Skift Take

This week, travel startups announced more than $690 million in debt and equity investment, including capital support for vacation rental players AvantStay, Evolve, and Plum Guide.

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 Senior Travel Tech Editor Tim Mullaney at [email protected] if you have funding news.

This week, travel startups announced more than $690 million in debt and equity investment.

>>AvantStay, a short-term rental property operator and marketer, has closed a $500 million non-equity funding round to create a company to hold its property assets. 

Saluda Grade, a real estate advisory and asset management firm, has backed this short-term rental fund, which will buy a half-billion dollars worth of residential property. Saluda Grande will own the homes, and AvantStay will be the property manager. See Skift’s coverage.

>>Evolve, a vacation rental hospitality company, announced a $100 million capital raise.

Durable Capital Partners led the round.

Evolve, based in Denver, manages more than 19,000 vacation rentals, and it has raised $235 million.

Evolve considers the property manager Vacasa, which went public in December, to have a different business model, which leads to attracting different types of customers.

Unlike Vacasa, Evolve has an a la carte model. Its basic plan charges a 10 percent commission and doesn’t include housekeeping or maintenance but does include all aspects of driving rental income as an on-ramp to marketing a property on major channels like Airbnb, Booking.com, and Vrbo. Services include shooting professional photos, creating a listing, offering advice on rate-setting, and handling guest interactions.

Evolve chooses this middle way of an a la carte approach to let owners prefer to stick with their own preferred local vendors for housekeeping and maintenance if they wish.

Evolve’s growth has come through a mix of online marketing and word-of-mouth referrals. It expanded its staff by 68 percent to nearly 800 workers last year. The brand said it had served more than 7 million guests since its founding in 2011.

>>Plum Guide, a property manager for vacation rentals for the elite, closed a $31 million (£23 million) round of Series B funding.

Beringea led the round. Existing investors Talis Capital, Hearst Ventures, and Latitude (LocalGlobe) also took part. The round also includes a $3.5 million crowdfunding backed by hosts, guests, and fans. The investment follows a $9 million cash injection led by Beringea last year.

Here’s the London-based company’s pitch from founder and CEO Doron Meyassed:

Plum Guide, founded in 2016, pinpoints the best homes in a market through a mix of analyzing thousands of customer reviews and vetting properties according to criteria set by expert critics. It picks only the top 3 percent of properties in any destination to ensure quality control for its experiences aimed at an affluent customer profile.

“As consumers start making up for lost time, there is going to be vast demand for exceptional, reliable travel experiences,” said Karen McCormick, chief investment officer at Beringea.

>>Heygo, a travel live-streaming platform, has closed a $20 million Series A funding round.

Northzone led the round. Lightspeed Venture Partners, Point 9 Capital, TQ Ventures, Ascension, the Fund, and many angel investors participated.

Forbes dubbed the company a “Twitch for travel.” The service lets you tip guides who offer you tours virtually in more than 90 countries. Customers have booked 2 million live tours via the service, the company said.

“Their interactive, guided streams are the Twitch equivalent of the hugely popular travel show and documentary genre, creating a new category of immersive world travel from home,” said Michiel Kotting, partner at Northzone and a board member.

“John, Liam, and their team have provided creators around the world with a powerful medium for self-expression and monetization while giving audiences hours of transformative entertainment,” Kotting said.

>>UFODrive, a rental service for electric vehicles, raised a $19 million Series A financing round.

Hertz Corp. and one of its major owners, Certares, co-led the round. See Skift’s coverage.

>>Roomdex, which sells hotels software to help simplify the upgrade process for guests with automation, has received a $10 million strategic investment.

Webjet, a travel business based in Melbourne, Australia, with a flagship bedbank business, was the investor.

Roomdex has a client list of more than 90 hotels that together have about 8,500 rooms.

The company’s upsell software promises to automate and monetize the guest room upgrade process. It uses hotel reservation, guest data, and its proprietary persona and price algorithms to deliver personalized digital offers, the company said.

The business was founded in 2020 by industry veterans Jos Schaap, Pierre Boettner, and Denis Bajet.

>>Lavanda, a UK property technology company that lets owners and managers of residential apartment buildings rent out units flexibly for short, extended, or long-term stays, closed a $7.25 million funding round.

Finch Capital led the round. Starwood Capital and Concrete VC also participated.

The software helps decide how to split the mix of units into short-term rentals, serviced apartments, multifamily tenancies, or student accommodation depending on shifts in demand and supply. Customers include Greystar, Blackstone, and JLL.

>>GoZayaan, an online travel company based in Bangladesh, has acquired Pakistan’s adventure tourism booking service FindMyAdventure via a $3.5 million investment, according to Bloomberg News.

>>Note: Earlier this week, Skift reported that Secret Escapes, which offers package vacations to people who sign up for free memberships, raised an approximately $74 million (£55 million) Series E equity fundraising from all its existing shareholders in May 2020, according to new financial filings. See Skift’s story.

CompanyStageLeadRaise
AvantStayDebtSaluda Grade$500m
EvolveSeries EDurable Capital Partners$100m
Plum GuideSeries BBeringea$31m
HeygoSeries ANorthzone$20m
UFODriveSeries ACertares and Hertz$19m
RoomdexStrategicWebjet$10m
LavandaSeries AFinch Capital$7.25m
FindMyAdventureAcquisitionGoZayaan$3.5m

Skift Cheat Sheet

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, fundings, startups, vcroundup

Photo credit: An exterior view of a vacation rental in the Colorado mountains recently available via property manager and marketer Evolve. Source: Evolve.