeting people from different places is something that most of us really enjoy doing.

We’re so excited to be working with some of the most respected leaders in their fields. Each investor brings something different and their input in the next phase of our growth will be invaluable.”

Brent Hoberman said, “WAYN is a flagship example of the next generation of internet companies with global potential born out of the UK. The innovative customer proposition, which enables members to interact with others, based on the places they have been or plan to visit in the future, has proved to be extremely popular. By sharing tips and introductions with likeminded travellers, WAYN members can get more out of their leisure time. The WAYN brand has massive growth potential and I am delighted to be involved.”

Stuart Chapman of Esprit added, “We believe WAYN is one of the most exciting Web 2.0 companies in the world today and are delighted to be able to bring such a high calibre team of investors to the table. This team offers WAYN so much more than investment and will help it become the first in the next generation of profitable social networks. We are very happy to be backing this team and look forward to actively working with them.”

Social networking sites have taken off globally in the last year. To date, research shows that in the UK, the major social networks have well in excess of 20 million members. At least 160 million people worldwide subscribe to networks such as MySpace, Friendster and Bebo. Furthermore, recent research by eMarketers has revealed that advertising spend on social networking sites is set to top $1.8 billion by 2010.

About WAYN
WAYN (www.wayn.com) was co-founded by Jerome Touze, Peter Ward and Mike Lines, and has grown from 45,000 members in March 2005 to 7 million members to date with over 650,000 members from all over the world joining last month alone. 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 their friends 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 it is one of the only Web 2.0 ventures that is profitable.

About Esprit Capital Partners
Esprit Capital Partners (“Esprit”) is the new independent venture capital fund manager created by the merger of the Prelude Ventures and Cazenove Private Equity teams in June 2006. The combined team has invested in many of Europe’s most successful venture exits of recent years, including the sales of KVS to Veritas, Alphamosaic to Broadcom, FillFactory to Cypress Semiconductor and DNA Research Innovations to Invitrogen. Esprit has US$500 million of assets under management (including Prelude Trust plc and the Esprit Capital I fund) and has offices in London and Cambridge, UK. For further information, please visit www.espritcp.com.

About Brent Hoberman
Brent co-founded lastminute.com in April 1998 with Martha Lane Fox. lastminute.com offers consumers airline tickets, car hire, hotel rooms, package holidays, entertainment tickets, restaurant reservations and home delivery, specialty services, gifts and auctions. The company floated in March 2000. lastminute.com was the UK's highest profile site and it remains the number one travel and leisure website in Europe eight years on. Travelocity Europe, a division of Sabre Holdings Corporation, acquired the company for $1.1 billion on July 20, 2005. In May, Brent moved to part time Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer, having run the company as CEO for eight years.

About Adrian Critchlow, Andy Phillips of Active Hotels
Andy Phillipps and Adrian Critchlow are the founders of Active Hotels and early pioneers of the affiliate distribution business for online hotel bookings. Active Hotels is one of Europe's leading online reservation providers to the hotel industry, enabling consumers, 3rd party websites and travel agents to book tens of thousands of hotels throughout Europe. Active Hotels was the fastest growing technology company in the UK in 2003 according to Deloitte, and was repeatedly a Sunday Times best employer. Built on venture capital funding, it was acquired by Priceline.com, for $161 million in 2004. Andy was then CEO of Priceline’s international operations until November 2005, where he and his team helped Priceline become the largest online hotel booking company in Europe. Adrian is developing a new eco-hotel concept at Sawston Hall, Cambridge, which is due to open in 2008, and Andy has co-founded Reevoo.com, providing impartial feedback on electrical products.

 


About David Soskin, Hugo Burge of Cheapflights
David and Hugo co-ordinated the private investor group which bought out Cheapflights from the Founder in 2000 and have worked together since as shareholders and Executive Directors.

David Soskin joined Cheapflights.co.uk as CEO from ABN AMRO Corporate Finance, where he was head of global media. Prior to ABN AMRO, David had a successful entrepreneurial record and also worked at the highest levels in both business and government. Under his guidance, Cheapflights has launched a US site, increased sales by 25 times and grown monthly traffic from 350,000 to 5.25 million UK and US unique users.

Hugo has been an executive and shareholder at Cheapflights since March 2000. In May 2003, Hugo set up Cheapflights ' Boston office and successfully launched the US website Cheapflights.com. Following three years of spectacular and profitable growth for Cheapflights in the American market, Hugo returned to London this year to spearhead further international expansion for Cheapflights.

About Constant Tedder of Jagex
Constant Tedder is the co-founder and Managing Director of Jagex Ltd, the developer and publisher of the massive multiplayer online adventure game RuneScape. Since its launch in 2001 RuneScape has grown to 5.2 million active players and over 880,000 subscribers to the members’ version. Jagex games are all playable directly in the browser making them highly accessible for all types of players. Constant is looking forward to the launch of RuneScape in Germany in early 2007.