WiFi SPARK Acquisition Story

Headquarters: Exeter, United Kingdom
Acquisition Date: September 2020
Vertical Market: Healthcare, Retail



Matt O’Donovan was confident he had a great idea. It was 2003, and as Matt describes “the idea of WiFi, to get communication from A to B without any cables, was magical.” He quickly became interested in the technology. Even though WiFi was not yet prevalent, Matt was confident people could benefit from it. And that’s when the VP of Sales and Marketing by day, radio electronics hobbyist by night, turned software company founder and CEO.

In its early days, the WiFi SPARK gained traction by providing WiFi services to Europe’s largest marina group – MDL Marinas. The services were all based on the company’s SaaS platform, SPARK. Shortly after getting started, the company focused its efforts on a wider market. Development began to shape the SPARK Platform for emerging opportunities in leisure, hospitality, and events. By 2009, with a team of 10 people, SPARK was making a push into National Health Services (NHS) Trusts where it currently owns approximately 30% of the market share. Its first healthcare customer, Kings College Hospital, remains a customer to this day.

By 2017 the team had grown to include approximately 50 employees and the SPARK solution had evolved to include innovative enhancements like SPARK Media, designed to improve the patient experience through entertainment, engagement, and education. In 2019, with a strong foundation established and big goals in mind, Matt began reviewing strategic options to accelerate the growth of the company.

"I really wanted the business to continue to grow and I wanted to continue to lead it. I knew I needed help. And Volaris, from what I could see at the time was going to be the best option for me, my team, and our customers."

- Matt O' Donovan, CEO, WiFi SPARK

The Decision to Sell

Matt O’Donovan has always been extremely pleased with the success of WiFi SPARK and he attributes that to talented employees and great customers. He doesn’t like to credit himself, but a brief conversation with Matt is all it takes to realize that, with his enthusiasm and leadership, he’s a big part of the success, too.

In 2019, Matt felt that the business wasn’t growing at the rate he knew it could. For Matt, this meant that there were patients in hospitals across the UK missing out on the experience WiFi SPARK could provide. To accelerate growth and adoption of the platform, Matt thought it was time to look at investment options.

He quickly dismissed the idea of a trade sale before considering a private equity investment; For Matt, it was important to remain a part of the business. He also wanted to ensure his employees and customers would be well taken care of in the long run. After meeting with about nine different PE firms, his phone rang. It was a representative from Volaris.

During that call, Matt was intrigued by the buy, grow, and hold forever philosophy. But it wasn’t until talking to the leaders of several Volaris-owned businesses that Matt was able to cast his doubt aside. He said, “It became obvious these are really genuine people. I really got a feeling of trust.”

So, Matt asked one last time, “If I do this, you will look after my business and the people that work with me, right? They are the most important thing. I’ve got super customers and super employees and I wouldn’t want anything to happen to them.” The team at Volaris agreed and since the acquisition, Matt, his team, and his customers have been a very-welcomed addition to the Volaris family.

"When you’re running your own business and you’re the CEO, the buck stops with you. You don’t always have someone you can ask what to do about this or that. When you’re part of Volaris Group, there are literally hundreds of people you can ask. The knowledge sharing is so valuable. There’s no other place where I could have joined a club of software experts who all have the same goals and passion. There’s no other place than Volaris."

- Matt O’Donovan, CEO, WiFi SPARK

Post-Acquisition Success

WiFi SPARK has now been with Volaris Group for a couple of years. Matt continues to set new ambitions which he confidently believes to be, “realistic and much more likely to be reached with data-driven decisions, benchmarks and best practices from hundreds of other businesses.”

For WiFi SPARK’s customers and employees, initial nerves quickly turned to excitement. Customers have found comfort knowing that Matt and his team are not going anywhere. They have expressed greater confidence in the longevity of WiFi SPARK with their largest customer acknowledging that the risk of dealing with a smaller company had now gone away.

On the staff side, the “glass ceiling” Matt’s team may have had on their careers with WiFi SPARK has been shattered. Matt's talented team continues to experience personal development opportunities as the business accelerates organic and acquired growth. Just one-year after joining Volaris, Hospedia was acquired – a strategic partnership to accelerate the transformation of patient engagement in the UK healthcare industry.

Matt himself has quickly realized the strength of the Volaris network, commenting, “because Volaris is made up of so many different companies, the breadth and depth of knowledge that’s out there is immense, you just have to learn how to find it.” To start, Matt hasn’t hesitated to pick up the phone and ask. He knows that if the person on the other end can’t help on a particular challenge, they’ll be sure to get him in touch with someone who can!