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Secret Escapes (backed by Octopus Investments)

"The continued support and investment from Octopus from the earliest stages of our company formation has helped us to build a rapidly growing global company based in London"
Tom Valentine, COO and co-founder

The business

Secret Escapes was founded in late 2010 and offers an online marketplace for mass market, luxury discretionary travel. It is headquartered in London.

The opportunity

Even the best hotels do not have 100% occupancy and most luxury hotels are unwilling to discount their room prices publicly in case this damages the perception of their brand. Secret Escapes can help these hotels manage their revenue by selling excess capacity in advance to a dedicated audience of Secret Escapes members at a discount. Secret Escapes members love the service also: post stay satisfaction scores are above 95 per cent.

According to Alliott Cole of Octopus Ventures who led the initial round of investment, while Octopus was attracted to the commercial opportunity and the size of the potential global market, it was really the strengths of the founding team that led Octopus to invest at a very early stage and at all subsequent funding rounds.

How VCTs helped

Octopus first invested in Secret Escapes in 2011 from its Titan VCTs. As well as contributing its own capital, Octopus led a syndicate including the US Venture Capital house Atlas Venture and a number of UK based angel investors including angels who had founded or helped build businesses such as LOVEFiLM, Net-A-Porter, Zoopla and Huddle. This was followed by two more capital injections in October 2011 and October 2012. Beyond their investment, the Octopus team was able to offer valuable strategic guidance to the business, assist with recruitment and team building and work with the senior management to define an international strategy.

The results

From small beginnings four years ago with just three founders, Secret Escapes now employs over 190 people, with offices in London, Berlin, Munich, Stockholm, Warsaw, New York and San Francisco. Its membership has grown to 7m people in the UK and 3m overseas. Co-founder Tom Valentine says the company is now a market leader in the UK, Germany and the Nordic countries, an achievement that would have been impossible without investment from the Octopus Titan VCT.