DiDi said robotaxis will be available on its rideshare app by 2025, and Regent Craft said it will begin testing electric seagliders next year.
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.
Six travel tech startups announced fundraises over the past week of more than $222 million.
>>DiDi Autonomous Driving, which is developing autonomous vehicles for rideshares, has raised $149 million from Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. and Guangzhou Development District Investment Group Co.
DiDi Autonomous Driving is a subsidiary of DiDi Global, a rideshare app based in Beijing. It started as a division of the parent company in 2016 and then was established as a subsidiary in 2020.
The company earlier this year said that it plans to release robotaxis that customers can reserve through the DiDi rideshare app by 2025.
A model of the vehicle, called DiDi Neuron, shows a robotic arm inside that can pick up luggage, wake passengers up, and pick up items from throughout the interior. And there’s no driver’s seat.
The company already operates limited robotaxi services in certain areas of Guangzhou and Shanghai.
With the latest funding, DiDi said it plans to “invest deeply in research and development, accelerate the implementation of related products, pursue open collaborations in the industry chain, build a sustainable and open industry ecosystem, and expedite the widespread commercial use of autonomous driving technology.”
>>Regent Craft, which is developing an electric seaglider for commercial travel, has raised $60 million in series A funding.
The round was co-led by 8090 Industries and Founders Fund, with support from Japan Airlines Innovation Fund, Lockheed Martin, Yamato Holdings, Point72 Ventures, Caffeinated Capital, Mark Cuban, UAE’s Strategic Development Fund, Future Planet Capital and others.
The company has now raised $90 million to date.
Rhode Island-based Regent Craft said its aircraft is meant for transportation along coastal routes. It will sit in the water at a dock for boarding and then lift off from the water. The company said it will fly within one wingspan from the surface of the water at speeds of up to 180 miles per hour, traveling up to 180 miles on a single charge.
The company said it plans to test flights with a crew next year, and it’s on track to certify, manufacture, and deliver the product to customers by mid-decade.
Its flagship seaglider, called Viceroy, will carry 12 passengers up to 180 miles, meant for underserved coastal communities. The company also has plans for a future aircraft to carry 100 passengers up to 500 miles.
“There are extraordinarily few companies today with battery powered vehicles that can fly human crew, and Regent is about to join those ranks,” said Billy Thalheimer, co-founder and CEO of Regent, in a statement. “Seagliders will be the first electric flying machine to be economically viable, and I’m willing to bet, the first one that the majority of the world will take a ride in.”
The company said it has secured commercial orders worth more than $8 billion for more than 500 seagliders from airline and ferry companies including Mesa Airlines, Brittany Ferries, and FRS.
Southern Airways is slated as the first client to receive the completed Viceroy product, which will operate under the Mokulele Airlines brand.
Besides commercial operations, Regent is looking at business in cargo transport, search and rescue, offshore logistics, and military.
>>Convious, an e-commerce platform for tourist attractions, has raised $9 million in an extension of its series A round that now totals $20 million in equity and debt.
The round was led by firm Wille Finance, with participation from Orbit Capital and existing investors.
The Amsterdam-based startup said its platform streamlines operations for clients including theme parks, museums, zoos, and aquariums. The platform includes products for e-commerce, food and beverage sales, crowd managements, marketing, pricing, and more.
The funding will go toward expanding business in an industry that tends to be lagging in tech adoption.
>>Goodwrx, a platform that connects hospitality employers with contract workers, has raised $4 million in funding from Advantage Capital.
The Las Vegas-based platform allows employers to connect with gig workers to staff shifts that might otherwise go unfilled. Workers could include cooks, servers, dishwashers, bartenders, porters, or front desk agents.
The funding will go toward enhancing the platform and expanding the user base, the startup said.
>>Aerovy, a startup developing software for the next generation of aircraft, has raised $800,000 in pre-seed funding.
The round comes from Purdue Innovates, M25, and the Flywheel Fund.
The Indiana-based startup’s technology has been developed based on work by students at Purdue University.
Aerovy said its software addresses some of the biggest challenges that the industry faces as it develops next-generation electric aircraft, particularly power grid limitations and operations management.
The software streamlines the process of electrical infrastructure planning and operations management, meant to optimize energy usage and enhance the sustainability of electric aircraft charging systems, the company said.
The startup is planning a round of seed funding in 2024.
The company had raised $20 million before this round.
The funding will go toward adding products and expanding business domestically. The company says it has 1,500 clients.
|DiDi Autonomous Driving||Unspecified||Unspecified||$149 million|
|Regent Craft||Series A||8090 Industries and Founders Fund||$60 million|
|Convious||Series A extension||Wille Finance||$9 million|
|Goodwrx||Unspecified||Advantage Capital||$4 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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Tags: aircraft, autonomous vehicles, business travel, didi, electric vehicles, funding, hospitality, labor, ridesharing, software, sustainability, tour operators, tourist attractions, tours and activities, vcroundup
Photo credit: The DiDi Neuron robotaxi contains a robotic arm that can pick up luggage. DiDi / DiDi