SAN FRANCISCO—Thayer Ventures, a venture capital firm focused specifically on innovation in travel technology, has appointed Leland “Lee” Pillsbury as managing director, and launched its third investment fund, targeted to raise $100 million to invest in disruptive companies in the $10 trillion global travel and hospitality industry.
Pillsbury is co-founder and co-chairman of Thayer Lodging Group, a Brookfield Company; founder of the Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship at the Cornell School of Hospitality Administration; chairman of the board of Interstate Hotels and founder of numerous other companies. He brings more than 40 years of experience in travel to Thayer Ventures as he assumes the role of managing director. Pillsbury has been a senior advisor to the firm since inception.
“We are very pleased to welcome Lee Pillsbury, as we launch Thayer Ventures Fund III,” said Chris Hemmeter, managing director. “Lee brings not just an indefatigable entrepreneurial spirit and a track record engineering some of the most consequential transactions in travel in the past 20 years, but a scope of knowledge, vision and influence in the global travel industry that is unparalleled.”
He concluded, “Thayer Ventures Fund III will help investors profit from the huge opportunity in travel, which is one of the richest, most synoptic industries worldwide. From hotels to airlines, entertainment to alternative lodging, the industry is already experiencing seismic change, which promises to increase and accelerate even further in the next decade. We will partner with strategic investors, family funds and institutions—large and small—to identify the most promising young companies in the industry, bring their disruptive technologies to audiences and partners across the industry, and create substantial returns for investors and entrepreneurs alike.”
With experience scaling start-up companies and helping them achieve rapid market penetration in the complex travel space, the Thayer Ventures team has funded dozens of enterprises, according to the company. Its first two funds are invested in more than 20 start-ups, including Duetto, ADARA, Social Tables, BookingPal and Sonder.
Pillsbury said, “I am excited to assume this role at Thayer Ventures, at a moment of huge opportunity in the travel industry. Our investments provide talented entrepreneurs with the capital and the insights to quickly penetrate the changing travel landscape, and scale their businesses rapidly. I look forward to an exciting year ahead as we deploy Thayer Ventures III in the travel industry.”
Among other businesses, Pillsbury co-founded Thayer Lodging Group, where he spent more than 15 years overseeing strategic expansion and a sale to Brookfield Asset Management. He is now a senior advisor to Brookfield Global Lodging. He began his career with a 19-year tenure with Marriott Hotels, where he rose to the position of EVP, revamping the group’s pricing strategies, creating the industry’s first revenue and yield management systems, and more. Pillsbury has launched and directed close to 20 companies since that time.
In line with its sole focus on travel technology, Thayer Ventures leverages a deep network of decisionmakers to help capture proprietary deal flow, offer portfolio companies unmatched tactical and strategic value and drive partner returns, according to the company. Many of its early stage investments have been the beneficiaries, including companies such as Duetto, which has raised more than $68 million through Series A, B and C investments; TripBAM, which is disrupting hotel distribution; Hipmunk, which was recently sold to SAP; and Traxo, which recently announced a Series B round of more than $5 million from companies including TripAdvisor.