Q&A: SiteMinder on how it went public during a pandemic

SiteMinder made its debut on the Australian Stock Exchange this Week. This makes it the first travel technology company to go public since 2010's global distribution systems.
Investors were able to purchase over 120 million shares in the technology and accommodation marketplace, which gave it a market capitalization exceeding $1.3 billion.

It is the culmination of three successful years for CEO Sankar Narayan. (In The Big Chair interview here). He succeeded Mike Ford, who was co-founder and managing direct.

Narayan was our contact at the end the company's first trading day.

This is the first IPO of B2B travel tech in a long time. What does this say about the larger market in which you are operating at the moment?

It is clear that B2B travel technology - which has traditionally been seen as being behind other industries in innovation – can be among the most successful and innovative companies in the world.

SiteMinder was not a quick success. It has been a 15 year journey, which began with two pioneers.

I am proud to say that I have 1,350 partners in the travel tech industry. Many of them started small, which I encourage, and that there are many real innovators. B2B travel tech is an option on the global innovation stage.

It also affirms that travel is not dead but has changed merely. Global hotel bookings are at 80% as of today, with many markets including Spain, Portugal and Taiwan returning to their pre-pandemic levels.

What do you believe will be the greatest benefit to switching from a private company to a publicly traded one?

Today, there are more than one million hotels that could benefit from better online connectivity. We offer a better solution through an open platform for hotel commerce. This belief has been shared by more than 32,000 hotels and all of our partners.

SiteMinder is now open to anyone around the globe who believes in it. The best part is that SiteMinder can now invite any individual or institution who believes in being part of something bigger and making a positive difference in the world, just like we do, to be part of our story.

A publicly-listed company, in addition to the obvious benefits of being publicly listed, can also have a positive effect on employee engagement, even though our purpose, focus, and strategy will not change.

For example, we have an enterprise-wide employee stock plan that promotes more alignment with our teams as well as a sense of ownership. It's a great benefit for our employees and a boost for their morale to know that we are supported by some of the most powerful investment firms in the world.

It's one thing to believe in our people and that their work matters, but it's quite another to believe in them as an investor.

The biggest obstacle?

These distractions are not necessary. We have been laser-focused companies since the beginning. This is a major reason for our success.

Moving forward, I have told our employees to keep their eyes on the goal and execute our strategy. The share price will follow its own course. I keep reminding myself of this.

What are your priorities after this week's successful public IPO? In terms of both running the business as well as working in the recovery market?

SiteMinder has always been a strong belief of mine, but it has never been stronger than it is today. When I joined SiteMinder in late 2018, I had a three-year plan. While the route has changed over the past two years, the goal has remained the same.

Looking ahead, I see that public life doesn’t significantly alter our strategic priorities. We will continue to be fully committed to our customers, partners, and people who have experienced so much in the past two years.

To meet changing customer needs and help them remain resilient in a constantly-changing environment, we will continue to improve and evolve our open hotel commerce platform.

As I tried to guide the company through the pandemic, I was reminded of one thing over the past two years: if you take good care of your customers, employees, and partners, everything else will take care.

We have always recognized that there is an opportunity to increase online accessibility and performance for all accommodation providers, regardless of their size, from any part of the globe. This priority is unchanged.

What impact does a public listing have on M&A activity over the next months and years?

Our primary focus remains organic growth.

M&A can be a valuable tool to complement our organic growth strategy. The additional capital we received through our IPO has made us more able to pursue growth. However, at this time, there is no M&A activity.

What was SiteMinder’s most significant "investor story” during roadshows leading up to the IPO?

Investors don't just focus on the product and numbers. They also consider the people.

We were proud of the way we handled the pandemic, which was the most difficult time in our lives. Our resilience and strength over the past two years is a testament to our ability and determination to achieve our ambitious goals.

In addition to being a market leader, we also managed to deliver more than 100,000,000 reservations during the year before the pandemic. This is a staggering number, especially when you consider how we have the opportunity to transform hotels and connect them to the rest of the world via our global go-to market capability and open platform for hotel commerce.