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Startups this week cover renting apartments as hotels, hotel tech, airline retail, fintech for travelers, and an aircraft that flies only over water.

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.

Four travel tech startups have raised nearly $110 million this week. 

>>Placemakr, a platform for long-term and short-term apartment rentals, has raised $65 million in funding. Investors included Highland Capital Partners, Harbert Growth Partners, Bernstein Management Corporation, Camber Creek, Gaw Capital USA, and more.

The Placemakr platform enables developers and owners of multi-unit buildings to rent apartments for long-term and short-term use. Placemakr acts as the operator of the properties it rents. 

Based in Washington, D.C., Placemakr operates 11 multi-unit branded properties in the U.S., according to its website. That includes two recently added: Placemakr Wedgewood Houston and Whyhotel by Placemakr Columbia. Placemakr recently announced a partnership with Bernstein Management Corporation and Urban Atlantic to acquire an office building on K Street in DC and convert it into a hotel-apartment hybrid property. 

The company said it has serviced over $100 million in bookings since the start of the pandemic and has now raised more than $350 million. 

Jason Fudin, CEO and co-founder of Placemakr, believes the success has come from the need to transform underutilized space in city centers as companies have moved away from renting office space and more people are working remotely. 

“The trend of flexible-use housing continues to gain steam as cities adjust to our new travel and living patterns created by remote work. In addition to residential multi-family buildings shifting to mixed hospitality and residential use, we’re also seeing an influx of office conversions as these properties in prime locations continue to sit vacant,” Fudin said in a statement. 

The funding will go toward more property acquisitions and developer partnerships.

Placemakr also said that it has hired Timothy Franzen, former president of Graduate Hotels, as chief development officer, focused on growing the company’s property portfolio across the country through partnerships with real estate owners and developers.

>>Operto Guest Technologies, a hotel tech platform with various products, has raised $25 million in Series B funding. 

It was led by Centana Growth Partners, with participation from Thayer Ventures, FUSE, Blackpines Capital Partners and Derive Ventures.

Operto’s platform enables hotel and vacation rental owners and operators to remotely monitor and manage their properties, with the goal of increasing operations efficiency, lowering costs, and improving the guest experience. The customizable software products can integrate with existing property management software. Products include smartphone-enabled guest verification, check in and check out, digital security deposit and payment, and tech to provide electronic elevator and room access. 

The Vancouver-based company said it provides products for hotels that own a total of more than 50 million rooms. The company said it works with Accor Hotels, including with luxury brands Fairmont and Raffles, to power its global digital key program. 

The funding will go toward expanding business in the global short-term rental and hotel markets. 

Sam Shank, former CEO of HotelTonight and former head of Airbnb’s Commercial Team, has joined the Operto board, the company said. 

>>Mystifly, a business-to-business marketplace platform for the airline industry, has closed its Pre-Series B funding round of $8 million. The company had announced the first part of this round, $3.3 million, in July 2020.  

Investors for the total amount include Cornerstone Venture Partners, RSI Fund I, and Jenfi and Crusade Partners, among others.

The Singapore-based company said its platform enables online travel agencies and other travel intermediaries to access a vast inventory of airfares with or without commercial agreements with airlines, and it unifies airline offers, order management, and payments on a single platform. The platform includes inventory from low-cost carriers, new distribution capabilities, and global distribution systems.  

The platform allows travel agents to offer personalized travel, a growing capability in the industry that pushes competitive parameters beyond pricing alone, while also giving airlines alternative options for distribution and payments reconciliation and settlements.

More than 20 million air travel bookings have been booked and settled through the platform, the company said. The company has more than 3,000 clients globally, including Priceline, American Express Leisure Travel, JPMorgan Chase, Travel Perk, Kiwi, MakeMyTrip, Paytm, Agoda, EaseMyTrip, Arrivia, and more.

The investment will go toward enhancing the startup’s data and technology capabilities, expanding the global footprint, strengthening distribution and product offerings.

>>Travel Wallet, a travel-focused payments platform based in South Korea, has reportedly raised $15 million (19.7 billion won) in Series C funding.

Investors included SK Securities, Golden Oak Investment, Smilegate Investment, CJ Investment, and BNK Investment and Securities. 

The Travel Wallet platform allows users to more easily make payments abroad or at foreign online stores. Users can exchange the currencies of 38 countries through the app and use it to pay at more than 100 million stores worldwide without any payment fees, according to the report. 

Regent, which is developing an electric seaglider, has received an undisclosed investment from Lockheed Martin Ventures, the venture arm of defense and aerospace tech company Lockheed Martin.

The 12-passenger seaglider is a hybrid between an airplane and a boat, flying exclusively over water at distances of up to 180 miles, moving at 180 miles per hour. The product will be able to use existing dock infrastructure.

The The Rhode Island-based company plans that the seaglider, called Viceroy, will enter service by mid-decade. 

The funding will go toward expediting the development of seagliders for defense missions, though the company said the vehicle could be used for commercial purposes as well. 

Regent said it has sold more than 400 seagliders for more than $7.9 billion to global aviation and ferry customers including Mokulele Airlines, Southern Airways Express, FRS in Germany, and Ocean Flyer in New Zealand.

CompanyStage LeadRaise
PlacemakrUnspecifiedUnspecified$65 million
Operto Guest TechnologiesSeries BCentana Growth Partners$25 million
MystiflyPre-Series BCornerstone Venture Partners$4.7 million
Travel WalletSeries CUnspecified$15 million

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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Photo credit: Placemakr recently added a building in Houston to its portfolio. Pictured is an apartment from that building. Placemakr / Placemakr

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