MasterCard, Hyatt, and others must have done their homework before they invested in IfOnly. Still, the startup certainly expects outsiders to take too much on faith about its progress.
Travel Startup Funding This Week
Each week we round up travel startups that have recently received or announced funding. Please email Travel Tech Reporter Justin Dawes at [email protected] if you have funding news.
The total publicized this week was more than $49 million.
>>IfOnly, an online agency for booking activities and experiences, raised $20 million in Series D funding.
Mastercard led the round. Hyatt, NEA, Founder’s Fund, Khosla Ventures, and others also invested.
This round brings the total the San Francisco-based company has raised more than $40 million.
The company, founded in 2012, offers activities, ranging from planting trees to sailing in a hot air balloon next to Mt. Everest, for sale to travelers, gift-givers, and locals. Much of its inventory is focused on about eight destinations, so far, with some exceptions.
This winter IfOnly installed a new CEO, John Boris, formerly the chief marketing officer at photo-sharing platform Shutterfly.
>>Lvji, an audio travel guide mobile application, has secured $19 million in a Series B funding round.
Qianhai Fund of Funds, a private equity firm, and Pufeng Fund, an asset manager, led the round. In July 2017, the company disclosed a $3.9 million seed round led by QF Capital, which provides advisory services to startups.
The Guangzhou-based company did not disclose its total funding raised to date.
Founded in 2013, it has a couple of business lines. Its consumer-facing paid app enables tourists to navigate more than 2,000 Chinese and foreign destinations, hearing descriptions of scenic spots in a choice of Mandarin or English.
The company claimed to have 2 million paying users per month, on average. It works with online travel agencies such as Ctrip, Tuniu, Qunar, and Mafengwo to distribute its product.
It sells touchscreen, solar-powered kiosks that tourist bureaus can display along paths around a district. At first glance, the maps appear to be hand-painted. But when you click on them, they generate photos and other digital content.
The startup partners with tourism marketing organizations. It said it has deals with 600 destinations and tourism bureaus.
For example, the Yuexiu district has worked with the company to import content about 500 scenic spots, historic sites, former residences of celebrities, restaurants, stores, and hotels in a visual map with details that can be heard via spoken text.
Other companies that have developed audio walking tours for independent travelers include Detour.
>>The Hotels Network, a Barcelona-based hotel marketing tech firm, has raised $3.7 million in seed financing.
Seaya Ventures led the round, with venture firms 4Founders Capital and NFX also participating.
CEO Juanjo Rodríguez founded the company three years ago. It has 32 full-time employees across its offices in Barcelona, San Francisco, and Mexico City.
Rodríguez claims The Hotels Network is profitable and that it works with 3,000 hotels in more than 50 countries. The company provides a variety of digital marketing tools to help hoteliers attract more direct bookings.
The financing came from angel investors, the accelerator Impact Growth, the Spanish-government-backed agency Segittur, and the European Union-backed European Network and Information Security Agency.
The company said it uses artificial intelligence and natural language recognition software to “fully automate” the travel research and booking needs of Spanish- and English-speaking consumers. It integrates with WhatsApp, Facebook, Telegram, and other chat-based instant messaging services.
Founded in early 2016, the company has two businesses. It takes a commission from sales done via its consumer interactions. It also offers its technology on a white-labeled basis.
For more on the chatbot sector, see our March 2018 story “Lola Expands Business Travel Push With Team Management Features.”
>>Manet, a mobile and web-based platform for the hospitality sector, has raised $1.2 million (€1 million) in seed financing.
LVenture Group (LVG) led the round, with angel investors participating.
The Rome-based startup, founded in 2015, develops mobile software tools for hotel and vacation rental managers. It lets guests chat via text message and allows hoteliers to upsell and serve guests with a web-based customer relationship management tool.
Check out our previous startup funding roundups here.
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Photo credit: For only $4.8 million per person, travelers can join an expedition to soar to 30,000 feet above the Earth next to Mount Everest in a hot air balloon. It's one of the many experiences offered by IfOnly, a startup that's gotten a fresh round of funding this month. Chris Dewhirst / IfOnly