Review: City Unscripted EIS

Billions of people travel internationally every year. These travellers are fuelling the boom of the tours and experiences market, which is currently valued at $18 billion and forecast to grow at 11% a year until 2020.

CityUnscripted could be well placed to take advantage of this. It's a proven business. For the last 20 months, it has grown 20% a month on average. It’s cash generative with a good profit margin. It is now raising £1 million under EIS to accelerate growth.

Highlights

  • Proven business operating in the rapidly growing city tours and experiences market
  • $18 billion market growing by 11% p.a.
  • Cash generative with strong profit margins
  • Experienced and passionate management team
  • Scalable low-cost growth model
  • Target return 7.0x before tax relief – not guaranteed
  • Highly attractive pre-money valuation of £2.5 million
  • Minimum investment £10,044 
  • Raising £1 million, closing 1 December
  • High-risk single company private offer

The offer

This is an opportunity to invest in an impressive business that has come a long way with very little. 

It’s been growing 20% a month on average for the last 20 consecutive months although past performance is not a guide to the future. It’s cash generative with a good profit margin. 

What is impressive in our view is that the company has achieved this with modest investment, driven by the strength of the idea, combined with the passion, expertise and sheer determination of the tight-knit management team.

TripConsul Limited, trading as CityUnscripted (“CU” or the Company), offers personalised, authentic city tours and experiences in 35 cities in Europe, Asia, Australia and America. 

Don’t picture a group of tourists dutifully following a professional guide who recites facts about a city’s landmarks. The experiences CU offers are more akin to exploring a new city with a friend who loves it and knows it inside out. Each experience is unique, crafted around the guests’ individual needs and wants – from sake tasting in Tokyo to festive traditions in Madrid. There is no professional tour guide, but a large and growing network of vetted “local hosts”, which CU matches to guests by interest, age, culture, language and so on.

The result is experiences guests love, as demonstrated by the average review rating of 4.9/5 and the impressive re-booking rate of 40%.

The growth opportunity could be huge. An estimated three billion people travelled internationally last year – expected to grow to 5.9 billion by 2030. 67% of affluent people prioritise experiences when travelling, so the tours and experiences market is enjoying above-market growth. This has attracted travel giants like TripAdvisor and Booking.com as well as investors like Goldman Sachs to the sector and has opened up compelling opportunities for new businesses.

To accelerate its growth, CU is raising £1 million under EIS by issuing 618,466 “A” Ordinary Shares at a price of £1.62. This private offer is available exclusively through Wealth Club. 

The £1 million equity investment will acquire 28.57% of the fully diluted ordinary share capital reflecting an attractive pre-money valuation of £2.5 million, a far cry from the multiples we often see with early-stage, unproven tech companies. 

City Unscripted EIS

The business

Nick Whitfield, co-founding CEO, first had the idea for CU a few years ago. 

Nick has lived and travelled overseas for most of his life. When he returned from the Middle East, five years ago, he was asked to set up the UK office of the UAE bank for which he was working. Visiting colleagues and business acquaintances regularly asked his advice on what to do in London. Nick soon realised it was surprisingly difficult to find relevant advice beyond the top city attractions. 

This made him think back to his own travels and what made one trip better than another. Two stuck out. The first was a trip to Johannesburg where he visited a friend who had been living there. Meeting locals, talking about their lives in the city, going to bars, markets and eating and drinking like a local, he felt connected to the city. The second trip was to Paris. He had much higher expectations. Whilst he enjoyed it, he ended up in many of the same tourist spots as everyone else. He felt little connection to the city. 

The comparison between the two trips led him to the realisation that what makes a city special and a trip truly enjoyable is the people. 

CU was borne out of Nick’s desire to try and replicate this ‘friend in the city’ experience and make every city trip the very best it could be, going beyond the superficial and seeing and doing the things travellers want, rather than just going down the well-trodden tourist path. 

The founding management team collectively has significant experience and expertise in travel and hospitality, marketing, software and product development and finance. Three of the co-founders have known each other and worked together for many years. They all share a passion for travelling. They have all left senior corporate positions and taken a significant pay cut to build CU. The management team is supported by an impressive advisory board, including the Co-Founder of Mr and Mrs Smith, the online travel and hotel club, the former Finance Director of Audley Travel and the former Director of Forte Hotel Group.

CU aspires to be the leading provider of private, authentic, personalised and hosted city experiences and tours in the UK and internationally, with long-term plans of offering experiences in over 500 cities with more than 50,000 local hosts. 

Currently, average bookings are around 500 per month. The business is close to break-even point on its current cost base and has proven the model works and is ready to scale. We consider this an impressive achievement on just £473k of seed funding.

Target returns

The management is targeting returns to investors of 10.0x (after EIS tax relief) and 7.0x (before EIS tax relief) after three years – returns and timeframes are not guaranteed. Please see our research report for further details of the target return.

Based on current M&A activity, the target multiples are not unachievable in our view, if management can deliver the business plan. Experienced investors should form their own opinion.

Exit strategy

We understand the management intends to remain with the business long enough to help the Company realise its full potential. 

As with all EIS companies, there is the option of a trade sale, a sale to another financial investor, refinancing or a stock market listing. There is a great deal of activity and investment in the sector. 

We believe if CU achieves its plan it may get interest from a range of existing travel operators or achieve a good value rating on IPO, although this is not guaranteed. Timeframes and exit options are not guaranteed.

What to consider

This is a high-risk single company investment: capital is at risk. Please ensure you read the report and the Information Memorandum carefully, and make sure you understand the considerable risks of investing. You should not invest money you cannot afford to lose. Returns are not guaranteed. Details of the charges are also covered in the offer documents. The value of tax benefits depends on circumstances and tax rules can change. 

Our view

The management has done well to achieve what it has achieved with less than half a million of capital. CU has great ratings and travellers clearly love the experiences. Indeed, the 40% re-booking rate is impressive.

Moreover, the market is growing and there is enough demand for CU to achieve its desired volume of business, in our view. The sooner it scales up and achieves greater brand awareness, the less vulnerable it will be. If CU executes its business plan well this could be a highly profitable and valuable asset in a high-growth market, but there are no guarantees. 

The company has so far been run frugally and achieved impressive results. The management has demonstrated they are experts at maximising return on capital employed. The low-cost growth model is appealing. We believe the pre-money valuation of £2.5 million represents good value. In our view, CU is a credible and exciting investment opportunity for experienced investors.

CityUnscripted EIS 1Wealth Club aims to highlight investments we believe have merit, but you should form your own view. You should decide based on the provider's documents and ensure you have read and fully understand them before investing. This review is a marketing communication. It is not advice or a personal or research recommendation to buy the investment mentioned. It does not satisfy legal requirements promoting investment research independence and is thus not subject to prohibitions on dealing ahead of its dissemination. 

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