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Frank Böhnke

Turning casual buyers into loyal customers

In the spring of 1999, Dr. Loretta Würtenberger, Patrick Boos and Dominik von Ribbentrop launched Germany’s first web-based loyalty program, webmiles. They soon convinced Wellington Partners to lead the first round of financing for such an innovative player in the German retail sector. The market obviously had been waiting for just such an innovation, as customers immediately started collecting webmiles. Consequently, the number of first-class partners for start-up webmiles rose swiftly: By 1999, its list of partners already included Germany’s largest mail order house, Quelle, leading travel group TUI, car rental company Sixt and DAB bank.

This fast growth gained the attention of major players who were keen on positioning themselves in the multi-billion euro market for loyalty programs. In October 2000, Germany’s largest media house, Bertelsmann, stepped in and acquired webmiles just 18 months after the company had been founded. Today, webmiles is still an integral part of the Bertelsmann Group and more than 2.6 million people are collecting webmiles at some 500 shops, including the Who’s Who of online business in Germany.

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