Skift Take

PayPal founder Peter Thiel once said: "We wanted flying cars. Instead we got 140 characters." But some investors now think flying driverless taxis will be viable by 2024. We have that and other travel startup news in this week's roundup.

Each week we round up travel startups that have recently received or announced funding. Please email Senior Travel Tech Editor Sean O'Neill at so@skift.com if you have funding news.

This week, travel startups announced more than $300 million in funding.

>>Volocopter, which plans to bring battery-powered air taxis to cities by 2024, raised about $242 million (€200 million) in Series D funding.

The German company has raised more than $440 million since its founding in 2011. Investors include Atlantia, Continental, NTT, Avala Capital, and BlackRock.

Volocopter builds driverless aircraft and heliports, and it plans to run a commercial passenger service in 2023. It is already offering 15-minute tourist flights in Singapore for $360.

In related news, Lilium, a German startup building electric vertical takeoff and landing passenger jets, is in talks to go public via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, Bloomberg News reported.

For more context, read Skift’s story this week: Electric Aircraft Are Coming, Just Not as Soon As You Think.

>>Harvest Hosts, a membership program for recreational vehicle, or RV, owners in North America, has raised $37 million from Stripes, a New York-based private equity investor in consumer and software businesses. See our earlier story.

>>Aero, which offers premium semi-private jet connections to scenic destinations, such as a Los Angeles to Aspen route, has raised $20 million in a Series A round of funding.

Keyframe Capital led the round.

Aero owns the planes and flies them out of private terminals.

Aero will use the funding to build a mobile-first booking and ticketing system that matches up flyers who want to go to the same destination with small carriers willing to provide service.

>>Easol, a marketing platform to help travel businesses and experience operators sell online, raised an undisclosed, 7-figure round of investment, led by Notion Capital.

Easol previously raised about $120,000 from AvanTech Ventures. The startup is a graduate of the Y Combinator accelerator.

“Experience Commerce is close to a trillion-dollar annual sector and no brand in technology owns this space,” said Chris Tottman, co-founder and general partner at Notion Capital. “Like none! Weird! Easol’s revenue was devastated by lockdown after growing about 50 percent month-after-month, so I invested five years’ worth of burn into this amazing husband-and-wife founding team so they can rapidly build out their product in 2020.”

>>Zingbus, an intercity bus service that connects more than 100 cities across several states in India, raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Ritesh Agarwal (Oyo Group founder and CEO), Titan Capital, Better Capital, and other investors.

The startup aims to offer a standardized bus service with a mix of modern vehicles, booking software, and business intelligence analysis.

For more context, subscribers to Skift Research can read this week’s new report: Venture Investment Trends in Travel 2021.

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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Tags: funding, startups, vcroundup

Photo Credit: A Volocopter flies in October 2019 with Singapore's Marina Bay Sands hotel in the background. Volocopter is one a few flying taxi projects underway worldwide. Nikolay Kazakov / Bloomberg