Interview with Fabio Cannavale
Co-founder of eDreams Italy, Volagratis.com and Lastminute.com group

Fabio has founded and led travel and leisure companies such as Bravofly , Boost Heroes , B Heroes, and lastminute.com group. Originally from Milan, he has dedicated his career to improving not only the lives of European tourists and travelers, but of people in his home country as well. By combining his expertise in project management, business development, and the European travel marketplace, he has created a range of online tools to make travel easy, enjoyable, and streamlines. Fabio has also utilized Boost Heroes to grow and scale other startups, thereby giving newer companies a greater chance at success.
Hi Fabio! You have so many business projects to your name. Is each brand serving a totally different audience, or do the people you target tend to have certain characteristics in common?
The cost for any company, especially in the travel industries, is to have a platform that can serve everyone. It's all a question of technology and the capacity to have good technology to serve the needs of different people. Then based on the same platform of technology and services it's very easy having flexible tools to serve different customers with different orders, differing needs and different brands. In the end, this is a good customization that you can do with the modern technology that you can produce different products, for different targets with the same platform. This very key is done by all successful companies and we think that this key is the gateway to success.
Since Volagratis launched in 2004, you’ve acquired a broad portfolio of brands including lastminute.com, Bravofly and Rumbo. At what point did you start to plan on building a group of such a great size?
I planned to start a group of a big size just in the beginning because I had a vision. So when we understood that this business could be very successful not only in Italy, we first planned to move to Switzerland which is the best place to have an international expansion. And then we looked around to some acquisition and we started with Rumbo. It was the first one that was about our size. So we then discovered at the end when you do an acquisition, it's the same if you do a small acquisition or a large acquisition, it's more effort but the large acquisition brings much better results. So after Rumbo, it was very successful, we focused on doing other acquisitions of big size, that's when we the largest one, Lastminute.com. But it is very important not only to find the right target but to get the right price, and what's even more important is to do the right integration and our business size matters and it makes a lot of sense to make acquisitions when you can see in general costs, if you double the size you decrease the cost
Your non-profit endeavours through the lastminute foundation focus heavily on empowerment - particularly by providing funding for charities and new startups. Does this reflect your personal beliefs on how best to help others?
My belief is that I try to help the others where I have more experience, and they can succeed better. So my brief strategy used is to try to help other entrepreneurs to create new ventures. I do that both in Italy, as it is my home country, and in developing countries. I think personally that the best way to develop a country is to invest in the people and help the entrepreneurs for success. These can make much more effect than a normal charity.I started my own venture, B Heroes in Italy. I feel personally very good when I give suggestions to entrepreneurs, i give value to them and they also give a lot of value to me, to learn about new initiatives and maintain an open brain with innovation.
As an investor, what are your processes for determining whether to back a brand or individual? How did you formulate those processes?
I have a company, a holding company with other partners, where we are investing in startups in the seed capital. We have done in the last three years about 65 investments. The first thing I look at is the quality of the entrepreneur, the focus and the energy that the entrepreneur has. I believe much more in the people rather than the idea. So for me, the team, the entrepreneurs, the quality, the skills and the energy is the top decision for me to decide to invest. The process that we have a team working on that, the team look at the entrepreneurs, analyse the business and see how structured they are, then we do feedback. Then we have an investor day involving our partner investors. In the end, when I talk to the people on the team I can take the final decision, looking at the quality of the people. Normally I don't invest in ideas, but i invest in a company that truly exists.
We hear you’re a keen sailor. Have your experiences at sea taught you any lessons that apply to business, or to life more broadly?
Sailing is a very good lesson for living. When you sail, cruising, it's very important that you explore new places but you maintain always control and knowledge of what you are, and what you are doing going to do, and it's the same when you manage a business. Even more exciting and challenging is when you do regatta because there are areas where everyone should have a clear goal, and there is a very clear dictatorship in a sailing boat because there are more people that decide to want to take responsibility for all. I think in a well-managed company it's very similar, you need to have a very strong team, everyone competent and doing very well in what they do. And at the end, there is someone that takes the decision. In sailing, also, it's all a question of implementation. There's not a lot to invent, just to do everything right in the perfect way and the same thing happens in a business.
What do you expect will be the next big change to happen in the travel industry, and how will lastminute.com group respond to that change?
The new challenge of travel business is personalisation. In the early days of business travelling people were happy to travel in a simple way, with a standard problem of having to decide on chartered flights, standard hotels, a sandy beach, and coming back. Today, everyone has different ideas, they want to have a different experience and travel is much more personalised. So the objective of the future is to give to each one exactly what they want. This is why we are working a lot in our technology to help the people that can book and make their trip as they like with a dynamic construction of the package, putting it together, the service they really need. So this is I think is the main challenge for the travellers to have everything in the end to book what they want. But the process of booking was different, because before everything was needed to be booked in advance, and it was all booked through a traditional agency. But today you have everything on your phone, people can book things like services in advance. It is very important to have the continuous contact with the end user because we aim to be the support tool wherever they are and so they can book part of their vacation before, and then the part of the services when they are on vacation. So having a good tool on the phone to be always in contact with the customer is key, to me, to be a success in this business.