What were you doing 15 years ago? Interestingly enough, fifteen years ago I was CEO of a business called Intelliquest and at about this time I was preparing to take that company public. Well, at that same time in 1996, an industry was being born, as Dave and Lynn Clouse were planning to launch a site called VRBO.com (or Vacation Rentals by Owner), so they could help their friends manage and market their vacation rental properties.
Boy does time fly…
Fast forward to 2004 when Carl Shepherd (the co-founder of HomeAway) and I were lost on a highway off the coast of Oregon, headed to a place named Depoe Bay. It was here we met the owners of the premier U.S. vacation rental sites, A1Vacations.com, GreatRentals.com, CyberRentals.com and the most prominent of all, VRBO.com. We were there to share our idea about transforming the vacation rental industry: we wanted to build the world’s most complete vacation rental marketplace, but we knew we couldn’t start from scratch to do it. In February 2005, Carl and I formally established HomeAway (formerly called WVR Group—don’t ask!). That month we acquired three of those four sites, as well as the U.K.’s, Holiday-Rentals.co.uk. In June 2006, we combined their inventory, along with that of FeWodirekt.de, a German company we acquired in December 2005, to launch HomeAway.com
VRBO.com wasn’t part of the original acquisitions we made to form the company- although we sure would have liked it to be. As pioneers of the early vacation rental industry, the Clouses knew they had something special. They didn’t want to sell the business they’d poured their hearts and souls into until they felt like they had found a good home for VRBO. According to Dave, “Over the years, we were approached dozens of times by those who wanted to acquire VRBO. Because of this, we were able to take the time to ’choose wisely‘ who we wanted to partner with.” Consequently, after much observation they realized “…there was no better place for VRBO to be than at HomeAway.” With that, they decided to entrust their business to us, and we’re so honored they did!
As many of you have now seen, this summer we are celebrating the fifth and fifteenth anniversaries of HomeAway.com and VRBO.com, respectively. I’m extremely proud to be part of this company, which is fueled by the tireless efforts of our global team and the brand advocacy of our loyal customers.
Looking back on our accomplishments, I feel as though we’ve made tremendous progress towards our long-term mission, and I want to take this opportunity to highlight some of the things we’re most proud of, in no particular order:
• The launch of HomeAway.com— this was a massive effort that helped us put our company on the map and is one of the reasons we’re celebrating today!
• The acquisitions of VRBO.com and Homelidays.com—when we first started the business, we had some major competitors among these two brands, but luckily they’re now on our team and helping us to build the world’s largest vacation rental marketplace
• Our First Super Bowl Ad— one of the boldest moves we’ve made at HomeAway—spending millions of dollars on a high-profile ad, while being a young tech company is usually a recipe for disaster, but I’m proud to say the commercial was a success and just won the Gold Effie award for one of the most effective campaigns of the year (other winners included Old Spice and Snickers)!
• Raising $250 million in private equity funding on one of the worst days of the stock market in recent years—this is a true testament to the quality of the vacation rental offerings from our customers, the strength of our business and the future potential of the vacation rental industry
• The entrepreneurial spirit lives on - the early vacation rental businesses were literally started at and run from the kitchen tables of their founders, and we try to epitomize that entrepreneurial spirit in every move we make, even honoring the idea at our weekly all-staff meetings, which we call “Table Talks.” We feel forever indebted to those original owners who helped us kick start our journey and define the culture of our company
But the thing I think I’m most proud of is the impact we’ve had on our customers. We’re thrilled when we hear another success story of an owner who was able to afford their dream retirement home as a result of the businesses we’ve either created or brought into the HomeAway family. On the traveler side, and I can certainly relate, it’s heart-warming to think about the millions of vacation memories created as a result of HomeAway.com, VRBO.com and our other sites. It was because of these great memories that I decided to start this business back in 2005!
To wrap up, I’d like to thank you all once again for helping to get us to this point. Our customers are the life-blood of these two sites and we wholeheartedly appreciate your trust, support and commitment. We still have a long way to go, and I promise you we’ll continue to work tirelessly to make the experience of working with HomeAway better and better.
Here’s to the next fifteen years and the many more milestones to come!
P.S. Check out the links to all of our Anniversary Celebration Items: