Finance

Dimmi founder Stevan Premutico: Why I sold my $10 million restaurant booking business to TripAdvisor

Kirsten Robb /

Dimmi founder Stevan Premutico says if he had to describe the sale of his restaurant booking platform to US travel giant TripAdvisor in one word, it would be “proud”.

“I’m proud that from day one, the only thing I ever wanted was to create a legacy and pass it on to a good home,” Premutico told SmartCompany off the back of the major announcement yesterday.

“I started Dimmi on the back of a napkin sitting in restaurant with a random thought and a random idea. I never expected it to get to the point where it would be snapped up by a company as powerful and amazing as TripAdvisor.”

“I didn’t start with it in mind to sell it. I started it to create a brand I’m proud of and if you create a business like that, success follows.”

Read More: How I sold my business to Facebook for $100 million

The platform, which lists more than 2500 SME restaurants as partners, was designed to help businesses keep up with increasing digital demand. By placing a widget on their website, restaurants can quickly lock a booking in and retain customer information.

The deal – the value of which is undisclosed because of TripAdvisor’s policy on acquisitions, according to Premutico – has been in the works for the last few months and was nutted out via two Skype sessions between the Sydneysider and TripAdvisor chief executive Stephen Kaufer.

“I fell in love over two dates,” laughs Premutico.

“I admired the man’s passion for creating a world class platform and I admired him for the phenomenal business he had created. I admired that our entire conversation was about people and products and vision, rather than about prices. That was super important to me.”

Read more: How to sell your small business for big bucks

Premutico says he was impressed by the natural connection and “similar DNA” of the two businesses, but also was in awe of Kaufer’s industry knowledge.

“I was fascinated by his interest in the dining space. He knew more about the industry than me, he has a fascination for the sector,” Premutico says.

“We were excited restaurants would be better served in this new home.”

Premutico says the deal will accelerate Dimmi to the position of market leader in the restaurant reservations sector, both locally and globally.

“We also expect our restaurant partners will start to receive significantly more bookings from the TripAdvisor network,” he says.

Repaying the trust and support of Dimmi’s restaurant partners with a deal that would further support them was a vital part of the decision to sign with TripAdvisor, according to Premutico, because it was those business that had supported him from the beginning.

Having worked in hospitality marketing, the entrepreneur surprised even himself when he waltzed into a performance review at his job at the Hilton in 2008 with his resignation letter in hand.

“I told my boss, ‘I’ve got to move on’. I didn’t know what it meant, but I knew I had to do it,” Premutico says.

“I spent one year of my life living in an attic in London, working on this idea. I tried to raise money in London but the GFC had just hit, so I couldn’t get a cent.”

Coming back to Australia, Premutico was fortunate enough that a family friend lent him $300,000 to get Dimmi off the ground and he began pitching the idea to restaurants, without so much as a prototype.

“It didn’t exist, the product or the website, but these restaurants were happy to sign on,” he says.

Five years later, the business now turns over more than $10 million annually and has grown 160% year-on-year.

Premutico, who will remain as chief executive of the company following the acquisition, admits he may find it difficult if TripAdvisor decided to take his baby in a different direction than he necessarily would have.

“I’m sure I would,” he says, revealing he’s no stranger to “heated arguments” with shareholders.

“But at the end of day, if you have a joint vision and DNA, where you typically land is somewhere very similar.”

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Kirsten Robb

Kirsten Robb is a former journalist at SmartCompany. Previously, she worked at News Corp as a property reporter for Leader Newspapers and the Herald Sun, and holds a Masters of Journalism at Melbourne University.

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