In the past week, travel startups raised more than $100 million in funding. The companies Unbabel, Beyond Pricing, Travel Easy, Seatfrog, Cruisewatch, HappyOrNot, Landline, Planet O, and Go Zayaan look to go to the next level.
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.
In the past week, travel startups announced more than $100 million in funding.
HappyOrNot, a feedback management system, raised $25 million in Series A funding last Friday. Verdane led the round.
While HappyOrNot is admittedly not a travel startup, travel sector companies like Heathrow Airport have been its most substantial customers during the past couple of years. The Finnish company’s kiosks typically feature four giant, colored buttons with faces that have expressions ranging from happy to sad. The devices have become a standard customer service tracker at many airports and other transit hubs.
Landline, a Los Angeles-based startup, schedules inter-city bus service connecting cities to airports like Minneapolis–St. Paul International. It aspires to replace regional airlines on short routes. For example, a passenger on an airline like Sun Country might pay a fixed price that includes a plane ticket and bus connection.
>>Unbabel, a translation services provider, raised $60 million in Series C funding.
Unbabel is, admittedly, not a travel startup. But travel companies and agencies, such as EasyJet, Booking.com, and Skyscanner, bought the most share of its services in the past year. Unabel lets any e-commerce company reply to their customer messages in their customer’s native languages by using a mix of machine translation and help from about 100,000 contracted freelancers.
Point72 Ventures led the round. Other investors including e.ventures, Greycroft, Indico Capital Partners, Scale Venture Partners, Notion Capital, M12, Samsung NEXT, and Caixa Capital participated.
The Lisbon-based company, founded in 2013, has raised $91 million to date.
>>Beyond Pricing, a dynamic pricing service for owners, managers, and developers of short-term rentals, has raised $42.5 million in Series A funding.
Bessemer Venture Partners led the round. The size of the Series A is remarkable given that the startup had raised only $3.5 million in venture capital previously, from investors including Resolute Ventures, Social Leverage, and Bullpen Capital.
Property managers that manage between 50 and 1,000 listings, such as The Vacation Company in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and GetAway Vacations in Killington, Vermont, are the startup’s target customer. Property managers use Better Pricing’s software to update their rates daily for more than 150,000 listings in a way that accounts for supply and demand in more than 7,000 cities.
“While hotels have fully embraced technology and dynamic pricing, the short-term rental industry is still under-penetrated,” said Brian Feinstein, a partner at Bessemer.
The company was co-founded in 2014 by Ian McHenry, CEO, and David Kelso, chief technology officer. It has 50 employees based in San Francisco and Lisbon.
>>Travel Easy, a travel price-comparison search service and agency, has raised $20 million in Series A funding.
Haitong International led the investment round. Travel Easy previously received an undisclosed amount of financing from Pagoda.
Besides being a travel metasearch site, Travel Easy runs travel agencies in locations such as Frankfurt, Prague, Milan, Beijing, and Wuhan, China. It tries to stand out from online rivals by offering a digital refund service for value-added tax on purchases made by consumers traveling internationally.
Many Chinese travelers shop while visiting foreign countries. Travel Easy tries to make it easier for these shoppers to pay with the popular WeChat social media and payment service at stores and airport shops in Europe. By the end of this year, the startup intends to let travelers buy products in advance of their trips at select stores.
>>Seatfrog, a travel tech company, has closed a pre-Series B investment of about $3 million (£2.5 million) from an undisclosed source. It has raised $9 million since its founding in 2014.
Seatfrog’s tech helps railways make last-minute seat upgrades of the kind that airlines pioneered years ago. The startup, based in London, said it now has 70 percent of U.K. rail unsold first-class inventory under contract. That means it has signed a lot more train companies as customers since Skift named it one of the top travel startups to watch earlier this year. Seatfrog sees applications for its technology beyond rail.
>>Planet O, a maker of mini-attractions focused on high-tech entertainment, has raised about $3 million (¥21.5 million) in seed funding.
Ceetrus, a real estate developer that owns 300 properties worldwide, led the round.
Planet O plans to open its first spot next year in Shanghai. It will host events, especially eSports challenges, using virtual reality, augmented reality, but also live sporting contests, and private parties. It expects business travel and corporate meetings and events to be a big driver of its revenue.
>>Cruisewatch, a cruise travel startup, has raised $1 million in funding. The investors were not named.
The company, which was founded in 2016 in Hannover, Germany, analyzes data to predict for consumers when to book a cruise. For example, it forecasts when a particular cabin type is close to selling out.
In a separate move, Cruisewatch is building a system to help consumers find the right cruise. To do this, it’s creating a neural network, in partnership with researchers at the University of Leibniz. Each neural network has tiers of computational structures that sort through data and pinpoint patterns from different angles, the company said.
>>Go Zayaan, an online travel price-comparison search service based in Bangladesh, has closed an undisclosed investment round.
OS Ventures and BRAC Osiris Impact Ventures participated.
CEO Ridwan Hafiz founded the startup in 2017. Hafiz is also known for co-founding the country’s first and one of the largest digital marketing agencies, Analyzen. Go Zayaan currently offers domestic and overseas flight booking, visa processing, and tour package booking.
Skift Cheat Sheet:
We define a startup as a company formed to test and build a repeatable and scalable business model. Few companies meet that definition. The rare ones that do often attract venture capital. Their funding rounds come in waves.
Seed capital is money used to start a business, often led by angel investors and friends or family.
Series A financing is typically drawn from venture capitalists. The round aims to help a startup’s founders make sure that their product is something that customers truly want to buy.
Series B financing is mainly about venture capitalist firms helping a company grow faster. These fundraising rounds can assist in recruiting skilled workers and developing cost-effective marketing.
Series C financing is ordinarily about helping a company expand, such as through acquisitions. In addition to VCs, hedge funds, investment banks, and private equity firms often participate.
Series D, E and beyond These mainly mature businesses and the funding round may help a company prepare to go public or be acquired. A variety of types of private investors might participate.
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Photo credit: Some workers at the Lisbon office of Unbabel, a translation service provider that has received more venture funding. Unbabel