HomeToGo, a vacation rental price-comparison startup, has acquired the assets of Tripping.com three years after entering the U.S. market. It has also raised an undisclosed, multi-million dollar venture capital investment.

Tripping had once been the largest player in vacation rental metasearch, but has become a shell of a company after it burned through millions of dollars in cash on TV advertising, which led to spectacular in-fighting between its founders and its board.

The companies didn’t disclose the terms of the transaction. However, one person close to Tripping and familiar with the deal said, “It wasn’t a good outcome for anyone on the Tripping side.”

Tripping had raised about $52 million to date. Its sale as a distressed asset is a sharp comedown from December 2016, when it announced a $35 million series C funding round.

Two sources close to Tripping told Skift that some Tripping investors participated in HomeToGo’s latest round, and the sale of Tripping to HomeToGo was part of a very complex deal. Among Tripping’s investors over the years were Princeville Global and Steadfast Venture Capital, among others. HomeToGo confirmed that Princeville Global is a current investor.

HomeToGo will continue to run Tripping as a separate brand.

More Funding

HomeToGo, based in Berlin, also disclosed that it had raised additional investment that brought its total raised to date to $150 million.

Industry observers estimated the undisclosed sum as likely being at least $28 million (€25 million). The company declined to say if the latest investment was an extension of its Series C round.

The startup, founded in 2014, didn’t reveal who led the round. But the company’s investors include most prominently Insight Venture Partners. Also participating are Acton Capital Partners, DN Capital, and Global Founders Capital (an arm of Rocket Internet). This group has recently expanded with investments from Lakestar and Princeville Global, the company said.

Market Leader

Given the Tripping acquisition, HomeToGo can now plausibly claim it is the largest vacation rental metasearch company. Given the funding news, the startup has solidified its position as the best-funded of the vacation rental price-comparison companies. Although funding, of course, is not the ultimate barometer of a company’s trajectory.

In September, HomeToGo acquired holiday home search engine Casamundo, primarily owned by the publisher Axel Springer, and at the time displaying 700,000 accommodations worldwide. The companies did not disclose the terms of the deal.

HomeToGo far and away leads other players when it comes to average monthly traffic on desktop and mobile, according to data analytics firm SimilarWeb. HomeToGo had at least 5.8 million average monthly visits in recent months, up 75 percent year to date, and as much as 11.2 million during peak summer search months, across its various domains.

Tripping.com has seen a decline in traffic, with a 70 percent decline in the past three months and a 37 percent decline year to date.

Other competitors had traffic levels significantly below HomeToGo, according to SimilarWeb.

Sector Crisis?

The Tripping acquisition occurs as vacation rental metasearch may be facing a crisis of sorts. In addition to the demise of Tripping, which saw it furlough just about all its staff over the past year, AllTheRooms executed a major pivot.

AllTheRooms co-founder and CEO Joseph DiTomaso said the company now includes a vacation rental data analytics unit, as well as the consumer vacation rental comparison site.

It appears as though much of AllTheRooms’ focus these days is on the data analytics side, as it issues reports for companies in the sector, and gives presentations to hedge funds and other financial services firms.

DiTomaso said he looks at the data analytics foray as more profitable than the vacation rental consumer site. However, he added that he thinks that the consumer business would ultimately have a higher valuation than the data business.

What’s Happening In the Sector?

Still, Tripping’s crash as well as the difficulties in scaling that AllTheRooms has points to vacation rental metasearch experiencing growing pains, to say the least. One Tripping investor said he still believes in the category even though he lost money in Tripping.

One of HomeToGo’s backers through investment arm Global Founders Capital is Rocket Internet, an investor whose other vacation rental startup bet, Wimdu, fizzled — despite having raised more than $90 million. After a complicated series of ownership changes, in September, new owner Platinum Equity informed 110 employees of the Berlin-based startup that it was closing Wimdu.

Since then, HomeToGo has been powering search results on Wimdu “as a white-label” business-to-business solution, a HomeToGo spokesperson said. Terms of that relationship have not been disclosed.

Another player, 9flats, had to restructure to clear its debt.

Another player, Palma de Mallorca-based HundredRooms, faced an El Confidencial report alleging it was on the verge of running out of cash, having burned through about $12.9 million (€11 million) of investment funding.

Other rivals exist. Perhaps the next-largest metasearch for holiday homes and holiday apartments Holidu, also based in Munich. Holidu has more than 150 workers.

Holidu has raised $26.8 million in total funding. In the past month, it has processed a gross booking volume in the “three-digit million range,” it said.

Holidu claims to list 11.8 million holiday homes and holiday apartments.

HomeToGo claims to list 15 million offers.

It’s unclear how many duplicate listings might be in either claim.

Google and Airbnb Threats

At Skift Global Forum in New York in September 2018, Richard Holden, vice president of product at Google in charge of Google Travel’s product roadmap, revealed that Google intends to keep tip-toeing into vacation rental price-comparison.

“We struggled for a little while as to what’s the right way to integrate those offerings,” Holden said of the slow experiments. “We are actually offering it now outside the U.S. as a filter in hotel search in major metropolitan areas. There’s content that you can filter in to see alternative lodging or vacation rental content.”

“Typically today, the content that we have there is apartment like, it’s most hotel-like properties, though we will be in the near future moving into a broader set of properties as well,” Holden said.

Airbnb, by and large, doesn’t cut deals with metasearch companies.

If it chose to support making its listings available in third-party price-comparison services, that could be a game-changer for the sector. Google might be the first to crack such a deal.

HomeToGo declined to comment on this topic for this story. One of our anecdotal searches surprisingly found a handful of Airbnb listings, though. Perhaps HomeToGo is beating Google to the punch. Tripping had also been pursuing ad deals with Airbnb.

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Trivago as Inspiration

HomeToGo has been following somewhat in the model of Trivago, the lodging search site that it provides some vacation rental inventory to, by spending significantly on TV advertisements for brand recognition. Before Trivago’s business correction, rumors had floated that the company was interested in potentially acquiring HomeToGo.

In early 2018, Trivago CFO Axel Hefer said vacation rental metasearch sites might be interesting acquisitions, depending on whether their advertiser base would really ramp up Trivago’s roster and whether HomeToGo’s technology really added value.

A look at HomeToGo’s latest TV advertisement shows uncanny resemblances to Trivago’s ad campaigns.

While Düsseldorf-based Trivago has been recently battered by the stock market, the company is profitable, has hundreds of employees, and generated $253.7 million in revenue in the three months to end of September, making it still a model for many young German companies to emulate.

That said, HomeToGo does not provide content to Trivago, a spokesperson said.

Photo Credit: HomeToGo, a vacation rental metasearch company, has acquired some of the assets of Tripping.com, a forme leader in the space. It also raised $150 million. Shown in the photo are, left, Dr. Patrick Andrae, HomeToGo CEO and co-founder, and, right, Wolfgang Heigl, co-founder. This photo was taken at the company's former office building in Berlin - which used to be a power plant and still had the control room, which is where they are standing in this photo. HomeToGo