Scotland business

Travel search firm Skyscanner aiming high

One of the brightest prospects for a global technology firm to grow in Scotland has reported a near doubling of turnover in the past year.

Edinburgh based Skyscanner reported 2013 turnover up by 96% to £65.8m.

Users of its website and app have doubled, to reach 25 million each month.

Chief Executive, Gareth Williams, said the company is now worth at least $1bn (£612m) and he has plans to keep growing rapidly.

Last October, the firm secured an investment by Sequoia Capital, a leading US technology investment firm, which valued it at $800m (£490m).

Skyscanner runs a search engine for travel and its app has been downloaded more than 30 million times.

Expanded its workforce

The company began in 2003, and focussed on flights. During the past year, it has moved into hotel and car hire searches, buying a Barcelona technology firm, Fogg, to help develop the software.

It has also expanded beyond the European market, with offices in Singapore and Beijing. Its Asian traffic grew last year from 14% of traffic to 20%.

Last year, the company opened an office in Miami, to grow its business in North and South America.

The small team there has seen an 119% increase in monthly visitors, while European monthly visitors to the website were up 64%.

During 2013, the company expanded its workforce by 200, to reach more than 400. It has announced plans to create another 200 jobs during 2014, with a focus on software engineering.

As part of its expansion, it opened a Glasgow office, to attract Scottish staff who prefer not to commute to the head office at Edinburgh's Quartermile development.

Search engine

Shane Corstorphine, the chief financial officer, said: "Our growth has been predominantly driven by our flight search on both web and mobile platforms, reinforcing our position as Europe's leading flight search site, while seeing rapid growth in the Americas and particular in Asia-Pacific.

"With an increasing number of consumers booking their travel on the go, mobile will remain a key part of our strategy over the next 12 months and beyond".

Gareth Williams, who co-founded the firm, said this year will see a focus on growing the hotel and car hire parts of the search engine beyond roughly 10% they now represent.

He also told the BBC he wants to make the search engine more individualised and to build more of an online community around Skyscanner.

In December, Skyscanner announced that Margaret Rice-Jones is to be the new chair of its board, having specialised in mobile technology over the past 25 years.

Commenting on the growth of the firm, Colin Adams, director of commercialisation at Edinburgh University's school of informatics, said Skyscanner was very significant to the capital's cluster of technology firms.

He commented: "They're a global player, the way they've aggressively pursued not only the business, but the way they've developed the people within the business and the whole ethos that's emerged there, there's a great role model for people starting their business.

"And also people coming into this area, or kids looking to what they're going to do with their career, they look at Skyscanner and see that's a way to make an impact."

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