Earlier this week I was delighted to be able to share with you the details of Chic Retreats, one of the latest EIS-eligible investment opportunities to launch on our GrowthFunders equity crowdfunding and co-investment platform.
Chic Retreats is an online marketplace that matches discerning travellers to amazing small independent boutique hotels from around the world, helping them uncover the hidden gems.
For the small, independent boutique hotel operator, Chic Retreats offers a comprehensive digital marketing and technology platform, which assists in the optimisation of rooms, rates and availability management, providing a digital marketing toolset to maximise their visibility and bookings.
Online travel is fast becoming a trillion dollar market annually, with the mass market online travel agents together accounting for only 13.5%. With the fastest growing segment of the market being ‘boutique hotels’, Chic Retreats see an opportunity to become the niche small independent boutique hotels player - and today I want to introduce you to the team behind the company.
Lulu Townsend | Founder
Chic Retreats was founded by Lulu Townsend, with the key focus on making booking holidays easier at some of the world’s best luxury and boutique hotels. Luxury hotels and hospitality are in Lulu’s blood - her parents owned and ran Palazzo Terranova in Umbria, Italy - yet from humble beginnings in Lulu’s garden shed, Chic Retreats has grown to become an established niche player in the boutique hotel market, employing a dedicated team of travel experts ready to help you book your ideal holiday.
Amir Azulay | Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
Amir is a mobile industry expert and has been involved in the mobile industry since 1999, when he co-founded the leading value-added mobile service provider in Israel. He led the equity investment for the business and sold it to iTouch PLC in 2000. Amir remained as MD until 2003, when he led the sale of the company to the Fishman Investment Group.
Amir then joined iTouch PLC in the UK and was involved in global expansion and acquisitions. In 2007 Amir was appointed as Corporate Development Director and CCO at Muzicall and was responsible for fundraising and commercial activities of the company, which was later sold to Real Networks.
Two years later in 2009, the Capital Fund appointed Amir as a NED of Conversity Ltd where he still serves today.
In 2012 Amir met Lulu Townsend and together they acquired back the brand Lulu had started. Amir identified a gap in the market after meeting with hundreds of small independent boutique hotel owners as he realised their challenges were the same. Amir self funded the company with the help of his family and in 2016, once the first version of the platform was built, Amir led the £1.5m institutional investment round from Maven. Amir has a BA Econ and an MBA in Finance & Technology Management from Tel Aviv University.
Amanda Dyjecinski | Chief Marketing Officer
Amanda is an online brand and digital marketing expert. A Senior Chartered Marketer with diverse experience working client side, agency and consultancy, Amanda has held senior positions with global brands, including Musto and Possible - a creative agency operating worldwide.
Nadav Zin | Chief Technology Officer (CTO)
Nadav has a proven track record in delivering robust and scalable ecommerce platforms. His specialities include web technologies, software development, management and industrial engineering. Nadav has worked across large scale and complex technical software architecture and aligns commercial acumen and information security to product delivery objectives.
Julian Houchin | Advisor & Hotel Asset Manager Specialist
Having broad experience in global sales, marketing, distribution and management in the hospitality industry, Julian has particular emphasis on pre-opening hotels and turnaround success of under-performing assets.
He has held senior executive positions with Trusthouse Forte Hotels, InterContinental Hotels, Abercrombie & Kent, Radisson Hotel Group and Wyndham Worldwide, and his experience covers 5-star city centre hotels, luxury tented camps and beach front resorts.
Julian has extensive experience in working with hospitality brands and managing independent hotels and is currently involved in several asset management projects in the Mediterranean, including a Leading Hotel of the World.
Thierry Macquet | Advisor
Thierry has been involved in the luxury hospitality and services industry since 1997, working for many boutique high end hotel companies such as Constance Hotels, Lux and Relais & Chateaux.
In 2008, he set up a boutique Business Development, Marketing and PR Agency with offices in London and Paris, working in close partnership with individually owned luxury hotels, lodges and DMCs at international level. The role of TM Marketing & Communications is to promote its clients with Tour Operators, Travel Agents and Concierge companies, but also to organise high-end B2C events so that the word of mouth gets into the market. TM also handles all press/media relations for its clients in the UK, and has a partnership with Sophie Sarkozy from Douzal Communication in France.
Co-owning a number of other companies, these include Experiential Pursuits, a bespoke travel concierge service where they manage the leisure travel of over a dozen 'uber rich' families internationally. In addition, Linzee Gordon & Macquet Associates handles the PR, brand positioning, and organises events for small luxury brands based in London (think coffee, artists, spirits, etc).
Since 2016, Thierry has also been a travel and lifestyle freelance writer for various high profile magazines like Spears, Russian Roulette, The Berkeley, Home House, and Dandy. Last but not least, he is a brand ambassador and non executive board member for a few of his clients, namely Maradiva Villas & Resort, Aquavit London, Simba Safaris and Real Agua Amarga boutique hotel & beach club.
Chic Retreats - live EIS eligible investment opportunity
Chic Retreats is seeking investment to grow and scale the business, contributing to their existing team and skills.
Chic Retreats is looking to raise £1.5m in exchange for 15.8% equity. Having secured investment from experienced institutions including Maven Venture Capital Trusts and Oak Trust to date, both of which are follow-on investments from previous rounds, this institutional investment brings further skills and experience to the existing professional team, and will support Chic Retreats as they scale.
This investment opportunity is EIS-eligible, offering a range of tax reliefs - including 30% income tax - and full details of the EIS-eligible investment opportunity are available on the dedicated pitch page here.