Web entrepreneur Bonamy Grimes MBE, co-founder of flight price comparison website Skyscanner, has been presented with an Honorary Fellowship of Aberystwyth University.
Bonamy grew up in Ceredigion and attended Aberaeron Comprehensive, where he was amongst the first cohort of pupils to study computer science at both O-level and A-level in the 1980s.
He went on to co-found flight price comparison website Skyscanner from his attic in London in early 2002.
Since then the company has grown to be the largest travel search company in the world with over 700 employees and offices across the globe.
He received an MBE for services to technology and travel in the Queen’s birthday honours list in 2016.
In November 2016 Skyscanner was sold to the online travel agent Ctrip for £1.4 billion.
Having stepped down from day-to-day involvement in the company, Bonamy now mentors several start-up businesses in the UK and is involved in a range of charity projects.
Bonamy Grimes MBE was presented by Dr Bernie Tiddeman, Head of the Department of Computer Science at Aberystwyth University on Thursday 19 July 2018. The full conferral presentation is available below, in the language in which it was delivered.
Presentation of Bonamy Grimes MBE by Dr Bernie Tiddeman:
Canghellor, Is-Ganghellor, darpar raddedigion, gyfeillion. Pleser o’r mwyaf yw cyflwyno Bonamy Grimes yn gymrawd Prifysgol Aberystwyth.
Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, prospective graduates and supporters. It is an honour and a privilege to present Bonamy Grimes as a Fellow of Aberystwyth University.
Bonamy Grimes grew up in rural Ceredigion, just a few miles south of Aberystwyth, in what sounds like an idyllic childhood, dominated by “fields, woods and running around”. From those humble beginnings he went on to co-found SkyScanner, one of the great British web startup success stories which in November 2016 was sold to Ctrip, the largest travel firm in China, for $1.75 billion (£1.4 billion).
He attended Aberaeron Comprehensive School, which was part of something called the Technical and Vocational Educational Initiative that allowed him to do the first ever computer science O-level. This kicked off his interest in technology and computer science, which he went on to study at A-level and then for a degree at Manchester University. It was at Manchester that he met fellow computer scientist Gareth Williams who would later become SkyScanner’s second co-founder. The two bonded over shared interests in music, skiing and technology.
It was almost 10 years later that they met the company’s third co-founder Barry Smith, while working as an IT contractor for Marks & Spencer in the early 2000s. The three set up their own consultancy and Skyscanner began to take shape when Williams was awarded a contract by Reuters that he wasn’t too keen on accepting. He took on the work on the understanding that he would have two weeks on and two weeks off. He used those weeks off to go skiing over the winter, and started to develop software to work out the best choice of flights. Recognising the business potential, the three started to develop William’s initial implementation (created in a spreadsheet), into a robust flight search system.
As a self-funded enterprise, initially the firm grew slowly, making some mistakes, but learning from them and refining the product and the business idea. As Bonamy has said more recently ‘The one piece of advice I’d have is that it’s not about the idea – it’s about the execution.’
The team took 5 years to develop the software to the stage where they felt ready to approach funders to allow them to scale up the system. They secured £2.5m from venture capital firm Scottish Equity Partners in 2007 and used it to translate the site into 29 different languages and expand the range of destinations it covered. Since then the company has grown to be the largest travel search company in the world, with over 700 employees and offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Barcelona, Singapore, Miami and Beijing.
Having stepped down from the day to day involvement in the business, Bonamy has explored a number of projects involving his passions of cycling and motor racing as well as helping to mentor a number of start-up companies in the UK.
Bonamy is also involved in a number of charities, working on the technical advisory board of The Alzheimers Society, and is also a regular rider on the Ride25 cycle trip to Sydney in Australia, raising funds for 1moreChild, an orphanage in Uganda.
Canghellor, Is-Ganghellor mae’n bleser gen i gyflwyno Bonamy Grimes i chi yn Gymrawd.
Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor it is my absolute pleasure to present Bonamy Grimes to you as a Fellow of Aberystwyth University.
Aberystwyth University Honours 2018
Nine individuals are being honoured by Aberystwyth University during the 2018 graduation ceremonies, which take place at the University’s Arts Centre from Tuesday 17 July until Friday 20 July.
Six Honorary Fellowships are being presented to individuals who have, or have had a connection with Aberystwyth or Wales, and who have made an outstanding contribution to their chosen field.
One Honorary Doctorate is being presented; recognising an individual who has been outstandingly successful in their field, or who has a long record of renowned research and publication.
Two Honorary Bachelor degrees are being presented. These are presented to individuals who are members of Aberystwyth University staff without an entry-level degree in recognition of long-service, contribution and dedication to the Institution; and members of the local community who have made a significant contribution to Aberystwyth and the area.
Photo: Aberystwyth University Chancellor, the Rt Hon. the Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd with Bonamy Grimes MBE, Honorary Fellow of Aberystwyth University