Posts Tagged: burda digital ventures

New investment: Find and book special hotels through Escapio.com

As already announced this past week, Burda Digital Ventures and W Media Ventures have jointly invested in Escapio.com, a booking platform for selected hotels. Escapio is a sister company of Tripsbytips, the German travel community that Uwe Frers and myself started about 3 years ago. As Uwe is also the entrepreneur behind Escapio, it made sense to streamline ownership structures between the two companies. But besides this aspect, Escapio provides two major opportunities. Firstly, as available content and inventory grows on the Internet (and the travel vertical is definitely one of the leading segments in this respect), helping people to select the right thing becomes more and more important. This is a core priority for general search engines like Google but there is at least as much potential in specific verticals to address this problem. Escapio positions itself as being a destination site with a selection of exceptional, hand-picked hotels providing the consumer the necessary guidance to find the absolutely best hotels in hundreds of locations (check out their hotel selections for Paris, Barcelona or Tuscany). Secondly, we have seen in the past years that content and transactions become more and more intertwined. Aligning Tripsbytips and Escapio more closely going forward will help both companies grow quicker than they could have as stand-alone sites. Very excited about adding another company to the W Media portfolio – welcome Escapio!

Amazon acquires AbeBooks

Today Amazon announced the acquisition of Victoria-based AbeBooks, the company I have been involved with for over 7 years (operationally as COO until October last year, since then as Director and consultant). As you can imagine, I am extremely excited about this deal which makes tremendous sense for everybody involved: Amazon (who has been heavily focusing on the development of their third-party business for a long time) gets the worldwide leading marketplace for new, used, rare and out-of-print books and access to a (mostly unique) inventory of more than 110 million books from over 13,500 booksellers which fits perfectly with Amazon’s strategy of offering the Earth’s Biggest Selection to its customers. AbeBooks is furthermore very well positioned internationally with a strong European business and the launch of Gojaba, a no-frills marketplace that has already launched sites in Russia, Sweden, Brazil and Poland which again perfectly fits Amazon’s agenda of building a worldwide e-commerce presence. AbeBooks on the other hand gets access to Amazon’s vast financial, technical and marketing resources and will therefore be able to develop the business even faster. AbeBooks’ shareholders and employees finally will get a well-deserved exit that will hopefully provide a great example for other entrepreneurs and investors in this region to continue to invest in and build great consumer Internet companies. Reflecting on AbeBooks and my time with the company there is only one thing that I would like to change: I wish we had invested more in the years from 2002 to 2004 when everybody (including us) was extremely focused on just surviving and grabbing market share and buying other companies was much easier than it was in the following years. Jeff Bezos laid the foundation of Amazon in those years when he continued to invest heavily despite extreme pressure from the public markets. So at least AbeBooks now belongs to a company that is built on an aggressive investing gene – and it will be fun watching from the sidelines to see where Jeff and team can take AbeBooks over the next years. It has been an incredible ride since joining AbeBooks after the acquisition of JustBooks and I would like to thank the AbeBooks team for their hard work over this period of time – you guys simply rock! Other big thanks go to Christoph Braun and team from Burda Digital Ventures (now Acton Capital), our long-term partner in JustBooks and then AbeBooks (and today’s W Media venture partner) and certainly to Hannes, my co-founder at JustBooks, current AbeBooks CEO and business partner for now over 10 years. Building companies is never easy but doing so with a partner that you can 110% rely on at any moment makes it sometimes much less difficult – thank you, Hannes!
Update: more coverage on Techvibes and Techcrunch

Burda Digital Ventures turns into Acton Capital Partners

As the Internet evolves, the venture capital business starts evolving and we have been seeing more and more investors focusing on growth and late stages in the past few years. This is exactly the step that our partners over in Germany have taken in the past months: after having managed the corporate venture capital business for Hubert Burda Media with a focus on early-stage companies (Burda Digital Ventures) for the past several years, the team around Paul-Bernhard Kallen and Christoph Braun is now raising a second fund which targets later stage companies with an established track record of revenues and profitability (Acton Capital Partners). Hubert Burda Media is one of the largest investors in this new fund that continues to focus on Internet and mobile-based, consumer-oriented businesses. 20 to 30 percent of the committed fund will be invested outside Europe and mainly in North-America (and through W Media Ventures). This means for us that we will increasingly focus on late and growth stage deals in our region (some past deals in this category include AbeBooks, Suite101 and Nexopia) but will continue to look at selected early-stage opportunities.

Building a great company culture – how hard can it be?

Last week we brought together over 20 founders, CEO’s and senior managers from 6 portfolio (AbeBooks, Suite101.com, Nexopia.com, TeamPages, Techvibes, Carrie & Danielle) and 2 associated companies (LiveCurrent, the company behind Perfume.com and Cricket.com, Strutta) for our first Burda Digital / W Media Ventures event in Vancouver. It was a day packed with best practices and company presentations but the talk that resonated most with everybody was Brian Scudamore‘s “How to build a great company culture” speech. Brian is the founder and CEO of 1800-Got-Junk and an entrepreneur I truly admire. It wasn’t so much that anybody needed convincing that a strong company culture is something to strive for – it was more that Brian reminded us how much hard work it is on a daily basis and how easy it is to forget about this aspect in day-to-day operations. The one thing that really works for 1800-Got-Junk is the daily huddle that brings together the whole company for 7 minutes every day. 7 daily minutes during which the team can feel the current vibe of the company , 7 daily minutes during which everybody can be reminded of the company values, 7 daily minutes during which everybody from customer service agent to CEO can show leadership in front of the whole company. And as 1800-Got-Junk now has over 200 employees, the excuse that our companies are too big for such a daily all-company meeting is not really valid for most of us – try it out!