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Peek, a software vendor for tour operators, has raised a $23 million Series B funding round, the company said on Tuesday.
Cathay Innovation, the venture capital fund founded by private equity firm Cathay Capital, led the round in Peek. The investment is meant to help Peek expand to Europe and China — a task Cathay Innovation has past practice at accomplishing with other business-to-business startups.
The San Francisco-based startup sells operational and connectivity software to tours and activities providers, having shifted away from its early attempt to retail tours directly to consumers.
Peek, founded five years ago, has now raised a total of $40 million. Well-known investors include Eric Schmidt, formerly of Google, and Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter. In this round, Paul English, the Kayak co-founder, joined as an investor.
Peek said that its more than offering of 10,000 real-time activities in the U.S. made it the largest provider of activities in the country. Before its acquisition, FareHarbor jousted with Peek about claims. FareHarbor did not respond to requests for comment. Two industry experts outside the companies said that Peek’s claim seemed plausible.
Peek said it is processing “hundreds of millions of dollars a year” in sales for tour operators. A year ago, Peek gained access to the customer list of rival brand Zozi, which was later shut down, in a complicated mess.
Google Tests Tour Listings
Peek also said Tuesday that, starting in the third-quarter of this year, thousands of its inventory of 10,000 activities will become available for booking via Reserve with Google.
Reserve with Google is a booking tool the online giant first launched in late 2016 to help fitness consumers register for health and wellness classes in select cities, such as New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
Peek said this integration, starting in the third quarter of the year, would eventually lead to enabling consumers to directly book tours via many of its operators from Google Search, Maps, and Google Trips. Skift was unable to hear back from Google to confirm that by publication time.
Peek already lists many tours on reviews platform Yelp.
Bashir said she had not spent time looking at concepts of directly branding tours under the Peek name, something that a European retail site, GetYourGuide, announced yesterday that it would attempt to brand tours under its own name.
Peek used to tout a direct-to-consumer offering. But a few years ago it shifted its emphasis to business-to-business services. Today the majority of its revenue now comes from selling access to its enterprise software solution suite for activity operators, she said.
CEO Ruzwana Bashir said her company enjoyed a doubling of revenue and gross transactions in the past year. It has about 90 full-time employees in two offices and she plans to add more staff, specifically in product development and sales.
In an era when startups can put scooters on the streets of San Francisco and earn a $2 billion valuation seemingly overnight, raising $23 million may not seem impressive.
Yet the recent acquisition of some of Peek’s leading competitors also suggested competition in the sector may intensify.
Bashir said the recent acquisitions of FareHarbor and Bokun validated the sector. She said that a majority of the tours sold in North America today are still sold offline and that, given such volume, there is room for multiple software providers to thrive.
Bashir’s has shown significantly more savvy at creative marketing for her startup than rival CEOs in the sector have. That, paired with her fundraising skill and an allegedly assertive approach to patents, contracts, and deal-making, has irritated some figures in the male-dominated tours-and-activities sector over the years.
The latest fundraising round suggests investor confidence that Peek’s team can execute on its plans effectively.
Some industry critics argue that Peek has shown little innovation in the sector.
Bashir said her enterprise software products stood out for being able to handle the niche needs of up to 40 different types of activity providers and a user experience that’s flexible for different professional needs. Innovation was the only way to solve those customer problems, she said.
Bashir gave the example of how scuba diving shops may need to collect and track written waivers related to liability in case of injury while walking tours do not.
Some well-regarded investors have supported her with their personal funds. Brad Gerstner, the Founder and CEO of hedge fund Altimeter Capital who has closed some of the more famous deals in online travel in the past two decades, is one investor in Peek and a fan of Bashir.
Gerstner said, “Just as we have seen with hotels and restaurants, consumers are rapidly increasing their purchase of local activities and tours on their mobile devices. Ruzwana was early to understand this market and has built an exceptional team [at Peek] to tackle this large opportunity.”
Palisis, a Swiss company that acquired TourCMS, is probably the largest globally by transactions processed as a tech provider.
The largest venture-backed independent rival to Peek now may be TrekkSoft, which claims to be the largest enterprise provider of reservations and payment software to Europe’s attractions industry by supplier connections, with more than 2,000 clients worldwide. It has 103 full-time employees in Interlaken, Munich, Exeter, Dublin, Milan, and Minsk.
Since its founding in 2012, TrekkSoft has raised more than $8 million over two rounds and claims to be profitable. Last winter it acquired Digitickets, a provider of a U.K.-and-Ireland-focused ticketing software suite for visitor attractions.
Another company to consider is Bookingkit, which provides reservation, channel management, and other software tools to tours and activities operators, and this winter completed an undisclosed Series B funding round in the “single-digit millions” and that it has raised a two-digit million amount across all of its fundings. It focuses on operators in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
Regiondo, a Munich-based provider of cloud-based operator reservation and distribution services, also has a strong position in Europe and recently added Chinese distribution and WeChat Pay and Alipay options.
For a sector analysis, read Skift Research’s take: “Why Everybody Now Wants a Piece of the Tours and Activities Sector.”