Web entrepreneurs get graduation alumni award at Manchester

Skyscanner co-founders, and University of Manchester alumni, Gareth Williams and Bonamy Grimes, have been honoured as Outstanding Alumni at the School of Computer Science’s graduation ceremony today (14th July).

The Computer Science graduates finished university in 1992 before creating Skyscanner in 2001 with the simple idea of making it easier to book flights online. Since then it has grown into one of the world’s leading travel websites, employing more than 800 staff in ten global offices. Last year it was sold for a massive £1.3 billion to China’s biggest online travel company, Ctrip.

Bonamy attended the ceremony to pick up the award on behalf of them both. On returning to the university 25 years after his original graduation, he said: ‘It was fantastic. I haven’t been back into the hall since my graduation and to see all those faces and think back to when I was in the audience and my big day – it was lovely to see so much optimism and ambition in that room. It was really fantastic.’

Bonamy Grimes
...it was lovely to see so much optimism and ambition in that room. It was really fantastic.
Bonamy Grimes

Bonamy and Gareth met in their first year at Manchester within hours of arriving at the University’s Oak House accommodation in 1989 and have been friends ever since. Bonamy added: ‘We used to socialise together, we were involved in the University ski club together and we kept in touch, we developed a friendship. We kept that going, we kept in touch – and when we both found ourselves in London we used to meet up and that’s how we got the idea of “we need to create something that’s our own”. And that’s how it all started.’

From the humble beginnings of those idea sessions in London, Skyscanner now has approximately 60 million users each month with the company’s app also being downloaded more than 60 million times.

So what guidance would Bonamay give to any budding entrepreneurs graduating today? He said: 'The one piece of advice I’d have is that it’s not about the idea – it’s about the execution. The execution is so much easier if you’ve got people to help you and bounce the idea off and to help deliver and make that idea a reality. Use the contacts you made at university, keep in touch with your friends, take that critical feedback, give that critical feedback when it’s asked for and make something happen – don’t just have the idea.'

Since the company’s sale, Gareth has remained as its CEO whilst Bonamy has stepped down from day-to-day involvement and is now involved in several start-up businesses and a range of charity projects.

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