As far as the UK’s travel sector is concerned, the past is a foreign country and they do things differently there. In the late 20th century, it was a country of dusty high street travel agents promoting deals via shop windows or Teletext. But in a one-room office in London’s pre-gentrification Southwark, a digital guerrilla army was plotting a shake-up.
Lastminute.com launched in late 1998, eventually raising the profile of founders Brent Hoberman and Martha Lane Fox to near-celebrity status. It used a smart business model and a cheeky sense of humour to generate huge awareness at just the moment UK consumers discovered the internet en masse.
The concept centred on taking unsold inventory – flights, hotels, theatre tickets – and selling it online. The win-win model cut losses for companies and created a discount for consumers.
“I was trying to think of a business model that I would use as a consumer,” explains Hoberman, now co-founder of the Founders Factory. “I thought, ‘What do I do? I do everything at the last minute.’”
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