Skift Take

It’s not what you know, but who you know, and by teaming up with Seed Group, which is owned by a member of Dubai's ruling family, startup travel agency BizAway will gain the right kind of introductions to grow its business in the Middle East.

Italian corporate travel agency BizAway has launched a joint venture with Dubai investor Seed Group.

The technology-focused agency takes a majority stake in the new Dubai-based business as part of a “strategic partnership” with Seed Group, which is owned and chaired by the Private Office of Sheikh Saeed Bin Ahmed Al Maktoum, who is a member of Dubai’s ruling family.

Seed Group will give the travel agency access to “top decision-makers in the government as well as the private sector, and contribute to making business travel easier and more seamless,” it said in a statement.

As well as owning a minority stake in the venture, Seed Group’s participation aligns with its wider goal of bringing digitization to the region. The group acts as a springboard for global start-ups that want to expand in Dubai and the Middle East.

For example, it has previously invested in digital license plates company reviver to roll out digital vehicle registration plates in the Gulf Cooperation Council region, which comprises the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Seed Group also invests in sectors including technology, healthcare, hospitality and telecommunications.

“Business travel is common in the United Arab Emirates and the region, given that a number of international and internationally operated organizations have their bases here. In this context, having BizAway’s expertise in the region will ease a lot of pain points in business travel,” said Hisham Al Gurg, CEO of Seed Group and the Private Office of Sheikh Saeed bin Ahmed Al Maktoum.

Acquisition Target

As well as its new Dubai location, BizAway has two offices in Italy, two in Spain, one in Albania and plans to open soon in Switzerland. It employs 165 people. The startup also has relationships with Etihad and Emirates, and a partnership with airfare aggregator Duffel.

BizAway already had clients in the Middle East, and began conversations with Seed Group in 2021.

“It’s a huge opportunity for us,” said CEO Luca Carlucci. “What we want is to be able to show potential clients that there is a better way to manage their business travel.”

Carlucci said Seed Group carried out due diligence on his company “over a long period of time” and he did not reveal other rival agencies that were also vying for the coveted strategic partnership.

The CEO said BizAway, which raised $2.7 million in seed investment in 2020, was in the process of buying another agency in the Middle East, due to be announced in April.

Seed Group estimates the value of business travel spending in the Gulf Cooperation Council region is worth $30 billion. The Middle East is also set to be one of the fastest-growing airline markets.


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Tags: business travel, corporate travel, dubai, investors, italy, middle east, travel management, united arab emirates, venture capital

Photo credit: BizAway has an office in Dubai. Timo Volz / Unsplash

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