Hospitality tech company Airship acquired by Zonal providing successful exit for investor

6th October 2022

Sheffield-based hospitality technology company, Airship, has been acquired by counterpart Zonal. The deal represents an exit for NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance, which is managed by Mercia and is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF). It achieved a considerable return on investment.

The 40-strong company has received a total of £1m in NPIF investment, which enabled it to redesign its existing customer relationship management software and launch a new product, Toggle, to help operators to sell gift cards and experiences.

Since the start of the first lockdown, it has grown annual recurring revenue by 300 per cent to more than £2.4m and increased staff numbers by 25 to over 40.

Airship and Zonal have a long-term partnership with more than 100 shared customers benefiting from integration that enables hospitality businesses to drive visits and generate pre-visit revenue. The acquisition is set to further integrate the products they offer, giving operators new ways to grow profits and consumers a smoother customer journey.

The two Airship founders, former pub landlord Dan Brookman and IT specialist Rob Marcer, will stay on with the business, with Brookman as chief executive and continuing to lead the team from the existing Sheffield office.

Brookman said: “Since the initial investment in 2019 Mercia has provided support and guidance to help us maintain our trajectory. We could have been very easy to write off at the start of the pandemic, being so focused in hospitality, but Mercia recognized that we could thrive and continued to provide support.

“This next chapter with Zonal gives us a springboard in the UK and US and I’m really excited to see what we can achieve together.”

Hospitality tech provider Zonal is based in Edinburgh and has three offices in the US.

Stuart McLean, Zonal chief executive, said: “Over the last three years Zonal and Airship have enjoyed a very successful partnership and we are all very excited to welcome Dan and the team to the Zonal family. This move will further integrate our products and represents a huge opportunity for our customers, who will benefit from the data-driven, business-building, and revenue-driving benefits that this integration will bring.”

Will Schaffer, of Mercia, said: “The Airship team saw the potential to use technology to help hospitality businesses drive revenue growth. The NPIF funding supported them through the early stages and helped them build and scale their products. The business has gone from strength to strength. The acquisition will open up new opportunities in the UK and provide access to the US market.”

Steven Millward led a multi-disciplinary team advising the founders on the acquisition, consisting of Lucy Holroyd, Alex Aitken and Jack Venable (corporate), Tom Jackson and Howard Jenkins (commercial property) and John Feaster (tax).

“We advised Dan and Rob on the initial investment from MPIF – Mercia Equity Finance back in 2019 and it was great to advise on the acquisition by Zonal and throughout the lifecycle of the investment.  The acquisition represents a major milestone on Airship’s journey, a significant return for investors and yet another endorsement of the fantastic tech scene here in Yorkshire”. Steven Millward, Partner.

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