PART VTransformation Story: Trainline

By Jon Moore

Marty's Note: In just a few short years, Trainline became one of Europe's best examples of tech-powered product innovation—completely turning around its business in the process. One thing that was a bit unusual is that this transformation started when a large private equity firm, KKR, purchased Trainline because it (correctly) believed the business was significantly undervalued and that if Trainline moved to the product model, the company could unleash real value. KKR brought in a strong CEO, Clare Gilmartin, who then brought in a proven head of engineering, Mark Holt, and a proven head of product, Jon Moore. Here Jon shares a first-person account of this impressive transformation.

In January 2015, one of the world's largest private equity companies, KKRfamed for inventing the leveraged buyoutannounced it had purchased Trainline, a long-standing reseller of UK rail tickets.

The acquisition, on the face of it, made limited sense. Rail remains a supremely legacy industry. Ticketing changes can require multibillion-pound infrastructure investments, and the entire industry is subject to close governmental scrutiny. In such an environment, the route to growth is normally measured not in months or years, but in decades.

With these constraints, Trainline appeared to offer little room to achieve the kind of progress demanded by KKR's portfolio.

What followed was a remarkable achievement, one led by a new, young CEO plucked directly ...

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