Skift Take

Let's be real. How could you not be curious about an apartment hotel that's branded Bob W? Plus, other travel startup funding news.

Series: Startups This Week

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.

This week, travel startups announced more than $45 million in funding.

>>DidaTravel, a tech-savvy hotel wholesaler, said it had raised “hundreds of millions of yuan”, or at least $30 million, in a Series B round of investment.

Alibaba led the round, ChinaTravelNews reported.

Past investors Shenzhen Capital Group and Guolong Venture Capital, also took part. The startup previously announced raising about $7 million, according to Pitchbook.

Founded in 2012, the company says it has 30,000 hotels under “competitive direct contracts.” It plans to remain independent despite Alibaba’s investment stake, according to a press release.

>>Bob W, which offers short-term rental apartments with hotel-style amenities and contactless check-in, has raised about $11.8 million (€10 million) in seed funding, with private equity outfit Finnish Industry Investment (Tesi) taking part.

Skift reported last June on the startup raising the first $4.5 million tranche of the round, with Founders VC leading that tranche. Other venture capital investors participating include Kaamos, Superangel, United Angels, and NREP.

During the pandemic, Bob W has reached occupancy rates as high as 90 percent at its properties in Estonia and Finland. The company has secured its first apartments in London, including a building opening in winter 2021-2022. Bob W is also opening properties in central Helsinki this spring, which was secured together with Sponda, the Finnish arm of The Blackstone Group.

“Despite the pandemic, our revenue grew significantly in 2020,” said Niko Karstikko, CEO and co-founder. “We serviced thousands of guests and hundreds of companies. Our customer satisfaction is high as evidenced by our 93 net promoter score, compared to an average of 37 for hotels.”

Last year the company, founded in 2018 in Helsinki, grew its workforce from six employees to 30. It expects to double that headcount this year.

Giving guests “a sense of place” is part of the startup’s mission.

“We source at least half our décor from local brands, artists, and manufacturers,” Karstikko said. “We do this to give guests an authentic experience, but to also be kind to the planet.”

>>NoiseAware, which monitors noise at short-term rental properties, raised $8 million in Series A funding.

Thayer Ventures, which is a frequent venture investor in the travel sector, and S3 Ventures co-led the round.

NoiseAware, based in Dallas and founded in 2015, has had its noise monitoring equipment used by property managers to monitor more than 1 million stays.

The company, led by CEO Andrew Schulz, built its foundation in serving property managers in the short-term rental sector in the U.S. But plans for growth include launching internationally and expanding into serving multifamily communities and traditional hotels.

“Andrew and his team have established a clear leadership position by elegantly solving a real problem with a truly unique offering,” said Eric Engineer, a venture partner of S3 Ventures.

>>SkySquad, a travel tech startup based in Bethesda, Maryland, raised $150,000 in seed funding from Maryland Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO). Angel investors have also provided funding.

SkySquad offers travelers vetted assistants to guide passengers, such as children, the elderly, people who don’t speak English, or other people who could benefit from assistance, through the airport from arrival at a gate until boarding a plane.

The company, led by CEO Julie Melnick, began offering services at Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International Airport. It’s in the process of expanding to seven other U.S. airports this year.

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: Shown here is an apartment hotel in Tallinn, Estonia, that's run by lodging startup Bob W. The unit is located in Telliskivi, which is in a former industrial complex that's been turned into a district for creatives. Bob W

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