Wayn’s World – travel social networking site Where Are You Now? secures financial backing
Two backpackers who packed in their jobs last year to set up the WAYN travel social networking website are on top of the world – after securing millions in backing from a dream team of advisors
Brent Hoberman, Co-Founder and (former) Chief Executive of lastminute.com, one of the web’s biggest success stories, is one of the team of investors who are collectively putting $11MILLION into WAYN (http://www.wayn.com/ ), (Where Are You Now?) it has been revealed.
Brent will also become Chairman in January 2007 to help the WAYN boys on their journey, having himself successfully taken lastminute.com public in the dot com hey day, which led to its sale to Travelocity last year for £577m ($1.07bn)
Founders Pete Ward, 28, and pal Jerome Touze, 27, launched the travel network (http://www.wayn.com/ ) in their spare time after returning home from a round-the-world trip with combined debts of over £40,000.
But with Hoberman and a raft of industry heavyweights joining the board and investing in their unique travel website (http://www.wayn.com/aboutwayn.htm ), the lads can now look forward to a debt-free future and an unrivalled support structure.
Hoberman, who is part of a syndicate of investors led by Esprit Capital Partners, will be joined by the co-Founders of Active Hotels, which was sold in 2004 for $161m (£90m), the CEO and Vice Chairman of Cheapflights.com and the co-founder and Managing Director of Jagex, which runs RuneScape, the UK’s largest online multi-player game.
Securing high profile investors is yet another coup for the boys who secured an initial investment from Stephen Pankhurst – the founder of Friends Reunited – which helped get the business off the ground.
The new funding will help WAYN offer a host of new and improved benefits to its members, including a tailored trip planner; the ability to share experiences and tips with others in real time through rich media, and access to exclusive travel and lifestyle benefits around the world. They are also expanding their technical team which is based in Poland, and setting up shop in the US.
The success of WAYN in the last 18 months has gone beyond Peter and Jerome’s wildest expectations - membership has grown from 45,000 users in March 2005 to almost 7 million today, with over 650,000 members joining last month alone.
Peter Ward, Co-founder of WAYN said “Back in 2002 we recognised the huge potential for a travel community network (http://www.wayn.com/aboutwayn.htm ). 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 to us 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 born out of the UK with global potential. 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 travelers, WAYN members can get more out of their leisure time. The WAYN brand has massive growth potential and I am delighted to be involved.”
Co-founder of WAYN Jerome Touze added: “This is an exciting time for WAYN and we’re over the moon that other successful parties have the same confidence and vision in our business as we do.
“We have come a very long way since we had the initial idea for WAYN and we see this as just the beginning – we now have the financial backing to accomplish all our goals and to hopefully share with others how the WAYN community can help enrich the way we travel and interact with others”
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