Potentia Capital takes majority stake in tourism property tech NewBook

Potentia Capital takes majority stake in tourism property tech NewBook

Brad and Shaye Illich.

A camper van holiday boom in Australia and the US has led to a surge in business for property management system provider NewBook, attracting a major investment from tech-focused private equity firm Potentia Capital to fast-track global expansion for the Gold Coast-based company. 

NewBook founder Brad Illich tells Business News Australia the undisclosed "eight-figure" investment gives Sydney-headquartered Potentia a majority stake in the group, but he and his wife Shaye still retain a significant share.

As the Digital Disruptor category winner from last year's Gold Coast Young Entrepreneur Awards and the Trailblazer of the awards in 2019, Illich says NewBook's value has "almost doubled" since COVID-19 began, processing more than $1.45 billion in booking revenue in 2020 alone.

Established in 2010, NewBook is a cloud-based tourism technology platform offering a suite of software, hardware, and services to more than 1,600 accommodation providers in 52 countries, with a niche specialty in a tourism industry segment that runs in Illich's blood - caravan parks.

Brad's father Frank, who passed away last year, entered the holiday park business in the 1970s before purchasing Ashmore Palms Holiday Village on the Gold Coast in the 1980s, followed by a park that was to be later renamed the Brisbane Holiday Village.

The youngest of Frank's six children, Brad had an entrepreneurial bent early on in life and at age 17 launched his first business Xtreme IT, giving him the experience and grounding to set up NewBook 10 years later.

With a business model that enables clients to lift revenue and direct online bookings while significantly reducing the commissions paid to third-party booking sites, the enterprise has taken off and in late 2019 this culminated in the opening of a California office and a groundbreaking US deal with the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).

With its foot firmly in the door of the North American market, in late 2020 NewBook started providing booking engine services to Equity LifeStyle Properties (ELS:NYSE), one of the world's largest owner-operators of RV parks and campgrounds with more than 200 properties.

This added to an existing portfolio of clients in Australia including Ingenia Communities (ASX:INA), Reflections Holiday Parks, Holiday Haven, NRMA Parks and Resorts, Tasman Tourism, RAC Parks and Resorts, as well as many other councils and individual properties. 

"NewBook is at an inflection point following strong growth, and I feel that now is the right time for NewBook to leverage its current lead on our competitors and fast-track our global expansion. I have complete confidence that Potentia Capital will help us do just that," says Illich, who will move from the role of CEO to president.

"My passion lies with software development and the processes behind creating a first-class product, so this exciting change means I can be more focused on the R&D of NewBook.

"To say that I'm proud of everything the NewBook team has achieved in the last 11 years is an understatement and I couldn't have done it without them. Onwards and upwards."

Potentia Capital operating partner Cheyne Tan will be appointed interim CEO while NewBook undertakes a rigorous talent search for the right candidate for CEO.

"I've been incredibly impressed by the NewBook team's relentless focus on customer support and continued drive to innovate," says Tan.

"I look forward to working with the team to cement NewBook's global market leadership."

Also joining NewBook as chairman is Tim Reed, the current managing director at Potentia Capital and former CEO of 12 years at accounting software company MYOB.

Potentia's investment comes from its $400 million Fund 1 with expectations it will "undoubtedly catapult NewBook's Global success" while continuing with Illich's innovative and customer-focused way of operating. The investment will go towards software, customer support and go-to-market capabilities.

Potentia Capital has a strong track record in scaling up Australian tech businesses such as Ascender, Linkly, Micromine and Education Horizons Group, and was attracted by NewBook's innovative software, market-leading brand, skilled team and strong growth profile.

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