Since Mr & Mrs Smith, a global luxury travel business, launched its equity crowdfunding campaign through Crowdcube in September, the business has been the first offering to top €5 million. At this writing, Mr & Mrs Smith has secured over £5,817,124 — overfunding by 581%– from 1904 investors and counting. The company increased its equity offering to 18.05% as funding levels skyrocketed; initially the Smith’s Crowdcube offering aimed to raise £1,000,000+ for 3.66% equity. Now pre-valued at £26,341,500, Mr & Mrs Smith was founded fifteen years ago by husband-and-wife founders Tamara Lohan and James Lohan, and Edward Orr to disrupt the boutique-hotel scene. The platform offers a variety of global vacation options, ranging from last minute trips to chic hotels and family villas to honeymoon travel. Funding will be used to extend the size and scope of its customer offering.
What are the plans for the raise? According to a Crowdcube Discuss post, Mr & Mrs Smith indicated, “The first £5m of investment claiming EIS relief is protected. All subsequent investment will only be eligible for the Mr & Mrs Smith investor rewards. We will stop at a £6.62m of total investment or before.”
I had the pleasure of connecting with Mr & Mrs Smith Co-Founder and CTO Tamara Lohan via email to discuss her insight on topics including Mr & Mrs Smith’s live and record-breaking fund raise, her crowdfunding experience, future plans for the Smiths, women in tech and favorite travel destinations. Our interview follows:
Crowdfund Insider: Please comment on why you decided to crowdfund and why you opted for Crowdcube.
Tamara Lohan: We’d identified a number of strategic opportunities for rapid growth within the business, and needed capital to drive them forward quickly. Crowdfunding seemed more in line with the Mr & Mrs Smith ethos and the way we’ve always run things than other approaches to investment. Our members have been at the heart of our business for 15 years and we’ve always felt comfortable going to them for support – that was our thinking when we raised money via our retail bond five years ago, and it’s the same now – only this time we’re giving them the chance to obtain equity in the company and share in our success, too. A conventional investment round might have brought us the cash, but it wouldn’t have brought our business hundreds of new members and advocates; it wouldn’t have raised public awareness of how our brand has developed from publishing start-up to a leading travel bookings business.
Crowdcube has a great track record of supporting a number of successful campaigns – including Monzo, Revolut and Brewdog. We’ve been nothing but impressed with them from the start.
CI: Have you seen more traffic on your site since the campaign launched?
Lohan: Yes, there has been an increase in interest on the site and a wider buzz around the web about the company in general. Every day we’re fielding questions from new investors and potential customers; and we’ve attracted quite a lot of attention in the press, too – it’s been brilliant.
CI: Now that Mr & Mrs Smith is gloriously overfunding, a larger amount of equity is being offered. What was your thought process in this decision? How do you anticipate this will change your company?
Lohan: We knew there was a possibility we’d go beyond our initial £1m target so we ensured we had shareholder approval to do so from the beginning, up to the EU limit, but we never dared dream of it going as far as it has. The funds will enable us to supercharge expansion plans and grow even faster – as long as we make sure we have all our growth plans in place to deploy the capital well. That’s our priority now. The fact we’ve raised so much so fast has had a tremendously positive effect on the business and the morale of the worldwide team. There’s a buzz in the air, and people are excited about what the future holds.
CI: How will you and your team utilize the additional millions from 1904 (and counting) investors? What plans does Mr & Mrs Smith have to further disrupt the sector?
Lohan: The investment has always been about strengthening the company and accelerating its growth – the extra funding simply means we have more rocket fuel to make it happen. The money is being directed at three core area of our business.
The first is US expansion. Our existing New York and LA operations have observed a huge increase in luxury travel in the American market and we’ve experienced a 45% increase in US booked revenue growth, so we want to seize on this success and extend our US reach as much as possible. In addition, there’s a surge of exciting hotel openings in the US at the moment – we want to be sure we’re right there in the thick of it.
Secondly, there are about 500 hotels and villas worldwide that we’re keen to launch into the collection, far more than our existing curation and editorial resources can process quickly. The investment will enable us to accelerate and automate elements of our onboarding process without compromising the standards of our curation or the quality of our content.
Finally, earlier this year we bought the experiences business SideStory, which has a portfolio of unique insider-led city tours in London and Paris. Now that this is integrated into Smith, we’re keen to expand its scope and scale. Today’s travellers place more and more value on meaningful experiences and authentic cultural connections. We’ve always strived to signpost our customers to something ‘worth getting out of bed for’ when they book with us, but developing our SideStories will enrich our experiential offering in tune with the evolution of this trend.
CI: As a leading entrepreneur, what advice to you have for those just launching? Who, if anyone, mentored you when you launched or as you’ve grown as an industry leader?
Lohan: It’s perhaps a cliché to say it, but I was hugely influenced by my parents. Both were entrepreneurs, and my mother ran her own business (a dating agency) while I was young. As far as mentors go, she was brilliant. I’ve also learned a lot from people and businesses I’ve mentored myself – mentoring can be hugely rewarding in both directions and I’d recommend it to anyone at any stage in their business.
For those who are just launching, never allow yourself to stop learning. It’s very easy to get so busy that you spend all your time running around manically keeping up with everything, but it’s so important to ensure that you make time for your own development. Also take the time to develop, nurture and sustain your network. A great network will support you, provide you with vital connections along the way, and can be a fantastic sounding board – especially when things get tough.
CI: As a female in a technical role what are your views on getting more women into tech jobs?
Lohan: We need to reach young girls early in their education, and show them female role models in a variety of sectors and a variety of tech roles – not only coding. Girls need to see that there are clear pathways to success available to them in the tech sector and that no subjects or professions are closed to them. Fourteen is a critical age as it’s when they are thinking about what GCSEs to take – and when many girls drop STEM subjects. If we can show them successful women in this field, occupying positions they weren’t sure were within their reach, we can encourage them towards subjects they might not otherwise have taken – and consequently change the make-up of the industry in the future. Organisations like Founders4Schools is great at doing this – we need more like them.
It’s not just education; businesses need to adapt their working practices and cultures, employing remote and flexible working to meet the needs of more diverse teams. It’s encouraging to see lots of businesses start to do this. At Smith we’ve worked hard to nurture diversity. In the tech team, we currently have a 60/40 split between men and women, which is good (23% above industry standard), but not yet good enough. My goal is to shift that to 50/50 within two years.
CI: Which travel destinations are among your favorites and where do you plan to celebrate your crowdfunding success?
Lohan: I lived in Chile for a year after university and loved it, so I’m thrilled that a recent surge in boutique hotel openings is giving travellers more opportunities to explore Chile’s astonishingly diverse natural landscapes. I’d go back in a heartbeat.
Closer to home, I’m currently falling in love with Portugal (in particular Comporta and Lisbon), for the food, the architecture, the tile work, the wine, the 40km stretch of untouched coastline, and the wonderful hotels springing up there.
However, I don’t think we’ll be doing too much celebrating– now that the funds are in, we’ve got way too much to do!
Mr & Mrs Smith’s Crowdcube campaign is set to close in 16 days. For more campaign and financial details, please click here.
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